One of the very first lessons my pastor Dr. Dennis Brunet taught me was the sin of offense. I remember it like it was yesterday even though it was fourteen years ago. Someone close to me had hurt me, however that person had not actually hurt be directly. It was their behavior in a relationship other than ours that caused my hurt.
When I shared this with Brother Dennis he told me: â€œYouâ€™ve got to get over the sin of offense brother.â€ I was actually confused by his statement and I said so. He asked me if I was offended by my friendâ€™s behavior, and I said yes. Thatâ€™s when he said, â€œThis isnâ€™t about you brother; itâ€™s about your friend. Your friend needs your prayers and your grace.â€
When I realized that it was the sin of offense, great liberty and relief swept over my spirit and soul. My attitude towards my friend changed, as did my prayers. I began praying that this personâ€™s relationship with Christ would be repaired, knowing that through this restoration the human relationships would be restored as God saw fit.
But back to me, not that this is about me but how God worked in me. The lesson I learned that day has served me well through the years. I learned about giving â€œThe Gift of Forgiveness,â€ a book by Dr. Charles Stanley that you should all read. Bitterness in our lives is like emotional cancer; it eats us up inside. When we are offended we can be so head strong that the offender sees no way to win us back:
â€œA brother offended is harder to win than a strong city, and contentions are like the bars of a castle.â€ (Proverbs 18:19)
Perhaps it is our sense of justice that causes us to demand a standard from others that we rarely live up to ourselves. Too often we feel as though it is our job to right the wrongs of the church by withholding grace from offending Christians. While we are to stand against evil, we can show grace and mercy towards the offenders knowing that God will deal with them personally. Our Lord told us as much:
â€œWoe to the world because of offenses! For offenses must come, but woe to that man by whom the offense comes!â€ (Matthew 18:7)
The word woe should cause us to pray for the one to which it is directed. We should always desire restoration while knowing that justice will be demanded from all.
But letâ€™s get to the sin of offense because it is so offensive. It is offensive in how Satan fashions and forms it in our minds. He gets us to believe that we are right to be offended and to demand justice from the offenders.
Satan gets us to believe that we are standing on righteous ground by removing the offender from our lives, protecting our families from such injustice.
I did this with my own father for over twenty years, to the point he never met my children. My son died never knowing his paternal grandfather. Praise and all glory to God that I reconciled with my father before Dad died and taught my children the importance of building bridges, but both of my children never met my Dad or even spoke to him on the phone. That is one of my greatest regrets.
It was bitterness that rooted in and swelled out of my heart to the point I removed my family from knowing my father. My father was the one who caused the chasm in our relationship; be there no doubt. However, it is always the offended one that has the strength to build the bridge of restoration, even though it should be the offender.
The great sin of offense causes our heart to deceive us into believing that our wickedness is clothed in righteousness, when we are being selfish in our motives. It took Brother Dennisâ€™ loving rebuke for my eyes to be opened to it.
The Apostle Peter saw this in Simon the Sorcerer when Simon asked to have the same power as the Apostles:
â€œBut Peter said to him, â€˜Your money perish with you, because you thought that the gift of God could be purchased with money! You have neither part nor portion in this matter, for your heart is not right in the sight of God. Repent therefore of this your wickedness, and pray God if perhaps the thought of your heart may be forgiven you. For I see that you are poisoned by bitterness and bound by iniquity.â€™â€ (Acts 8:20-23)
No doubt Simon was troubled by Peterâ€™s rebuke, and we can read as much in verse 24. I was just as perplexed by Brother Dennisâ€™ reply because I thought I was standing on righteous ground. Iâ€™m sure Simon in his own wicked righteousness thought he was asking for a good thing.
That is the problem with trusting our own hearts. They will deceive us if we are not careful, to the point that we commit the sin of offense without even knowing it.
May God give us ears to hear and eyes to see.
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