On the Issue of Offenses (1) By Babatunde Olugboji
Trying not to take offense could be difficult. This week we’ll start a series addressing the Biblical principles on offenses. This principle applies to just about any sin a person can commit. When we focus on a behavior, even in an attempt to eliminate it, the result is more of that behavior. This is just how our minds work. Thankfully, there is a better way to address this problem.
People are lured and enticed into sin as a result of desire (James 1: 14). Every sin or bad behavior begins with desire. Desire itself is not a bad thing; there are many good desires. But the desires that lead to sin are wrong desires, the desires based in false perspectives and misplaced expectations about others and ourselves. To eliminate bad behavior, we must first discern the desire behind it.
For many people, the tendency to take offense at little things is rooted in a false perspective desiring the approval of others. We get such approval with some form of performance: what we do, how we speak, how we dress, how we express ourselves, etc. When our security is based on our performance, we may feel threatened when someone says something negative about us.
The natural response to that threat is to take offense or become upset. Even a casual, flippant, or offhand remark can bother us and steal our peace. To prevent taking offense, we need to address our desire for security. As long as feelings of security are rooted inside of us, the tendency to take offense, even at the little things, will exist. If, however, our feelings of security are not rooted in ourselves or our performance, our perspective will change and our response to the actions and comments of others will become more balanced.
Covering Offenses: The Bible advises us to “cover” offenses (Proverbs 10: 12; 17: 9). Such covering is related to love. 1 Peter 4:8: “Love covers over a multitude of sins” -and that “multitude” would have to include small slights. In any relationship, there are many irksome things that should just be “covered” for the sake of love. By covering an offense, or not revealing it to others, we are empathizing with the offender and extending the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps he did not mean what he said, perhaps we misunderstood. Perhaps the offender was having a bad day or wasn’t thinking straight. Covering the offense of another helps us, too. Remember the elephant? When we focus on the needs of the person who offended us, we no longer think about how offended we feel.
Overlook offenses: “A person’s wisdom yields patience; it is to one’s glory to overlook an offense” (Proverbs 19: 11). Forgiveness is an honorable thing. When you cover an offense, you give grace and empathy to the offender. When you overlook an offense, you choose to give something valuable to yourself -the reminder that your security is not based on others’ opinions of you but on the security you have in Christ (see Ephesians 1: 5–7).
Pray: Jesus told his disciples on multiple occasions that if they prayed for anything according to his will, they would have what they asked for. Do you believe that God wants you to be upset at others, or to forgive them? Do you believe that your security is in him, and not yourself? If you pray consistently, asking him to help you not take offense, he will answer that prayer. If you ask him to remind you of his secure and steadfast love, he will answer that prayer. You can confidently pray for help in every offending situation (Hebrew 4: 16).
To be continued.
Have a great week.
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