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(Part 67)


February 5, 2020

Today’s readings:
2 Samuel 24:2-17
Psalm 32:1-7
Mark 6:1-6

Many people are easily offended. They take offense for many things:

  • A perceived slight or snub.
  • Being bypassed in promotion.
  • Being spoken negatively to.
  • Being done some harm.
  • Their advice, input or preference not being followed.
  • Feeling rejected.
  • Not being commended for good work done.

Being offended and taking offense often lead to a disruption of relationship. It can lead to anger, animosity, strife, separation, and looking on the other person as an enemy.

Oftentimes, it is not the fault of the supposed offender, who even might not know that people are already taking offense. This was the case with Jesus. “And they took offense at him.” (Mk 6:3c). Who took offense? His townfolk, as he had come “into his native place.” (Mk 6:1). In fact, they thought he was great. They were astonished with him and said, “Where did this man get all this? What kind of wisdom has been given him? What mighty deeds are wrought by his hands?” (Mk 6:2). Then we get a clue, as they also said, “Is he not the carpenter, the son of Mary” (Mk 6:3a). In other words, is he not just an ordinary person, just one of us? What makes him think he is so special? So from being amazed, they took offense at him.

This happens too in Christian community. People look up to leaders, admire gifted brethren, extol good workers, but then, when they are offended, they turn against them. This should never be the case for a servant leader and holy warrior. How can we avoid this?

I would first like to distinguish between being offended and taking offense. This is akin to temptation and sin. We have no control over temptation (though we can avoid things and places that can tempt us), and it is not a sin unless we act on it. So if someone has done something offensive to us, then we can indeed be offended, but we do not have to take offense. Being offended is an emotional reaction over which we have no control, but taking offense is a response over which we have control. We can be offended, but we can choose not to take offense.

Why is this posture important? Because we are engaged in spiritual warfare, and one major tactic of the enemy is causing division, knowing that a house or kingdom divided against itself will not stand. A divided army can be easily defeated.Taking offense is a first step to division. So we must know we have only one enemy and need to be united in our common cause and mission.

How then are we able not to take offense?

First, consider if the other person actually did wrong. Or is it just your perception? Examine yourself. Be not judgmental but pure in heart. “Blessed is the man to whom the Lord imputes no guilt, in whose spirit there is no deceit.” (Ps 32:2).Try to understand why the other has spoken or acted in the way you did not like. Be generous and charitable in your evaluation. Give him the benefit of the doubt.

Second, consider your own part in any negativity that has occurred between you and the other. Do not see the splinter in the other’s eye and miss the plank in your own. If you have some fault, not admitting it will weigh heavily on you, before a God who is just. “Because I kept silent, my bones wasted away; I groaned all day long.” (Ps 32:3). That is the poison that is consuming you. And God will not let up on you, as He wants you out of such negativity. “For day and night your hand was heavy upon me, my strength withered as in dry summer heat.” (Ps 32:4). What is your way out? Admit your guilt and repent, as David did. “I have sinned grievously in what I have done. Take away, Lord, your servant’s guilt, for I have acted very foolishly.” (2 Sm 24:10b). Taking offense can be foolish indeed.But we repent and God responds. “Then I declared my sin to you; my guilt I did not hide. I said, ‘I confess my transgression to the Lord,’ and you took away the guilt of my sin.” (Ps 32:5).

Third, if ever the other actually did say or do something that was offensive, consider how your response can adversely affect the unity of the body. Thus, if you respond negatively, any resultant division will be your fault. The other may have offended you, but that had not yet caused division. It is your negative response that will result in division. So even if the other is guilty and you are an innocent victim, you must consider the impact of your response on the body, on all the innocents that will be adversely impacted. As David said, “But these sheep, what have they done?” (2 Sm 24:17c). You could end up sinning against the body.

Fourth, given the above, even in your distress, your recourse is to let go of any offense and just entrust the matter to God, who is just. In this way you are loyal to the community. “Therefore every loyal person should pray to you in time of distress.” (Ps 32:6a). In this way, the community will be built on Rock and not collapse under the buffeting of the flood waters. “Though flood waters threaten, they will never reach him.” (Ps 32:6b). There is great grace in this posture. It keeps you from being distressed. It keeps you secure in the embrace of God. It preserves your joy. “You are my shelter; you guard me from distress; with joyful shouts of deliverance you surround me.” (Ps 32:7).

When you purposely strive to not take offense, consider the virtues that can develop in you. These are patience, tolerance, empathy, kindness, forgiveness, mercy, unconditional love. These are virtues essential to unity and to the prophetic witness of God’s army. So let not our community be made up of warriors who are honored by others for their work but are put down by their own brethren. Let not Jesus’ words be applicable to us, when he said, “A prophet is not without honor except in his native place and among his own kin and in his own house.” (Mk 6:4). That would be unfortunate in itself, but it would also adversely affect Jesus’ work in and through us. “So he was not able to perform any mighty deed there” (Mk 6:5a).

Holy warriors, be on the offensive against the enemy. But do not take offense with your fellow warriors. Ho-wa!

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