Strengthening Ourselves Against the Spirit of Offense

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Make a commitment to yourself and to God for this upcoming year not to be sidelined by a spirit of #offense. Some of you may get huffy on me even just reading that first sentence…but hold on and let me elaborate a little!

In my prayer time a couple of days ago, the Lord cautioned me that the enemy was going to launch an attack on the body of Christ in the way of offenses; an attempt to erode our unity. Not so much one big collective attack where everyone is hit at the same time by the same event, but many small instances. The old “death by a thousand cuts” strategy.

We live in a perpetually-offended society nowadays, and believe me when I tell you that listening to constant bad news on TV (true or not), listening to negative music, reading negative articles and books day in and day out can wreak havoc on your spirit man! That spirit of offense can get all over you if you don’t guard your heart! We worry more about our outward appearance being impacted by a lost culture, than we do about the inward impact of those feelings of entitlement, pride, arrogance, and yes, the tendency to get angry, hurt, and offended by everything that doesn’t agree with how we want it. People are ready to sue or to break ties or to ruin others’ reputations at the drop of a hat. And sadly, it happens even in church too.

So how do we cope and make it through the obstacle course of offense? By renewing our minds daily in the Word. By being honest with ourselves before God and recognizing what pushes our buttons. By praying protection over ourselves and our loved ones and inviting the Holy Spirit to change the atmosphere wherever we are—home, school, church, the grocery store parking lot, wherever.

Our minds are going be full of SOMETHING. We have to set parameters and say no to what the Holy Spirit cautions us to avoid. And even though we feel we shouldn’t have to be careful around others, yes, as believers we have an obligation to walk blamelessly before the world. We need to think before we act and do. And we need to arrest that spirit of offense when we feel it rising in us.

At some point over the coming weeks and months, you may feel the enemy say something like:

  • “You should just leave/quit/resign/divorce/part ways. You’re not appreciated. Your (spouse, job, family, group, ministry, church, etc.) ought to have to suffer a little bit and then they’d see how much you are worth.”
  • “They did that on purpose! Are you going to just stand there and take it?”
  • “God didn’t answer your prayers. He must not really love you after all.”
  • “So and so just gave you the stink eye. That person doesn’t like you.”
  • “They just did you wrong because you are (too young, too old, not beautiful, they’re jealous of you, not the same color as them; or they think they’re better than you).”
  • “Your church takes too hard a stance on that point of doctrine. They act like a cult. You should find a church that agrees with what you consider truth.”
  • “Who do they think they are to judge you for your choices?”
  • “They’re not the boss of you.”
  • “You should just go ahead and (hurt/kill) yourself and get out of the way.  That’d make them sorry.”
  • “That attitude can go two ways. If they’re asking for trouble, you know you can’t back down now.”
  • “If that person were really a Christian, he/she would (look, act, vote, participate, speak) just like you. Don’t trust him or her!”

Sound familiar?

Well friends, we have a choice. We can do the work in our prayer and study time to toughen up, or we can run around constantly wounded and on the defensive. People hate having to always tiptoe around one certain person in their lives! Don’t let that person be YOU! Remember that much of the time, folks don’t even know that their words were inappropriate or caused you to be hurt. And yeah, some people are not going to be fair with us—now or ever. The Word tells us to pray for, forgive, and love them anyway. Sometimes we have to do it (without gossiping about them behind their backs, by the way) from a distance—but near or far, God’s grace can enable us to shake it off.

Pray with me: “Father, I don’t want to be overly sensitive. I don’t want to stumble on the rock of offense, this year or ever. I don’t want to abort my mission or abandon a divine assignment You’ve given me over becoming hurt, mad, or offended at someone else. Jesus, some of your followers even abandoned You when Your words offended their sensibilities.  Please help me!

There are any number of opportunities in a day for me to have my feelings hurt, if I choose to. Crucify the drama queen nature in me! I reject that tendency to want to dramatize and rehearse and nurse and tell others about how this person or that organization or that race or this group was unfair to me. It’s hard, Lord. Sometimes people’s words and actions are downright intentional! I feel sometimes like people who don’t understand my pain are against me. But by Your grace I am rising above offense, in Jesus’ name.

Today I put on the whole armor of God. I protect my mind with the helmet of salvation, my heart with the breastplate of righteousness, my whole being with the shield of faith, my vital organs and private parts with the loinbelt of truth, and my feet with the gospel of peace. I have the Word and Your Spirit in my hand as a sword of defense from the attack of the enemy. You have equipped me to protect my spirit, soul, mind, will, emotions, and entire body. I will not leave the place of prayer improperly dressed to meet my day!

Lord, Your Word tells me in Matthew 18 exactly what to do when a brother offends me—it’s actually a good template for my other relationships too. It starts with personal communication, not a Facebook rant. I will handle situations the way the Bible tells me to. I will not assume that the other person automatically knows, and I will not read his or her every action or inaction as some kind of negative response! I will be civil but honest when these kinds of communications must happen. The object is restoration and forgiveness. Father, in this moment I release and forgive every person who has knowingly or unknowingly offended me!

Lord, I remind myself today that the enemy’s goal is collateral damage. A hit at me is intended to wound and scatter and render ineffective my whole circle of influence. The offense was a weapon not of flesh and blood, but unseen wicked spiritual forces at work. I can’t afford to see this attack in the natural! I will ask what the devil is trying to accomplish if I accept his bait—for that is exactly the post I can’t afford to abandon! I refuse to leave my family, my church, or my assignment over becoming offended!

Finally, I will exercise more caution in the way my words or decisions affect others. When I know I’ve hurt someone, I will man or woman up and go make it right. I won’t just let that person simmer and stew in offense. I won’t just write it off as the other party needing to grow up. Maybe that’s the case and maybe it isn’t; but God isn’t judging me on someone else’s actions. He judges me by how I handle things from my end! I will take the high road. I will at least initiate the conversation that opens a door to reconciliation.

And finally, Father, I thank You for not leaving me comfortless! In a fallen, unfair world, Your Holy Spirit consoles and gives me peace. In the name of Jesus, I go forth today declaring that I AM NOT A VICTIM! I WILL NOT LET THE DEVIL MOVE ME FROM WHERE GOD HAS ASSIGNED ME! I am a Psalm 1 believer who refuses to be influenced by the negatives of others—a tree thriving in rich soil, which bears fruit and whose leaves aren’t withered. I am not ignorant of the devices (strategies, traps) of the devil. I won’t miscarry my destiny because of a vagabond, offended spirit. I am strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Amen and amen!” 🙌🏼🙌🏼🙌🏼

Owning Our Words

OffendI know that there are a few folks in this world who are chronically offended about anything and everything, but we can never use that as an excuse to just be reckless with our words. Part of the last days’ trend will be increasing offenses. Some of it we will just have to deal with…especially in matters of truth; but I caution us as believers to weigh out our words–right down to our motives for speaking them–before we let them fly. That goes double for me!

The Word tells us that we will give account of every idle word. That’s not just telling us to clean up our language…it’s telling us to weed out whatever doesn’t bear good fruit. We can go about business as usual, and say, “Well, so-and-so just needs to grow up,” or we can choose to be better stewards of our communication. Corrupt ‪#‎communication‬ isn’t just dirty words and cursing; it’s anything that breeds confusion and opens the door for the devil to make a mess of things. We don’t have to go around fearful and reluctant to speak to people; but I’m just saying, give no place to the devil! Why should I have to qualify what I say? you may ask. Well, you can wound people and determine to just let them be wounded–that’s their problem–or you can take just a little more care in the area of reconciliation and consideration.

It’s not just a matter of being better communicators to a lost world, but it’s also a matter of being better communicators among our brothers and sisters in Christ. Leaders to leaders, leaders to followers, followers to other followers, and all of us to the world–our speech will either be fruitful or it will be like spraying Round Up on everything we work to produce. Know when tough love is needed, but know also when you just need to stake up the weak branches and pour in the oil and wine. Be honest with people if you have a problem with them; but do it in love and humility. Don’t show partiality, be clannish, or ignore the feelings of those who look up to you. If you do, you will lose them.

The Lord spoke to my heart in prayer a few months back and He told me that we are to beware of reckless offenses in the Body of Christ. The enemy is going to try to erode our unity not by big church splits, but by little offenses. Little day-to-day misunderstandings, lack of proper communication, suspicions, distrust, hurts, unforgiveness, disrespect, ignoring one another, backbiting, gossip, incorrect assumptions, “digging” at one another (does your kidding around with others ever go just a little too far?), and failure to prefer our brothers and sisters over ourselves. Even as a local body, my own church has maintained a great strength in unity over the years, and I would say, “turn up the dial even higher to safeguard against the devil’s schemes! Be ready to extinguish any spark of disunity you see trying to ignite!”  Yes, Satan will even try that strategy in the strongest of churches.

Listen to the Holy Spirit like you’ve never listened before. I believe that if we will remain humble and open to His voice, He will caution us when we are about to make a blunder. Don’t override His urging when He’s saying to you, ‘That’s not your business.’ ‘Nope, don’t go there.’ ‘You don’t know that to be a fact at all.’ ‘This is where you need to end the discussion.’ ‘Don’t be part of that conversation.’ ‘Walk away.’ ‘Apologize…I don’t care if you’re right or wrong…I am telling you to be the one to reconcile.’ ‘I don’t care if you do think it’s funny, you are giving the devil a chance to cause someone else to get hurt.’

Another reason to show sensitivity and meekness toward your brothers and sisters in Christ is this:  in doing so, you are discerning the Lord’s Body.  I wonder how many times, in ignorance, we have taken the Holy Communion after mistreating or holding a grudge against someone right in our congregation.  I don’t want to be weak or sickly…or asleep (whether it is spiritually or just plain dead!) over failing to discern the Body of Christ.  Only recently did I gain a deeper understanding of that Scripture.  I’d always assumed that it meant just not to partake of the Sacrament without repenting for our sins, asking for forgiveness if we’d wronged someone, or granting forgiveness in kind.  What if we simply have secret contempt toward another in the Body, and we nurse that contempt and allow it to take root?  Is our God not also offended by those things we mutter under our breath about others whom He created?  How important it is to Him that we love others as He does, and that we speak to them in a way that reflects His goodness!

Proverbs 18 tells us that a brother offended is harder to win than a strong city. Jesus, however, goes even farther to say that the Father doesn’t want our gifts if we bring them covered with the filth of offenses! “So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” (Matt 5:23-24 ESV). He doesn’t say for us to go make it right only if it was our fault, He says to go and be reconciled, period! Choke down that pride and take the high road! It may take some work to break down that wall, but you do your part and with a right heart attitude…and then come back and finish your offering to God. He will receive it gladly if it’s tied with the ribbon of reconciliation!

I have a long way to go on the highway of holiness, but one thing I never ever want to do is to cause someone else to reject Jesus because of a flaw he or she sees in my attitude. We have heard that phrase that we are “the only Bible some people will ever read” until we no longer grasp the depth of its meaning. Don’t lose your ability to be salt and light just so that you can “be yourself.” Speak as if the whole world is listening…because it is.