No Offense: Week 2
First fact: Offenses are inevitable.
Second Fact: Offenses are a trap.
Third fact: We have a choice about how we handle offenses.
I remember in my freshman year of college, I was 18 and fresh out of high school. I had a knack for being a wise cracker. In one of my courses, I apparently had wise cracked a little too much. My teacher called me sophomoric. I took it as a compliment being I was a freshman, however when I looked up the meaning and realized it meant pretentious, juvenile and immature, I immediately became offended. I had to sit with that for a couple days because my teacher said it on a Friday and we didn’t have class again until Monday.
I thought about it all weekend. I nourished and nurtured that offense, I wouldn’t let it go…. Basically the exact opposite of what I’m telling you to do.
So, today we want to look at a truth to hold onto when we are tempted to hold onto offense instead. The reason offenses can grab hold of our hearts is because they can become all encompassing. When you are hurt or feel hurt by an offense, you can come to see a whole relationship through the lens of the offense.
You can come to view the whole person through the lens of the offense. You can come to view the whole world through the lens of that offense. Pain grabs our attention and focuses it. This can be good because pain tells us something is wrong and that we need to address it. But it also brings a danger if we only focus on the pain for too long or handle it in an unhealthy way.
This one truth we are looking at today can give you a more proper perspective on offenses so that you see them in the right context. This truth could change your life. It is one we see presented in Scripture often. Perhaps most clearly explained in Paul’s letter to the Romans, which is usually regarded as one of the most important of Paul’s letters.
Paul writes this, “We know in everything, God works for good with those who love him, who are called to his purpose.” Paul says that in everything that happens to us, God works for good for those who love him. Do you know what everything means in the original Greek? It means everything. In everything that happens to us God is working for good. Imagine how life would be experienced if we really believe that.
Notice what it does not say. It does not say that everything that happens in life is good. Clearly, there is evil in this world. As if we needed any proof, we hear of things like mass shootings or plane crashes all the time.
There are bad things that happen to all of us that are not a part of God’s plan. Because, there is a difference between God’s perfect will and God’s permissive will. In God’s perfect will there is no evil or sin. But God has shaped us with free will and once God gives free will, people can choose evil over good, again and again…and they do, so much so, that we find ourselves in a sin stained world where bad things happen to good people.
So Paul isn’t saying that everything that happens is good. But he is saying that in every situation, good and bad, God is working on our behalf to bring about something good. Anyone can bring good out of good. God brings good out of evil. God is always working for good for those who love him
Notice, however, We know in everything, God works for good with those who love him, who are called to his purpose. We have to work with him. We have to be on the look out for how, when, where, to work with God so that he can bring good out of the offenses we suffer.
Sometimes we don’t get what we want, our plans don’t work out; it’s confusing, it’s disappointing until we recognize that maybe God protected us from an unfortunate commitment, He’s directed us around and away from a serious misstep or He spared us an incredible embarrassment.
Sometimes something bad happens to us, and God uses that bad situation to introduce a better situation. You lose a job (that you really didn’t like anyway) and then God helps you find one that really means something to you. A relationship you invested in heavily falls apart and for a while it really wrecks you, until God introduces you to his match for you. Even an illness, disease, or a death can bring a family together or restore friendships.
Sometimes those things happen, sometimes they don’t but in every situation God is working to bring about goodness and growth in our character to help us to be conformed to the image of his Son.
When it comes to an offense, maybe God has allowed it because he wants you to grow to be more like his Son. Someone has gossiped about you and God is teaching you to be more like his Son who was called names and remained undisturbed and God wants you to be like that.
Someone says something very unflattering and God is teaching you to be more like his Son who was accused of some very unflattering things and yet still loved his enemies and God wants you to be like that.
Someone disagreed with you and God wants you to be more like his Son who took time to understand others rather than insisting on being understood. God wants you to be like that.
In all situations, God is working for our good. He is working for our good to make us more like his Son.
And so Paul concludes with a couple of rhetorical questions, “What then shall we say to this? If God is for us, who can be against us?” If God is for us than people standing against us, or even working against us are ultimately of no consequence.
Think about it, “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for all, will he not give us everything else also with him?” God held nothing back when he sent his Son. He isn’t likely to hold out on us now. We’re invited to accept that truth.
Offenses don’t define you, they can’t control you. On the Second Sunday of Lent we always hear the story of the Transfiguration. Jesus’ dazzling transformation before his friends, his divinity shining through his humanity.
This revelation is meant to strengthen their faith in anticipation of the scandal of the cross.
To their wonderment, the apostles are suddenly exposed to a higher reality, a more complete reality. At last they see things as they really are. When we are offended, however much we’ve been offended we’re not seeing things as they really are.
So my invitation to you is to memorize Romans 8:31 but make it a little more personal. Memorize: If God is for me, who can be against me?
The next time you are offended by someone else and are tempted to take the offense into your heart or realize that you have harbored an offense, repeat that verse.
If God is for me, who can be against me?
Offenses never have to have the last word. When we’ve got God’s word.