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BEFORE YOU BEGIN...
In life, there are battles to fight, and bridges to walk across. God wants you to live in freedom and with purpose. We want to equip you to do just that by sharing thoughts and strategies to overcome life's challenges through the power of the Gospel.
This Battle Plan has five parts:
BEFORE YOU BEGIN: This Section
BACKGROUND: All about offense
BATTLE GROUND: Where is the fight?
BIBLICAL PERSPECTIVE: What can we learn about offense
BATTLE PLAN: How to beat offense and walk across the bridge of forgiveness
We encourage you to read this slowly and keep coming back to it as many times as you need to. Feel free to share the post with others that may benefit from this.
An offense happens when you are hurt, upset, or annoyed by another's words or actions. Offended is the condition that follows when you fail to process the offense in a healthy way. Being offended, carrying an offense, and holding unforgiveness can be thought of as the same thing.
We can hold unforgiveness toward other people, toward God, and even toward ourselves.
The danger of holding onto offense (or unforgiveness) is that it negatively impacts your health:
1. Physical Health - Unforgiveness leads to resentment which leads to bitterness which leads to fatigue, muscle tension, body aches, ulcers, and high blood pressure.
2. Emotional Health - staying offended steals your joy and robs you of peace of mind.
3. Spiritual Health - Carrying offense hinders personal relationship with God. Holding unforgiveness gets in the way of prayers!
There is a cycle of offense: You get upset, the emotions remain unprocessed, and they can lead to unforgiveness, which leads to an unhealthy place, which leaves you prone to get upset again...
Remember the movie " The Incredibles" where all the family members had different superpowers? Our generation could be called "The Offendables" as we are prone to the incredibly powerful force of offense. We get offended by all kinds of things!
To make light of something pretty series, count how many of these are true for you, and take the poll
You have said something like "I've been hurt by 'the Church' so I'm not going to ….."
You have said something like "I can't forgive them for what they did"
You have thought "And you call yourself a Christian!"
You feel that you have been treated unfairly
You replay a moment of hurt/pain/failure over and over
You dream about getting even
You feel a strong need to be right
You resent someone because of what they did/said to a friend of yours
You believe that people don't respect you enough
You get annoyed when someone asks you to sit in a certain place at church
You are upset when someone walks past you without greeting you properly
You distrust most people
You withdraw from relationships
You find it difficult to say sorry
Ultimately, it is technically impossible for another person to offend you since it stems from the way you choose to respond to an offense. Someone once said: "offense is never given but rather taken". You can't control the actions of others, so offenses will happen. You can, however, choose how you respond to an offense.
Living with the burden of offense is not the life God desires for you. Imagine what it would be like to live free from the weight of unforgiveness. It is possible!
There are three things that are always opposed to the Kingdom of God and the will of God - and it's in these areas that we fight
I. The FLESHLY NATURE (Rom 3:23) This is where we battle temptation and rationalization. We are all flawed and broken, and
Look out for: placing yourself as judge and jury, always needing to be right/vindicated, gossip
II. The DOMAIN OF DARKNESS (Matt 12:25) The enemy works by deception (lies) and destruction (of purpose). His main strategy is to bring division and disunity, as a house divided cannot stand
Look out for: division, dissension, disunity
III. The WORLD SYSTEM (James 4:4) The environment and culture we are in. It is the place of desensitization and relaxation (dropping your guard).
Look out for: a sense of entitlement, relative truth (the paradoxical view that there is no absolute truth)
There are many passages in the Bible where we can learn about offense, unforgiveness, and forgiveness. Here are just a few:
Woe to the world because of offenses. For offenses will inevitably come, but woe to that person by whom the offense comes. Matthew 18:7 (CSB)
An offended brother is harder to reach than a fortified city, and quarrels are like the bars of a fortress. Proverbs 18:19 (CSB)
Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. Colossians 3:12-13 (ESV)
“For if you forgive others their offenses, your heavenly Father will forgive you as well. 15 But if you don’t forgive others, your Father will not forgive your offenses Matthew 6:14-15 (ESV)
3 For although we live in the flesh, we do not wage war according to the flesh, 4 since the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but are powerful through God for the demolition of strongholds. We demolish arguments 5 and every proud thing that is raised up against the knowledge of God, and we take every thought captive to obey Christ. 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 (CSB)
Truth I: Offense is a Trap
The word Jesus uses for offenses is skandalon (Gk), which is the trigger of a trap - in other words the part to which the bait is attached. Offense, though is not like a mouse trap that snaps shut causing death, but more like a cage - where nothing gets in, nothing gets out. Think of a city under siege.
Application: Offenses will come, Jesus said. How you respond to them makes all the difference. Don't take the bait.
Truth II: Forgiving is a Command
As God has forgiven you, so you must forgive others. A few notes on forgiveness
Don't minimize or brush off an offense, Acknowledge the pain - there needs to be feeling before healing.
Forgiving an offense is only possible by God's grace and power. It is not something you can muster up, but rather a reliance on His Spirit in you.
Forgiveness is not the same as reconciliation. Forgiveness is one-sided. Reconciliation is two-sided - in other words, a heart and behavior change is required on both sides. Jesus commands us to forgive and encourages us to do whatever we can to reconcile. Sometimes, though, reconciliation is not possible, and sometimes it is not wise (for example if the other party remains unrepentant, let's say an abuser continues to abuse. You can forgive the abuser, but trying to reconcile with them would put you in danger.
Forgiveness is more like a daily decision rather than a destination. Sometimes we feel the pressure to forgive right away because God said we should, right? However, a bridge of forgiveness might need to be crossed many times.
Forgiveness is not a feeling, but an act of will.
Application: Surrender your will, let God be the judge, and allow His Spirit to empower you to forgive those who have caused offenses.
Truth III: Obedience is a Choice
You can choose to hold on to an offense. You can choose to let forgiveness flow from you. You can choose to take the bait Jesus warns of, or you can choose to let go of unforgiveness.
Paul writes that we can take captive every thought and make it obedient to Christ. That too is a choice. Taking captive a thought is really to bring the thought into alignment with what Jesus teaches - to evaluate it from that perspective.
It is God's desire for you to avoid the trap of offense, to forgive as you have been forgiven!
Coming to faith in Jesus, trusting him, being willing to radically reorganize your life around him, constantly surrendering to his good, pleasing, and perfect will, and believing His Word (promises) is the foundation on which this stands.
Assuming that you have found salvation in Jesus, received His forgiveness, and want to break free from the cycle of offense, here are some thoughts to share and practical steps you can take as a starting point.
1. If you are carrying an offense, or harboring unforgiveness, first determine who is it against:
Could it be against God because you feel He has done (or not done something) which seems unfair to you?
Could it be against yourself because of something you did?
Could it be against "the church"?
Could it be against another person?
If it is against God, recognize that God is God, and not a gene to meet our wishes. We see in part, while God reigns supreme and sees all things. His heart is one of compassion and kindness, and it is always helpful to judge his goodness by looking at the sacrifice Jesus made on the cross. The best thing to do is to confess and repent to God for holding bitterness against him, and receive His forgiveness, mercy, and grace,
If it is against yourself, recognize that since God offers complete forgiveness to you through the cross, when you refuse to forgive yourself, you are raising your opinion above God's, and essentially declaring that Jesus' work on the cross was not enough. See the book by RT Kendall in the recommended reading section.
If it is against "the Church" remember that the church is made up of imperfect people. Also, the majority of offenses that are caused in the Church are the result of the existing wounds and sensitivities which people carry with them. While this does not excuse hurtful behavior, there is no perfect church, and sometimes the expectations that we have of the church can be unreasonable. The definition of disappointment is; “failure to attain one’s expectations.” The Psalmist writes "My soul, wait silently for God alone, For my expectation is from Him” It remains that Jesus loves the church, despite the imperfections, and by His power, you can find forgiveness, freedom, and healing and be to be part of what He is building.
If it is against another person, it might be helpful to let them know how what they did made you feel as you begin the journey of forgiveness. Remember that forgiveness is not the same as reconciliation. Forgiveness is one-sided. Reconciliation is two-sided - in other words, a heart and behavior change is required on both sides. Sometimes, though, reconciliation is not possible, and sometimes it is not wise.
HOW TO WALK ACROSS THE BRIDGE OF FORGIVENESS
Make a list of all the offenses—the things that you resent.
Acknowledge the hurt and the pain - remember, feeling before healing
Imagine all these things as burdens on your shoulders.
Ask yourself "Do I really want to carry all these burdens for the rest of my life?
Picture removing all these cares and burdens off, and transferring them to Jesus. He knows how to deal with them all
Lord, you know and you care about how much my heart has been hurt. You know the pain I have experienced because of __(list all the hurts)_______ . I release this to you.
From now on, I refuse to focus on these things, and I will not entertain any vengeful thoughts. I release my offender to you to deal with in your way.
Thank you that you have forgiven me through the work on the cross, and for giving me Your power to forgive so I can be set free.
HOW TO AVOID THE BAIT OF OFFENSE
Do believe the best about people
Do try to put yourself in the other person's shoes (see things from their perspective)
Do ask yourself "Is this really worth getting angry about?"
Do treat others in the way you would like to be treated
Devote yourself to love and forgiveness
Don't blame others for personal problems
Don't engage in gossip, grumbling, or constant complaining
Do learn and practice humility, be quick to say sorry
Do love truth more than being right
Do learn to accept yourself - you might not live up to your own expectations, nevertheless, your validation is God-given!
Scriptures to Meditate On
The healthy way to live is
to let God's forgiveness flow into you, and out from you. Don't withhold forgiveness. Where there is an outflow of forgiveness, there is life.
to take offenses that flow into you, process them, and release them. Don't hold on to them Where there is an outlet for offenses, there is life.