As a Christian, I try to use the Bible as my guide. I say "try" because I don't always seek it out as often as I should. I tend to stew. I sometimes mutter, and I write - because I often find it's easier for me to work things out through the written word.
When I've been offended, it seems that it would be natural for me to express my unhappiness about it. After all, shouldn't we be able to get things off our chests, to be honest about it? In an ideal world, perhaps. If we could lay down our defenses, our rights, our feelings of entitlement. If we could have pure motives, and always assume positive intent.
But we're not in a perfect world. And it's painfully obvious at times. So I went digging. Here are a few verses I found in my NIV:
A man's wisdom gives him patience; it is to his glory to overlook an offense.
If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. -Romans 12:18
Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. -Colossians 3:15Gulp. Really? Do I have to? Must my first response be denying my own rights, roll over and play dead...become the proverbial doormat?
Consider Jesus' words:
For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted. - Luke 14:10-12
Humility. Sometimes it rankles. Certainly it rankles. But let's also consider Jesus' example:
5Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:
6Who, being in very naturea]">[a] God,
did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
7but made himself nothing,
taking the very natureb]">[b] of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
8And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to death—
even death on a cross!
When we consider how the very Son of God chose to humble himself (for us, the worst of sinners), it sheds a new light on the subject. And He is known as the Prince of Peace. The verses preceding that last passage say this:
3Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. 4Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. - Philippians 2:3-4 (emphasis mine)So how do we find that balance? How do we establish healthy boundaries, protect ourselves from unhealthy relationsohips...and yet strive for peace in our interactions with others? Is it really possible to have those boundaries without seeming to invite discord?
I am still really wrestling with that. In the meantime, here is more food for thought:
The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. -Psalm 103:8So I suppose what it boils down to is really trying to assume positive intent. I must remind myself that there are (at least) two sides to every story, and that maybe, if we can assume that the person who has offended us meant well, it really can work out peaceably. It seems that if we want to be godly, Christlike people, we really do need to learn to turn the other cheek when we've been slighted.
A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. - Prov. 15:1
A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control. -Prov. 29:11
My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry... - James 1:19
I'll close with a paraphrase of something I heard Beth Moore say recently, on a DVD. She said something to the effect of "The Enemy is the author of every offense." This statement really struck a chord with me. If we can remember that the Lord's desire is for believers to enjoy peace and unity, we would do well to beware that the Enemy's goal is for the exact opposite.
Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification. - Romans 14:19
I'd love to hear your thoughts on this subject. I'm really just mulling over this stuff, trying to find some answers to questions that have come up lately. So...what do you think?
In "taking offense: part 2," I'll take on the challenging subject of how we might share our opinions without offending anyone, or whether it's even possible. Stay tuned to see if I've wrestled any answers out of all my questions!