Jump Start # 2863
Proverbs 18:19 “A brother offended is harder to be won than a strong city, and contentions are like the bars of a citadel.”
Offended, we sure hear that word tossed about these days. It seems that so many are even looking for ways to be offended so they can offend the offender in return. I wonder if some do not even understand what ‘offended’ means. And, it seems that some wear the expression ‘offended’ as a badge of honor.
And, in climate that we now live in, where does “dislike” fit in? Can I dislike something and not be offended? There are lots of things I do not like. I don’t like big trucks parking on either side of me in a parking lot. I can’t see out around them. Now, am I offended by tall trucks that park next to me? No. I didn’t like wearing masks as long as we were told to do. Was I offended? No.
To offend is to wound someone either in their feelings or in their soul. We can offend others by words that are intended to hurt, shame and embarrass them. The words are calculated. They are thoughtless and cruel. We can also offend by our actions. Inviting everyone over, expect one family, because I do not like them, is a sure way to trample their feelings and make matters worse.
Some today are just jumping on the political bandwagon of cultural change. When someone says the American flag offends them, one must wonder about that. That flag has been around since the Revolution. And, just now you are claiming to be offended? How about five years ago? How about twenty years ago? And, when someone says “White people offend me,” or, “Black people offend me,” they do not understand that word “offend.” Nothing was done to them and one cannot change their race. When a person is offended Biblically, apologies, changed behavior and forgiveness can change the relationship to something better.
Our passage identifies how hard it is to win someone who has been offended. Taking a city in battle is easier than trying to win back the trust, love and relationship of one who is offended.
Now, some thoughts:
First, the most obvious recommendation here would be to simply not offend anyone. But that’s not always possible. Even Jesus offended. The Pharisees did not like what He was saying. Did Jesus apologize? No. Did He state a retraction? No. What Jesus said was true and needed. The problem was with the Pharisees. Their hearts were not right. Sometimes we will offend people and the offender is not at fault. Some love darkness more than the light and when those two intersect, some fault the light.
Second, the Romans were told, as much as possible with each of us, live peaceable with everyone. We all know how to push each other’s buttons. We can really be good at irritating others. Sometimes teasing crosses the line and it becomes hurtful. We must recognize these things. We must be sensitive to others. We must find the right words and the right tone to use to help people, not to hurt them.
Third, to the tone of our passage, when a brother has been offended, we must try to rebuild the bridges and mend broken feelings. Go first. Don’t wait for them to come to you. Be genuine in your apology. Be sorrowful. Trust has been broken and they may need some time and space before things can get back to the way it once was. And, as our passage indicates, this is hard. As hard as it would be to overtake a city, winning back someone you have offended is harder. It will take time. It will take patience. It will take the wounded working through and processing things in their own way. Just saying, “I’m sorry,” won’t immediately make things better. This is hard. We might not understand why there is still tension between the two parties. I’ve apologized, you say. Yet, for the one offended, he has been hurt. Two words, “I’m sorry,” probably won’t be enough to patch up and bandage the broken heart.
Fourth, in some cases, there never is reconciliation. Someone leaves the congregation because they were offended. They find another place to worship. Apologies are extended, but the wounds do not heal. Friendships are ended, for good. It is the painful reality of careless words that are expressed without any thought to how they might be received.
Finally, we must not apologize for what the Bible says or what the Lord expects of us. There are more and more who are pushing the envelopes of what is acceptable behavior. They demand a change in preaching and what is allowable. They are offended by the strict nature of the Bible. Their issue is really with God but they will take it out on God’s people. Pressure will cause the timid and scared to cave in. The message for some will change. The purpose and direction for some will change. They will sell their soul to the devil and in the process they will make the worse offense of all, they will offend the God of Heaven.
These are times when we need to teach clearly about these things. People need to understand. Words matter. Actions have consequences. People have feelings. God has a standard. We are responsible for what we do.