Offend Me

Matthew 10:34 “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.”

Too often in our society, offending someone is looked at as being comparable to doing them actual violence. People are willing to go out of their way (and even lie to themselves or others) to avoid offending.

Specifically, offending someone means confronting them with a situation or action they are not comfortable with that violates boundaries they have set up. In its proper place, being offended is a proper way of responding to an injury. Sadly, for a great many people, crossing those boundaries is doing them a favor, not an injury.

To be clear: I am not saying that offending people is good.

I’m saying that whether or not someone is offended has no positive or negative value of its own. It is not evil or wrong to offend someone. Nor is it good or right to offend someone.

Offense must be judged by the boundaries it breaks, not the fact of its occurrence.

Romans 9:33 ‘…as it is written, “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense; and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.”’

A great part of the purpose for which Christ was sent to us was to offend those who are disobedient to the word. Can we believe, even for a moment, that we will be any less offensive to those who do wrong than He was?

If we show forth Christ’s light to the world, we must expect some to be attracted and others to be offended, just as they were by Him.

The key is that what you do be done from a right heart, rather than a self-righteous one.

Do right. Let the chips fall where they may.

We are called to be salt and light. Both are required.

Judge Not

Matthew 7: 1-2 Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

Romans 14:4 Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand.

Judgment is a difficult subject.

On the one hand, it is fair to say that in order to live holy lives we have to make judgments about what behaviors are right and wrong. This is a tautology.
On the other hand, it is also fair to say that we are all God’s servants and that we must not judge each other. We stand or fall before God alone.

Is it fair, then, to say that we should judge behaviors and not people?

If only it were that simple.

As human beings, it is a natural thing to see other peoples’ behaviors as reflecting on them and defining their personal character. And, to bring the point squarely home, that is exactly how God Himself sees people, isn’t it? We ARE made in His image.

The difficulty comes from that original sin, when Adam and Eve chose the “knowledge of good and evil” over “life” and thereby took on themselves the “right” to decide what is good and what is evil.

Behavior naturally bleeds into character, and character naturally bleeds into value. Once we start to judge someone, we naturally move from behavior to character to value, sometimes very quickly. (Most people will deny that–“I don’t see him as being less valuable, just wrong.” When you start to examine your heart, though, you’ll likely find that in some way you hold that person in contempt, and contempt is an explicit denial of another person’s value.)

So how can we do this RIGHT?

It comes down to the attitudes of the heart.

We MUST understand our proper place in this equation. God alone determines value. We are usually accurate about behavior and sometimes we can take a stab at character based on that behavior (usually a guess more than a judgment). Beyond that, we have no place at all in the equation, even in regard to OURSELVES.

The purpose for our judgment is entirely confined to two items.
First, the condition of our own hearts.
Second, the elevation of those around us.

Exercising judgment in regard to other people outside these two purposes leads us inexorably into evil.

Romans 14: 12-13 So then each of us will give an account of himself to God. Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother.

We must look to the condition of our own hearts, and we must do our best to give aid to those around us. If your design is purely to give aid and your heart is right, then you may be able to contribute something of value to those around you. This is part of our responsibility to our brothers and sisters. The instant you give in to frustration or contempt (“He’s not LISTENING.”), you have nullified your usefulness.

Beware the demander and the commander.

I lived for a long time in an environment where peoples’ first instinct on seeing another person “doing it wrong” was to set them straight.

The central point of this topic is as follows:  a useful offering comes from a helpful heart, one that loves and does not think of self.

Anything that enters the realm of a demand or commandment bears the mark of witchcraft–coercing someone else to do things your way against their will. Examine yourself. Be certain that your own actions do not demand or command others, and reflect on your heart before you cast judgment.

The First Lesson

The hardest lesson I have ever learned was the lesson of Shimei, son of Gera. (See 2 Samuel 16: 5-14 to see what I’m speaking to.)

King David was God’s anointed to be King of Israel. If there has ever been any man in history who had a right to demand respect or reject a lesson offered in the wrong spirit, it was David. Yet, when a man followed him and his entire entourage, cursing and throwing rocks, he told them to leave the man alone.

Likewise, for myself, there was a time in my life when I was in a position to be constantly wronged by another person. During that time, the first lesson I had to learn was that no matter what was done to me, my first responsibility was to do right MYSELF regardless of everything else.

I have an extremely pronounced, one might even say overblown sense of justice. When someone commits injustice, it enrages me. There is no shrugging it off–nor does it matter the size of the issue. The principle is what matters, and the intent (even carelessness or laziness) entirely eclipses the results. This is especially true when the person causing the injustice is in some position of authority.

So, when I was mistreated, then held to the highest standards in my own conduct, it brought this point directly into focus. It was among the top five hardest things I’ve ever done–looking to my own misdeeds first. In the end, I had to correct my own failings, even when I was having my nose rubbed in them by someone who, according to the splinter test (Matthew 7:5), had no business teaching me anything.

What not to do…

Normally, I try to focus on what to DO rather than what to avoid, but this is something we all need to pay close attention to. I almost never meet someone who has really taken this point to heart. Check yourself, see if you shift your focus from yourself to others when you do something wrong and have it pointed out.

1. Do you make excuses? (about anything at all?)
“But he said…”
“But all I did was…”
“But it’s my birthday, so…”
“I just can’t handle…”

2. Do you blame?
“You JERK! How could you…”
“If you don’t stop treating me like…”

Whatever it is, STOP. Change that habit.

The point here is really simple.

Your sins and wrongs should be your first concern.

And your second.

And your third.

And your fourth.

Maybe by the time you’ve thought about your own wrongs five or six times you can see if someone else is doing something wrong, but ONLY if your goal is to help them out. (Because really, it’s not your business anyway unless they want help.)

The only thing you have any influence over in an eternal sense is your own heart. Over everything else, God is the sole master.