In a small church many years ago, the Pastor had concluded the Sunday service and was at the door bidding everyone farewell with a handshake and a smile.
When this older lady’s turn came, she vehemently rebuked the Pastor for his ‘gaudy’ tie he was wearing. She protested that it was so distracting that she didn’t hear a word he preached that morning and that it offended her immensely.
Without missing a beat, the Pastor asked if she had a small pair of scissors in her bag… she did.
He then said, “If this tie offends you, then cut it off.”
She said, “It does!” and proceeded to cut his tie off just below the knot. When completed she was smiling.
The Pastor then said, “May I have the scissors, please?”
Inquisitively she asked, “Why?”
He replied, “Madam, your tongue offends me.“
Have you ever been offended? It’s easy done. Somehow people are able to strike at our virtues or sins, our values or our pride. It wounds us deep and penetrates to our soul. If an offense festers it will usually burst out most inappropriately.
The occasions for taking offense are practically endless. Every day we will be given an opportunity to be offended. But at the same time we are also given the opportunity to have an unoffendable heart!
I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.
For Christians, God has a new heart for us that can not be offended – an unoffendable heart. This is no little thing. It is not an option, or a luxury.
Jesus warns us though, as we near the end of the age, a majority of people will be offended to such a point as to fall away from their faith.
And then many will be offended, and will betray one another, and will hate one another. And many false prophets will rise and deceive many. And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many will become cold.
Matthew 24:10-12 (MKJV)
“Many” will be offended. “Many” deceived. The love of “Many” will grow cold.
When we allow an offense to remain in our hearts, it has serious spiritual consequences. In the scripture above, note the three dangerous results: betrayal, hatred and cold love!
When we are offended by someone, we must go to them. Even those we care for. If we don’t, we begin to betray the relationship. It becomes too easy to talk behind their back to others and expose their weaknesses and sins.
How often do we mask that betrayal by saying to ourselves, or others, that we are just looking for counsel or advice and then realise that we are simply speaking negatively to far too many people instead. And if we are honest, our goal wasn’t to get ‘spiritual’ help but to secretly seek revenge toward the one who offended us. That’s hatred.
And do we not find that we avoid or gradually draw away from those who offended us. That’s cold love.
For those who are offended, betrayal, hatred and cold love go hand-in-hand.
And no one says, “Oh, today I’m going to try and develop a cold heart.” We don’t ever plan to fall away from our faith. Such things sneak in by stealth and little by little seeps into our souls.
It is naive to assume it won’t happen to us. Today you may be doing fine. But, I guarantee that somewhere, sometime, someone will inevitably disappoint or wound you. An injustice will strike and demand you retaliate in the flesh.
Some practical steps to possessing an unoffendable heart
I have learnt some things about the nature of Christ and how He handles the offenses of this world. I have to admit, I’m still working on what I know, with what I do.
And, this is what I know.
First, we need to know the one who created our heart in the first place. Christians have already taken this step.
Secondly, we must learn to humble ourselves when being criticised.
Instead of reacting and slipping into defense mode, I try to listen and consider the point being presented. You and I have been wrong enough times to know that just maybe the other person may have a valid point and could be seeing the issue from a perspective we haven’t yet considered . These are called blind spots.
Confrontation is never a joyful experience. We must understand that by the time an individual plucks up the nerve to speak to you about something that bothers them, their approach, which should be in gentleness, may come across as nervous or more intense than intended.
Yet, and even if their opinion is only partially right, we can glean good from it. Humility listens without reacting. And even if harshly delivered, humility rescues the truthful components from their criticism.
The result is that, instead of being offended, we are minus one blind spot!
“But, how can we glean good from a misguided person attacking us untruthfully, slandering us, persecuting us ?”, I hear you say. Again, Jesus gives us the solution:
But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…
“But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.”
So, instead of being offended by an obvious insult or vicious attack, we grow in love and intercession. We become more like Christ – the One who, as He died on a cross, innocent, prayed, “Father, forgive them!”
If we fail to process an offense as Christ would, anger rises up and floods our soul. Bitterness takes hold and spiritual paralysis immobilises our walk with God.
However, let me say that there are some things in life that demand our outrage. Child abuse, slavery, brutal killings, thuggery or blatant sin, to name a few.
These things should create an appropriate disturbance in our spirit. Our reaction must first be vented to God in prayer. Our outrage must then spur us towards intercession or action on our part to address the injustice.
And even then, we must guard our hearts during the process. What good would it be if we gain a victory but along the way lose our capacity to love.
Remember, God causes all things to work together for good in your life.
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
His goal is to create the likeness of Christ in you.
For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.
It is then we will see:
…no weapon forged against you will prevail, and you will refute every tongue that accuses you. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD, and this is their vindication from me,” declares the LORD.
Understand these things and you will possess the unoffendable heart of Christ.