Most of the time when I speak at our church it is after special music by a soloist or a group. Many years ago someone sang a song that I had never heard before. I love music and it has had a major impact in my spiritual growth since my teenage years.
After the individual completed the song I came to the pulpit and thanked them and in addition said, “That was a very unusual song; I’ve never heard that before”. I said it warmly and sincerely.
I gave my message and immediately after the service was over the first person to meet me (accosted might be a better term) was the singer. “What was wrong with my song? Why didn’t you like it?”, they demanded.
I was stunned for a moment and then regained my thoughts and inquired as to why they thought I didn’t like it. They replied, “You said it was an unusual song”. I knew then that I was dealing with a person that was easily offended and also full of pride. Later as I reflected upon it I realized that they had sat through the entire message stewing and churning inside. (I may have preached an unusual message that day and they could have offered me the same sentiment to me!)
Graciously I tried to explain my comments. It didn’t work. It couldn’t have worked because in their eyes they had been embarrassed. Perhaps it was because they hadn’t received the commendation expected. With a red face from anger they stormed out of the auditorium. It wasn’t a month before their entire family left our church.
The leaving of our church wasn’t the problem. People leave for all sorts of reasons, many of them are not bad, it’s just life; it happens. However, this was not good. It was because of sin – on their part. Here were the two issues – pride and a lack of love. Rather than seeking to be a blessing and honor the Lord, this person’s motivation for ministry was to receive recognition and honor.
I can’t say it didn’t hurt me. Our church, especially myself, had ministered to this family during a very difficult time in their life. All of the hours of counseling, compassion, and encouragement were thrown to the wind – because I didn’t give the praise and adulation they had expected. (I don’t mind apologizing even when I don’t see how I was wrong in a situation, but this was different. This was a person like Diotrephes in the Bible, in III John 9, who loved to have attention and preeminence among the church congregants. It’s best to let people go in situations like that).
Love doesn’t take offense easily. It isn’t petty. It doesn’t look for an opportunity to be offended (for example, having unmet expectations of not being praised). That is what the Bible means when it says that love “is not easily provoked” (I Corinthians 13:5).
The primary way we respond when offended is to say something negative about the person or situation that has disappointed or hurt us. I discovered later that this individual had spoken negatively about me to some of my friends. At the root of it all was pride and a lack of love. It doesn’t take much to offend someone that is easily irritated.
Who are these people? They are highly sensitive to how others have done them wrong (at least, from their perspective). They react vehemently over insignificant, small issues that do not deserve attention. Petty people are not spiritual people and are selfish, unloving people.
However, it’s a tricky issue. People that are easily offended and petty don’t think they are petty. They think they are just in their protestations over not being honored or having something done exactly according to their desires. In their minds, they aren’t being petty, they are trying to set right a wrong. Their being wronged.
If God reacted as quickly over our offenses toward Him as we do, all of us would have no hope. And while He does “take offense” at our sin (He is holy and just) when we break His commandments, in His treatment of us He isn’t easily offended but “slow to anger” (Psalm 103:8). I’m grateful for that.
Perhaps another way to express it is that while God takes our sins very seriously and must punish us because of His righteous nature, He isn’t petty about pouncing on us and judging us immediately. “He knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we are dust”. (Psalm 103:14) He is patient with us and gives us time to repent.
When the Lord Jesus was on earth He experienced being mocked, rejected, and falsely accused. Yet, He wasn’t easily offended though He had every right to be.
For example, He was accused of being born illegitimately (John 8:41) , being a Samaritan and possessed by a demon (John 8:48). All of these were not only untrue, but highly explosive in the culture in which He lived.
How did He respond? He didn’t. It wasn’t because He was a coward or guilty of wrongdoing. It was because He loved even those that hurled cruel and hurtful words toward Him and about Him to others. He was able to trust His Father to deal with His reputation and life rather than being easily offended.
Our response should be the same of that of Christ. The Bible says that “…when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously…” (I Peter 2:23)
Perhaps no other area are we deemed more Christlike than when we keep our mouths shut when we want to strike back. And we likewise express our lack of godliness by our taking offenses so readily. It’s wrong and when you love someone you won’t do it.
Isaiah the prophet records Christ’s response of silence to those that participated in His being beaten and crucified – “He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth”. (Isaiah 53:7)
This example of our Lord in suffering is one that ought to encourage us not to quit when we experience personal offenses. We ought to think of how tolerant He is of us and cease from our petty ways.
The Bible exhorts us concerning Christ to “…consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.” (Hebrews 12:3) When I consider the kindness and mercy of God, His patience toward me in my own sin, how dare I become easily offended at other people. Hey, if they knew the truth about me it would be worse than what they are already saying about me.
Yes, one day Christ will return to punish those that reject Him (II Thessalonian 1:7-9), but today is a day of mercy. My God is not petty. I should not be either if I am to reflect His heart.
About ten years after the “singer with the unusual song” had left our church my wife and I saw this individual and their spouse in a store. I engaged them in conversation to catch up on how things were going in their lives. The singer’s spouse looked at me in the eyes with a pleasant expression and we had a nice chat. The singer looked down the entire time and mumbled some monosyllable when I addressed any questions to them.
Here’s what I know. I’m not the only person in her doghouse. People that are easily offended over silly issues accumulate them through the years. They keep score and have excellent recollection of what happened. When their expectations aren’t met (of being honored and recognized) then the fight is on. The issue is this: are you fighting back? Perhaps you are the one reading this that is harboring lots of offenses from others. Something is wrong.
Here’s a clue to help you discern if you are easily offended. If Rob has a problem with Sam, and Rob has a problem with Dave, and Rob has a problem with Bill, and Rob has a problem with Steve – Rob is the problem. The sad thing is, Rob almost always believes everyone else is the problem.
Consider this tough question to answer It’s tough because most of us are dishonest in answering it. Are you a petty person? Are you easily offended? Can you still recall hurts long ago and do you “keep score”? Do you quickly react negatively to your spouse, children, people at work, or at church? Remember, people that are petty don’t think they are.
The truth is, it’s a lack of love to constantly be easily offended. Love “…is not easily provoked” (I Corinthians 13:5). I close with this thought to ponder: Jesus said it was impossible not to be offended (Luke 17:1). It’s a part of life. Love enables you to overlook hurts and even not to be offended in the first place.
May today be a new day in your walk with the Lord as you allow Him to help you to be quiet and not defend yourself from a perceived hurt. And better yet, to repent of pettiness and being offended in the first place. You’ll enjoy life better and be much easier to live with.