As we reach out and minister to those around us and to those with whom we come into contact we find that so many people...most in fact...have been hurt by someone within the body of Christ somewhere along the way. As a result, many of these people no longer attend church or participate in any church activities. They find that it is easier to pull into their shell and hide than it is to jump in there with both feet, rise above the offense, pick up their cross and carry on for the cause of Christ. But....you know what? Jesus knew that it would be like that!
In Luke 17:1 He says, “...It is impossible but that offenses will come...” He also adds, “...but woe unto him, through whom they come.” Proverbs 18:19 says, “A brother offended is harder to be won than a strong city...” We must be careful in the way that we conduct ourselves that we not become a stumbling block for our Christian brothers and sisters, but what are we to do if we are the one that the offense is against?
Jesus continues on in that same passage in verses 3 and 4, “Take heed to yourselves: If thy brother trespess against thee, rebuke him (In other words....tell him so!); and if he repent, forgive him. And if he trespass against thee seven times in a day, and seven times in a day turn again to thee, saying, I repent; thou shalt forgive him.” (Do you notice that this is a “Thou shalt?” Not a “You oughta?”) Paul says in Philippians 1:9 and 10 that our love should abound more and more in knowledge and in discernment so that we may “...approve things that are excellent...” that “...we may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ.”
No...rest assured...offenses will come! And there are different degrees of offense, too! There are those who deliberately set out to stir up strife and tear down the church....workers of iniquity who masquerade themselves as Christians....but who secretly are working with the enemy to undermine the Word, and work, of God and cause division among those of the body of Christ. Of those the Word says, “...mark them which cause divisions and offenses contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good [smooth] words and fair [flattering] speeches deceive the hearts of the simple.” (Romans 16:17-18) But that’s not what I am talking about here. I am talking about offenses that come when Christian brothers and sisters aren’t prayed up and unknowingly allow access to the enemy. The kind of offenses that come when things happen and people get hurt by mistake.
Then, of course, unfortunately, there are the kind of petty, stupid little offenses that Satan most often uses to keep us out of church. Petty things like.....”Well! Brother Sew-and-Sew didn’t even shake my hand!” Or “I passed Sister Sew-and-Sew while driving down Main Street this morning....and she didn’t even wave at me! “ Or....”We were gone last week and not one person from that church called to find out why we weren’t there!” Some people get offended over everything! They don’t like the way this is done or that is done! Or they don’t like the person that is in charge of doing it! There is always something that isn’t going to be to our liking....and that’s just too bad!
Folks....first of all....you are NOT going to find a perfect church and I will tell you why. Every “church” is made up of human beings. Human beings make mistakes! Not a one of them is perfect! Then....on top of that...each and every person is different! Different people have different ways of looking at things....different ways of doing things. 1 Corinthians 12:14-26 says, “For the body is not one member, but many. If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? And if the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling? But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him. And if they were all one member, where were the body? But now are they many members, yet but one body. And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee; nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you. Nay, much more those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble, are necessary: And those members of the body, which we think to be less honorable, upon these we bestow more abundant honor; and our uncomely parts have more abundant comeliness. For our comely parts have no need: but God hath tempered the body together, having given more abundant honor to the part which lacked. That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another. And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honored, all the members rejoice with it.”
Not everyone is going to do things the way that you would do them! And not everyone is going to think the way that you think! Praise God! But we can all work together in love and peace and harmony to achieve a common purpose and arrive at a common goal and that is to win lost souls to the Lord and disciple them! When somebody does something differently than you think that they ought to (or...in some cases....don’t do things that you think they should have done) and these differences begin to surface....when you begin to feel offense rising up within your spirit....remember this: We of the body of Christ are each unique individuals....each made in the image of God Himself. Satan will use those difference to divide and to destroy the body of Christ if we allow him to. Don’t allow him to do it any longer!
If someone offends you...in word or deed....don’t get all upset and feeling sorry for yourself and DON’T go running from house to house gossiping about the one that offended you! Instead....follow Jesus’ directive! “If thy brother trespess against thee, rebuke him...” (Luke 17: 3) Go to him (or her). In most cases the offending party is not even aware that they offended you. Go to them! Tell them what happened and why you were offended. “...and if he (or she) repent (or says that they are sorry), forgive...” them.And to answer another question....In Matthew 18:21 the apostle Peter asked Jesus, “...Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times?” In verse 22 Jesus responds with , “I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven.” In other words....over and over and over again! As many times as it takes! Easy? NO! Worth it? YES!
Today I urge you....get down on your knees and ask God to reveal any hidden anger or unforgiveness that you may be harboring toward your Christian brothers and sisters. Ask the Lord to reveal it to you. When He does...go to that one that has hurt or offended you. Tell them what has happened and ask them to forgive you for being bitter towards them. Then ask the Lord to forgive you. He will do it! And you will experience the sweet release that comes when you allow God to free you of the bondage that comes with offense and unforgiveness! For those of you who think that it doesn’t much matter one way or the other....think again! Mark 11:26 says, “...if you do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive your trespasses.” For the record....that is Jesus speaking there.