No Offense: Week 5
Welcome to the final week of our Lenten message series called ‘No Offense.’ The series is based on three important facts…
Number one, offenses in life are inevitable. We can’t go through life without encountering something that offends us.
Two, offense is a trap. Offense baits us to steal life, steal joy, and steal relationships from us, so offense is a trap we want to avoid.
Three, we have a choice in how we handle offense. When faced with the trap and temptation of offense, we can choose to give in or we can choose to handle an offense in a healthy way, so it doesn’t enter our hearts.
Here is the question of the day. Do you know that you can make yourself un-offend-able? Let’s first get into a bit of scripture and then explore that question.
In today’s first reading, Jeremiah is writing to Jewish people during the Babylonian exile. Here is some context for what that means. After King David, things go down hill for the nation of Israel. There are many years of poor leadership and eventually a split, between the northern part of the kingdom and the southern part.
Eventually the North was overtaken by a foreign nation. Years later the South is overtaken by a foreign nation. Now the great city of Jerusalem is ruled by the Babylonians and their King, Nebuchadnezzar. He takes captive many of the best and brightest and drags those best and brightest from Jerusalem to Babylon. That is called the Babylonian exile.
Here’s the thing about exile. The people living in exile are…
- Not where they intended to be.
- They are not in control.
- They are not enjoying life.
We can say the same thing about offense?
- Offense is often not what is intended.
- When we take offense, we are not in control but ruled by our emotions.
- When offended, we are not enjoying life.
Jeremiah writes: The days are coming, says the LORD. When I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah.
Covenant is the relationship God established with his people. He’s describing the new relationship he wants to have with his people. The first Covenant was with Moses on Mount Sinai when God gives the people the ten commandments, after they had been freed from slavery in Egypt. The new covenant will not be like that.
About the new covenant, God says: I will place my law within them and write it upon their hearts.
Covenant is internal not external. Commandments were written on stone, on something external.
Now the law is to be written upon our hearts. To sum all this up, God says, I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
God will reign over their hearts like he always intended. And what’s their job? To act like they belong to him, to respect, honor, and submit to God’s rule and reign over their lives. God is saying, “I will liberate you, And you are to act like you’ve been liberated.”
This is how we engage in covenant relationship with God: by allowing him, and him alone, to rule and reign over our hearts, in our lives, in our relationships, in our daily interactions.
The reality is we don’t have to live in exile; We don’t have to be trapped by offense any longer; We don’t have to give into the foreign rule of offense over our hearts.
Here’s the point for today:
Even though offense is inevitable, offense is an event. Getting offended is a choice. Offenses WILL happen. But we don’t have to live offended.
God wants to place his law within us and write it upon our hearts. He wants us to be liberated and free. And that means we just have to let HIM rule our hearts.
Speaking of hearts, here are 5 ways to let God rule over our hearts, 5 ways keep our hearts free from offense. To help you remember we formed an acronym H-E-A-R-T.
First letter H is for: Humble ourselves
- Humility is the biggest key to becoming ‘un-offend-able’.
- In today’s Gospel, Jesus says “unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit”
- Humility is a dying to self. It’s not about thinking LESS of yourself. It is thinking about YOURSELF less.
- Pride and entitlement increase the likelihood you will be offended.
- Humble people are not offended when they don’t get what they deserve.
Letter E is for: Expect offenses
- They are inevitable.
- If we know offense is headed our way, we can spot it, and not be surprised and not be trapped by it.
Letter A is for: Adjust your expectations
- Unmet expectations are a breeding ground for offense.
- There are two kinds of unmet expectations: Unrealistic Expectations and Unexpressed expectations. Unrealistic Expectations are things like
- Hoping your boss praises you who has never given you a compliment.
- Your sister will call you, but she’s never called you.
- Your friend who is always late will suddenly be on time for once.
- We just keep going back to the same dry well hoping there’s going to be water there… and we’re just setting ourselves up to be offended
- Drop it
Unexpressed expectations are things like:
- Expecting to get that special birthday gift but not telling anyone what you want.
- hoping your co-worker will stop eating hard boiled eggs in your cubicle at lunch.
- expecting your spouse to unload the dishwasher.
So we need to Adjust expectation which means: drop it when they are unrealistic, or talk about it when expectations are unexpressed.
Letter R: Recognize triggers
- This is about knowing yourself
- What are your triggers? What are those things that set you off? Things like: certain people, politics, religion, social media, people talking about your children.
- Recognize your triggers so you can avoid them.
- What are the pathways or conversations not worth going down because they’ll always lead to offense?
Letter T: Take inventory
Sometimes there’s stuff going on inside us we don’t even know about, and it needs to be uncovered.
Why are you easily offended?
Search your heart… Create a space to examine what’s going on in our hearts and lives.
These are strategies to keep our hearts free from being offended. God wants to write his law upon our hearts, to be our God, and for us to be his people. Act like a liberated people, a people set free, a people free from offense and entirely un-offend-able. That’s what God wants for you.
Let’s say good-bye to offense together in prayer. If you want to live free from offense, would pray with me now. The words are on our screens.
We come to you asking for your grace
We are living in a world of offense
There are traps set all around us
But we don’t want to be trapped any longer
We confess we’ve lived in the pain of offense too long
We want to be set free
You are our God, and we want to act like your children
In this moment, we ask for an outpouring of your grace
Would you grant us the courage to do this work
To take inventory, to adjust our expectations, to humble ourselves
To keep our hearts free
Because he who the Son sets free is free indeed
Set us free today
In Jesus name