Tripping Hazards: The Offended

Last week, we learned our vision for this year: Come on in! Breaking barriers, building bridges.  With this vision in mind, it now makes sense why God would decide to teach and train us on how to properly deal with offense.  This morning, we’re continuing our “Tripping Hazards” series.
So far, we learned about what offense is – from the original Greek word skandalon.  This word literally defined is: the part of a trap to which the bait is attached, hence, the trap or snare itself.  We learned how not to be a blockhead and to offend people and become a stumbling block to people coming to Christ.  We also learned just how severely Jesus deals with those who do so.
This morning, we’re going to learn about how to deal with situations when we are offended ourselves.  Again, in Luke 17:1, Jesus says that it is impossible that we will not be offended at some point in our lives.  If this is the case, however, what does scripture teach us about what to do when we are offended and someone has become a stumbling block to us.
As is the case with many things in life, there are several choices that we could make.  Scripture actually reveals several of these paths that we’ll review together.
However, there is one thing that all of these paths share in common that is not optional for us.  It’s one of the most difficult things that Jesus could ever ask us to do.  If you remember from the previous messages, the disciples had come back from going out town to town.  They took nothing with them, but God provided for their every need.  They saw many healed, those bound by demons freed and delivered, literally miracles signs and wonders.  However, when Jesus told them how to deal with offense, they cried out to Him for more faith!
Luke 17:1-10
17 Jesus said to his disciples: “It is impossible that no offenses should come, but woe to anyone through whom they come. 2 It would be better for them to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around their neck than to cause one of these little ones to stumble. 3 So watch yourselves.“If your brother or sister sins against you, rebuke them; and if they repent, forgive them. 4 Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times come back to you saying ‘I’m sorry,’ you must forgive them.”5 The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!”

6 He replied, “If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it will obey you.

Here, it seems that Jesus corrects the disciples.  Jesus clarifies here that it is not a matter of having too little faith to forgive.  Instead, Jesus leaves no room for any excuses by means of a simple parable:

7 “Suppose one of you has a servant plowing or looking after the sheep. Will he say to the servant when he comes in from the field, ‘Come along now and sit down to eat’? 8 Won’t he rather say, ‘Prepare my supper, get yourself ready and wait on me while I eat and drink; after that you may eat and drink’? 9 Will he thank the servant because he did what he was told to do? 10 So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.’”

Jesus is essentially saying, “Look, you are a servant of God and forgiving is simply your duty.  Just do it!”.
He simply won’t let us off of the hook on this matter.  Even if the same person offends you over and over again, we’re still called to forgive.  That’s tough stuff!
Of course, Jesus also puts this in perspective for us and emphasizes just how critical and important forgiveness is!
Matthew 6:14-15
14 if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.
And scripture further clarifies this for us:
Colossians 3:13
Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.
Ultimately, we are simply being told to do what Jesus does for us day after day.  If Jesus quickly and completely forgives us when we sin against Him every time that we confess it to Him, why shouldn’t we do the same to people who offend us?
Forgiveness isn’t saying that what someone did you to was right.  Forgiveness is saying that what they did was wrong, but we’re choosing not to take revenge into our own hands.  It means that we’re handing the situation over to God and trusting Him to handle the situation in the best way possible.  That also usually means that He doesn’t handle it like we would like Him to and just wipe that person off of the face of the earth…
It’s only when we forgive, that we can be forgiven and that the fruits of the Spirit can grow in our lives that we so long for like joy, peace, and self control.
Now that we have this covered, that we absolutely have to forgive, let’s move on to the options that we have.
The first option is to simply overlook the offense and move on.
Proverbs 19:11
A person’s wisdom yields patience; it is to one’s glory to overlook an offense.
If we’re are able to just forgive and move on without it impacting our relationship with that person, then this is to our glory!
This may be possible in many various circumstances.  For example, if the offense was minor or if it was clearly understood to be unintentional.  This also may be optional more frequently for some personality types that can just let things roll off of them easier and are more easy going.
This also becomes more of a possibility as we mature in our faith as a result of the fruits of the Spirit such as love, peace, patience, and self control.  All of these fruits work together to build healthier boundaries in our lives that help us to be less easily offended.
However, each of us will be able to determine in our own lives with each offense as to whether or not this is an option for us.  It takes honesty and discernment with our own selves.
Some key indicators to watch for are:
1. Has this offense impacted the closeness of my relationship with the offender?
2. Do I find myself thinking about the offense frequently?
3. Have I become bitter or irritable as a result of this offense?
4. Has my overall attitude been impacted by this offense?
If you answer yes to any of these questions after being offended, I encourage you to move onto the second option.
This second option is referred to here at New Hope as Go & Show.
Matthew 18:15-17
15 “If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over.
I would estimate that 90% of the time, this is where the offense is resolved.  We just need to make sure that whenever we go and confront someone about an offense, that we don’t offend them in the process.
Some keys in doing this are to:
1. DO NOT speak to anyone else about this offense until you have first spoke with that person one-on-one!
2. Forgive the person before you confront them
3. Pray, pray pray and ask for God’s grace and wisdom in when and how to confront the person
4. Remember that the goal of this confrontation is reconciliation – to turn wrongs right and not to create even more wrongs
5. Don’t make assumptions!
6. Remember that we cannot control other people – we can simply share how we feel and how it affected us
7. Use “I” statements to express how we became offended – don’t blame nor accuse
8. Be aware of your emotions and choose not to react to them.
9. Be quick to listen, slow to get angry, and slow to speak
If you follow these keys during a confrontation and the person still denies the offense and refuses to apologize and ask forgiveness for offending you, you would then:
16 But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’
Again, this is not building up an army to create an us-versus-them scenario.  Try to find neutral people that have good relationships with both yourself and the offender.  This is still an attempt at reconciliation and not division!  This is also a good way to make sure that you have accountability for how to confront the offender and how well you handle the confrontation.  The same above keys still apply!  If again, the person is still being stubborn, then:
17 If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church;
This is when you would come to the leadership of the church and ask them to help with this offense.  Again, the goal is unity and reconciliation and the same keys apply at all levels of conflict resolution.  Here at New Hope currently, the elders and myself would bring the two of you together and attempt to resolve the offense.  Finally, if all of these attempts fail:
and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.
Now this sounds like Jesus is being cruel and mean.  However, when you study how Jesus treated pagans and tax collectors, you’ll find that it isn’t actually cruel at all.  The goal still remains reconciliation and we would still show them the love of God, compassion, and continue to pray for them.  However, there would be a healthy boundary put in place to protect the church and the members of it until that person comes to their senses and apologizes for their offense.
We’ve all seen what occurs whenever this boundary is not put in place.  Churches are divided, they fall, and the ministry that Christ had called them to do is either stopped or becomes ineffective.  Praise God, this rarely ever has to occur!  As we learned in our previous messages about offense, we understand just how serious it is to be a stumbling block to someone and that this boundary is for the good of everyone involved.
Take note that throughout this entire process, we’re never to gossip about people nor tear them down.  Even when people offend us, we cannot choose to offend them and become a stumbling block to them returning to Christ.  Two wrongs never make a right!
So, to sum things up.  When we are offended, we must forgive that person.  Then, we can either just overlook the offense and move on or we can begin the go & show process.  Whenever we choose to handle offense in this manner, Satan loses any foothold or stronghold that he tried to gain by setting out a trap for us and we can continue to move forward together with unity as the body of Christ.  When all of us choose to handle offense in this way, our ministry is bound to be powerful, effective, and unstoppable just as Christ intends it to be!  Just as Jesus said, the gates of Hell will certainly not prevail against His church when we choose not to take the bait of Satan!