No Offense: Week 1

No Offense: Week 1

We are beginning a brand new message series for the season of Lent, we are calling No Offense.

Wouldn’t it be great if by the end of this Lent you had a lighter heart and a happier life? This series, No Offense, is designed to help you do just that. An offense can be something that breaches a law, or rule, or something that strikes us as distasteful or unpleasant, rude, unkind, or simply annoying.

There’s a difference between offenses and offensive behavior as opposed to abuse and abusive behavior. Victims of abuse require professional help, and we don’t mean to be dismissive of the challenges they face.

As we kick off this series, here are three key facts about offense that will form the foundation of this series.

First fact, offenses are inevitable. Life affords us opportunities to be offended in every way, every day. People will say all kinds of things that are thoughtless, careless and can be offensive!

Now there are two kinds of offenses: perceived and real. There are some offenses that we experience that offend us based on our sensibilities, our past, or our opinions about the world and about ourselves.

Offense is taken but no offense was intended. Our pride may be wounded but there’s no permanent damage done.

If you are a parent you may get very easily offended if ANYONE says ANYTHING about your kids. Whether they are right or wrong, even if they have helpful information that you could use, you don’t want to hear it.

Oftentimes, what offends us, touches on our insecurities. When we are secure and confident, we are far less likely to register offense.

So some people are easily offended, it might be their grades in school, their team stats, their weight, social status, educational background, religion, or (heaven forbid) politics! All of these can be triggers.

And then there are the people who are offended by EVERY thing. They go through life looking for opportunities to be offended.

On the other hand, sometimes people are offended because they are challenged with the truth. We see this with the great moral leaders. They offended people because they were challenging cultures or community standards, or commonly held beliefs. We see this with Dr. Martin Luther King and the Civil Rights movement.

We also see it with Jesus. He offended lots of people, a lot of the time. One time he taught something that contradicted the teaching of the religious leaders.

The apostles came up and told him that he had offended the Pharisees. Jesus essentially responded, “I intended to offend them.”

When Jesus taught about the Eucharist, many of his disciples were offended, so much so, that they stopped following him.

At times, all great teachers and leaders will offend people by challenging the status quo, demanding change. And, sometimes, change can offend people more than anything else and can be a huge defensive mechanism to resist change.

So, we all experience perceived offenses.

But then, there are offenses that are real offenses. People do things to hurt us. They lie to us, gossip about us, or cheat us. We live in a sin stained world where others will hurt us and betray us.

Second Fact, offenses are a trap. It is a trap that will handicap us and keep us from living up to our potential. Did you ever notice that an offended person can often have a huge sense of entitlement?Everyone owes him or her something.

They are owed an apology or some other kind of recompense or compensation. They spend too much time playing the victim and waiting for others to fix the offense rather than actually living their lives.

When we take offense and hold it in our hearts, instead of dealing with it, we are nourishing hurt, anger, jealousy, resentment, bitterness and hatred in our hearts, we’re hurting our hearts.

Offended people can be self-centered. It’s a form of narcissism. If I take everything that happens and apply it to myself. I get stuck there. Offenses are a trap.

Third fact, we have a choice about how we handle offenses. The Gospel of Mark tells us about the choices we have available to handle offense in a healthy way.

Mark writes: The Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert, and he remained in the desert for forty days, tempted by Satan.

Jesus was tempted even though he was following the direction of the Holy Spirit. He wasn’t tempted because he was apart from God’s will but because he was in God’s will.

We certainly can make the mistake of putting ourselves in situations where we are tempted and should avoid those places. For example, don’t frequent the internet late at night, don’t hang out with the wrong crowd at school, and don’t lunch with the ladies who always gossip! Avoid temptation when you can. But, even when you do avoid it, it finds you. Temptation is a part of life.

And a constant temptation is to internalize offense and allow it to dwell in our hearts. Through this series
we’ll learn skills to handle that kind of temptation.

But even when we give into it, we still have a choice. Jesus tells us that choice in the gospel passage we hear today. He says:  This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the good news.

When we allow offense into our hearts we can choose to repent and believe in the good news.

The word repent might have a bad connotation for you. It might ring of religious fanaticism. So let me redefine the word for you. To repent simply means to change your mind, a change in thinking which leads to a change of behavior.

You repent when you turn away from something that is hurtful or harmful, or just plain wrong. To repent is to change intention and direction.

Repentance brings the conviction that we need to change. Conviction not condemnation. Conviction is an internal desire to change while condemnation is an outward judgment that you’ve done wrong.

The Holy Spirit does not bring condemnation but brings conviction so that we will want to repent and change.

A lot of people get this wrong when it comes to God:

God is all about Conviction not condemnation. We can choose to repent and believe the good news that past and present offenses do not define us.

We can choose to repent and believe the good news that we can let past offenses go.

We can choose to repent and believe the good news that Christ died for us and our sins are forgiven so we need to forgive others.

We can choose to repent and believe the Good News that God is for us even when others are against us.

We can choose to repent and believe the Good News that even though others don’t treat us as we deserve, God has treated us better than we deserve.

Repent of our need for life to always be easy, and getting offended when life is not, and believe the Good News that God makes all things work together for our Good.

So as we stand at the starting line of this series, and this season of Lent, here are two commitments I’d like you to consider making.

First: commit to joining us for the whole series. It will be of excellent practical use to you. Join us here at Saint Mary Church for the next four weeks or, if you can’t join us in person, join us live online! We live-stream our 9:30am Sunday Masses, and they are available on FB and our youtube channel. Go to our website, for the links!

Second: commit to asking one person who knows you well, whom you trust to give you some feedback on this, to rank you on a scale of 1-5. One being you’re hardly ever offended, five being your easily offended. And if you ask that question and they get real quiet or hesitate for a long time then you don’t even need them to give you a number. You have your answer.

As part of that reflection begin to think about what offends you, start a list. It might begin to provide you insight you didn’t have before, insight that could lead you to change your mind.

We heard in the gospel that Jesus was among the wild beasts and the angels ministered to him.

On the one hand we have wild beasts, and on the other hand we have angels. That is a striking juxtaposition, but we find ourselves in that position, in that situation, all the time.

That is, we experience real and perceived offenses all the time. Angels on one hand and beasts on the other, something truly offensive on one hand or something intended to be truly helpful on the other (but we misperceived it). It is part of the landscape of our lives on which we raise our families and do our jobs. The angels (intending to help) and beasts (intending to offend) can’t be avoided, they can’t be ignored, and they won’t go away!

However, the ministry of God’s grace in our hearts can dramatically change how we experience these offenses or perceived offences.

We can access this Grace through the Lenten practices the Church calls us to: prayer, fasting, and giving.

Prayer is first. Prayer is conversation with God. So we once again encourage you to get involved with one of our 3 conversation groups. They start this week. Just go to our website to sign up or see one of our volunteers in the entryway of the church to sign up.

On this first Sunday of Lent, we remind you. The ministry of God’s grace in our hearts can dramatically change our hearts to be lighter hearts. Hearts that are light do not easily take offence, and light hearts certainly do not carry offenses with