THE OFFENSE TEST
Mrs. Smartt was fumbling in her purse for her offering when a large television remote fell out and clattered into the aisle. The curious usher bent over to retrieve it for her and whispered, “Do you always carry your TV remote to church?”
“No,” she replied, “but my husband refused to come with me this morning, and I figured this was the most evil thing I could do to him legally.”
The offense test. If we don't take care of offense it will destroy us. How easily do you get offended?
"You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell. Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift," Matthew 5:21-24 (NIV).
Working through offense can be one of the most difficult things we have to do in our lives. Isn't the order Jesus gave us in this passage interesting? It says that if you're at the alter offering a gift to God, and there is someone that is in offense with you, you should try to reconcile with them and then come back and offer the gift to God.
Can I give you some insight into the enemy’s tactics? The goal of the enemy is destruction. In John 10:10, Jesus said, "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full."
The strategy of the enemy is to divide: "But Jesus knew their thoughts, and said to them: 'Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation, and every city or house divided against itself will not stand,'" Matthew 12:25.
The tactic the enemy uses to divide us is through offense. Everyone breathing will get hurt at some point or another. An offense is an event, but remaining offended is a choice.
The root of offense is unforgiveness and it has a two-fold result: separation from man and separation from God.
"An offended friend is harder to win back than a fortified city. Arguments separate friends like a gate locked with bars," Proverbs 18:19 (NLT).
The closer the relationship the greater the opportunity for intimacy and for offense. No one can make you really mad like someone you love.
SMALL THINGS ADD UP TO BIG THINGS
Many times the small things that add up to big things. It’s kinda like when you first get married-- the cute things that your significant other may do while dating can become irritating after you get married. I encourage you to keep short accounts- if you don’t the little things add up to big things.
In Song of Solomon 2:15, the Shulammite says, “Catch for us the foxes, the little foxes that ruin the vineyards, our vineyards that are in bloom.”
It might seem strange that, as the bride-to-be extols her betrothed’s lovely face and sweet voice (verse 14), she would speak of a fox hunt. (Except in my world where a hunt is romantic.) As with many images in this beautiful poem, the foxes are symbolic.
As the Shulammite verbalizes her love for King Solomon, she speaks of the need to “catch” the foxes that spoil the vines. If the blossoming vineyard is taken to mean the growing romance between the couple, then the foxes represent potential problems that could damage their relationship. This metaphor is a reminder to remove the small problems before they become too big.
We don’t think about that little annoyance and offense resulting in us sitting across from each other at a divorce lawyer. We don’t think about our adult kids deciding they don’t want anything to do with us. We don’t often think about the long-term effects of unresolved offense.
LONG-TERM EFFECTS OF FORGIVENESS
"Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, 'Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?' Jesus answered, 'I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times,'" Matthew 18:21-22 (NIV).
We’ve been commanded to forgive- not just for the obvious spiritual reason, but there are also physical, emotional, and mental reasons to forgive! Studies have found that the act of forgiveness can reap huge rewards for your health, lowering the risk of heart attack; improving cholesterol levels and sleep; and reducing pain, blood pressure, and levels of anxiety, depression and stress. And research points to an increase in the forgiveness-health connection as you age.
“There is an enormous physical burden to being hurt and disappointed,” says Karen Swartz, M.D., director of the Mood Disorders Adult Consultation Clinic at The Johns Hopkins Hospital. Chronic anger puts you into a fight-or-flight mode, which results in numerous changes in heart rate, blood pressure and immune response. Those changes, then, increase the risk of depression, heart disease and diabetes, among other conditions. Forgiveness, however, calms stress levels, leading to improved health.
"So I strive always to keep my conscience clear before God and man," Acts 24:16 (NIV).
"And herein do I exercise myself, to have always a conscience void of offense toward God, and toward men," Acts 24:16 (KJV).
HEALING FROM OFFENSE
One of the reason people gets hurt when they exercise is because they are out of shape. We spiritually exercise by reading the word, praying, connecting with a body of believers that encourage us and make us stronger. After injury, you can bring healing and prevent future injury with exercise and physical training. And just as there are minor and major injuries, offenses have different degrees. Some offenses wound us deeply, and if a wound is left untreated it will never heal.
How do I exercise my offense wound?
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven," Matthew 5:43-45.
Exercising your offense wound is praying for the offender. Pray for that person what you want for your life.
"Bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you," Luke 6:28.
The more you exercise, eventually you’ll notice your heart beginning to change towards that individual. The goal in forgiveness is the reconciliation of a relationship. Reconciliation is not only forgiveness. Reconciliation means: "I accept the responsibility of my choice to forgive and avoid the blame game."
I swallow my pride and I ask for forgiveness for what I’ve done wrong. This creates an environment where reconciliation can happen.
FREEDOM AND RESTORATION
Maybe you’re thinking, "Yeah, but Pastor Justin, you don’t know what ______ did to me!"
Do you have a right to be offended? We’ve been given a free will, but if we want to genuinely walk with God you have no right to be offended!
When did Jesus forgive me? On the cross! And my sins put Him there. He prayed for me before the blood had stopped flowing from his body (Luke 23:34). What if Jesus would have waited to die and offer forgiveness us until we after we had apologized?
John Bevere said, “An offended Christian who can’t forgive is a Christian who has forgotten what they’ve been forgiven of.”
Keep in mind that there are boundaries in relationships- this message in no way excuses abuse of any kind. Boundaries made in love say, "I’ve done everything in my power to see reconciliation, but you still have to choose. When you choose to forgive, then we can be reconciled."
Today is a day of freedom and restoration! Could it be that the reason some can’t experience the closeness of God is there is a fence (offense) separating you and Him? When you restore your earthly relationships, you will see your heavenly relationship restored.
Here are 4 steps to keep you from offense:
- Abide in the Word - Psalm 119:165.
- Develop the fruits of the Spirit - Galatians 5:22.
- Choose your teammates wisely - 1 Corinthians 5:33.
- Keep a clear conscience - Acts 24:16.
It's time to let it go!
Life can be tough, but God is good.
Pastor Justin Werven | New Life Worship Center - Beulah Campus Pastor