It is a choice to be offended

As a human being and being like Elijah who was a man with a nature like ours (James 5:17), I have the tendency to react with my emotions rather than rationally thinking through things based on the Word of God. If you are a human being then you can probably identify with this problem as well. We all do it. I have a hard time dealing with that when people react to me in an emotional way and then I begin to react emotionally and then the conversation is lost. If you are a non-Christian then the best that you could hope for is behavior modification. This does not really solve the problem though. It is like masking of the symptoms of a sickness rather than curing the disease. It has been said that the heart of every problem is a problem of the heart. So the real solution is to have a “heart transplant”. This is what happens to a person when they come to Jesus Christ for salvation. “And I will give them one heart, and a new spirit I will put within them. I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in my statutes and keep my rules and obey them. And they shall be my people, and I will be their God.” Ezekiel 11:19-20.

But now that I am a Christian I find that I still often react this way. In fact the problem seems to be worse because now there is a fight going on inside me about how to react. Paul in Romans 7 has the same problem. “I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.” This is Paul speaking as a Christian. It is comforting to know that the Apostles were like us, struggling with the same things we do. But, if Paul had the same problem how can I ever hope to be free from the power of my fickle feelings? Jesus has the solution, and doesn’t he always?

In Matthew 5 Jesus preaches the famous “Sermon on the Mount”. He begins this sermon with the Beatitudes. The last three of them are key for us here. “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Matthew 5:9-12). Jesus gives us three attitudes that when lived out by faith empower us to overcome offenses and emotional overreactions. They are to be a peacemaker, to rejoice in persecution, and to look heavenward for your reward. So as a Christian these three attitudes are my guide in responding appropriately to anyone.

Paul says “We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves.” (1 Thessalonians 5:12-13). We as Christians are called to respect those who are over us in the Lord and by doing so to be at peace. Romans 14 says “Whoever thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men. So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.” Pursuing peace in our relationships is for the mutual up building of ourselves and others. Even if we are the only one who pursues peace we are still following the command of the Lord and he will work out the details. 2 Corinthians 13:11 says, “Finally, brothers, rejoice. Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you.”

When we rejoice in persecution we take the power and the sting away form our opponent. Jesus in John 19 said to Pilate “You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above. Therefore he who delivered me over to you has the greater sin.” Pilate’s response was to try to release Him. Jesus understood well that whatever happens to us in this life can only happen because God has ordained it to happen. Therefore when we respond with grace and rejoicing to even the most difficult person we are trusting in the promises of God. “Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name… Therefore let those who suffer according to God's will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.” (1 Peter 4:16&19) So we can and ought to rejoice in the persecution that comes for the sake of following Jesus. The offense comes because we are trying to live right and speak words of truth. When we live so we are following our leader, Jesus, and we should expect to be treated like He was treated.

Finally we need to look heavenward for our reward. In Colossians 3 Paul is addressing slaves who were Christians and were being treated poorly by their master. He said, “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.” This was written to slaves. Think about that. Talk about offensive. Paul does not tell them to fight for their freedom, or to participate in civil disobedience. He did not tell them to march on Rome and demand equal treatment. He said to work hard and do it as unto the Lord. Their motivation in working hard Paul says is not that they might be freed but that one day in glory they will be rewarded. Talk about faith. We in America barely have a category in our thinking to put talk like this in. Jesus said many similar things. In Luke 6:35 we read “But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil.”

So think on these things when you feel the urge to get offended. Remember it is a choice to get offended. It is your choice how you respond to others. So respond Biblically and in so doing glorify God and be at peace.

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