Do you realize that Jesus spoke about offenses because He knew it would be a major obstacle for each one of us, and what we do with an offense will determine the strongholds we allow in our life? Someone experiencing turmoil in their soul will have a trail of crumbs leading to an offense.
Mind-thought health is so important when it comes to how we interact with others. Our attitude comes from the posture of our heart. Our thoughts emanating from our mind, will, and emotions (the soul part of man) determine our actions – how we respond to what comes our way. On any given day we can be offended, it all depends on what’s happening in our soul.
We all have the opportunity to react to people who rub us the wrong way or treat us disrespectfully. If we are not careful, we can develop an offended spirit; everything someone says offends us, we take it personally and allow it to turn over and over again in our minds. This is the playground of our enemy; Satan loves to bring suspicion, fear, and pride into our hearts. A freeing place to live is learning to recognize that you can control your thoughts, and what you will allow to control you.
Jesus said, “offenses will come but woe unto those through whom they come” (Matthew 18:7). He first clarified that anyone who harms or injures a child is facing a severe consequence, so much so that the analogy of hanging a millstone around their neck and drowning them seemed better than harming a child. Secondly, Jesus goes on to say if you are participating in sin, habitual sin, sexual sin, or whatever sort, He spoke in hyperbole that to be maimed in your body (hand, foot, eye) to remove the sin would be better than continuing and being cast into everlasting fire in Hell. Offense is a serious matter.
Note: Those who have suffered childhood sexual abuse need special care to walk out of offense because of the very serious nature with which Jesus spoke about injury to a child. I would encourage you to find a counselor who understands the spiritual ramifications this brings into the soul of a child. When a victim of childhood sexual abuse comes to understand and believe in God’s love and care for them, despite the sinful acts committed against them, hope and freedom from the past can be found. Forgiveness will be a major part of that journey. Christ’s sacrifice on the cross and the atoning work He accomplished for us can open this door to lasting freedom. The next section explores contempt, for a victim of childhood sexual abuse, Dan Allender’s book The Wounded Heart gives a good understanding of this in Chapter 3.
Have you been dealt with contemptuously? Yes, we all have at times and perhaps have treated others this way as well. John and Julie Gottman, psychological researchers and clinicians who have done extensive work over four decades on divorce prediction and marital stability, list contempt as one of the ‘Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse” in determining factors in marriage failure. Definitions for contempt are: The feeling that a person or a thing is beneath consideration, worthless, or deserving scorn. Disregard for something that should be taken into account.
Based upon these definitions you can tell when someone has developed this treacherous trait. It is manifest in many ways: disrespect, scoffing, sarcasm, an attitude of indifference or accusation pours forth from a contemptuous heart (Matthew 12:34).
Dealing Treacherously with Others
Homes with addiction are breeding grounds for contempt. Lying is a given, abuse is common, scapegoats are necessary – they are created to handle the blame and feelings of shame. Denial is the safety card people play to avoid the truth. The large elephant consuming the space, time, and poor relational health is ignored with hopes that it will just leave; but it won’t.
Perhaps you can identify with this example: When a scapegoat is needed, a spouse can work well for that unless both adults are so self-centered that a child (children) is (are) used to bear the blame and shame (Matt 18:7). In homes where dominance and oppression are present, and the wife fulfills the role of submissive wife and mother, the treachery grows exponentially. She’ll tend to adopt the victim role, which is a poor response. This situation is groomed for contempt and family relationships become unstable. These very damaging behaviors can linger for years in the family if counseling help and change is not sought by those involved.
STEP 1: Forgiveness – An important step in being successful in dealing with offense is to be able to forgive those who have offended you. It is a journey and the power of God’s Word at work in your heart is crucial (Hebrews 4:12). His Word has the power to reveal what you need to see and it will retrain your brain to think rightly and help you to avoid remaining a victim (who continues living with offense) when others deal wrongly with you.
Learning to build healthy boundaries is necessary as well so that those who abuse will not be given a place they should not hold in your heart and life. (BOUNDARIES by Henry Cloud & John Townsend is a good reference to understand the placement of healthy boundaries upon your heart. Prov. 4:23.) Unless you can arrive in a steady place of forgiveness, letting go of the offense, and building good guardrails you will not be able to proceed to step 2 properly.
STEP 2: Confrontation
People who treat others with contempt (or any form of abuse) need to be confronted about what they are doing. Among other possible actions to be taken, they need to understand that if they do not seek help for their behavior that you are choosing to place space between them and yourself. To continue the status quo in a contemptuous relationship is not wise.
When someone treats you with contempt it is your responsibility to set boundaries, and be prepared for their scorn. When someone has been accustomed to scapegoating or blaming another and you are no longer available for that, this new approach will anger them. Your willingness to confront will be very difficult for them to receive.
If you plan to confront someone about their contempt toward you, it is wise to have a support group, accessible pastor or counselor, and prayer team in place for emotional support before doing so. To go through the process of confrontation is very difficult and you can easily become overwhelmed and want to give up because of the anger, accusations and rejection you will suffer.
Along with the ensuing attacks from those you confront, you will also face a tremendous battle from hell. Satan does not want people freed from offense – that is his trap and deceptive way of holding them in captivity. This is why before confronting sin, you need to examine yourself so as to be free of these things yourself, walking in the Light (I John 1:7) and having your heart cleansed by Christ. Our attempt must be in a Christ-like manner even though we fall short of His precise actions, do not let that keep you from bringing clarity and potential healing into your situation.
STEP 3: Reconciliation May Not Happen
Developing honest and healthy relationships is the goal for those who desire fellowship with others. By ridding offense from your heart, you place yourself in a position to enact biblical principles with those you want to relate with. Family relationships are for a lifetime and worth the effort but it may take time to see change occur. These are the most difficult because of the history and pain involved, and some will choose not to let it go. Patience, caring and love with boundaries are necessary to endure with stability and strength in God, while each one works out their own heart issues (Philippians 2:12-13).
In John chapters 14, 15, 16, and 17 Jesus has intimate discourse with his beloved disciples (place yourself there as you read). Among other things, Jesus tells His disciples that He is sharing these things so that they will not be offended when someone hates them because of Him.
Sometimes we bring scorn upon ourselves, through our own poor actions. If that happens, humble yourself, apologize, work toward change and make things right. Jesus also reassures them, and us, that He would send the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, to teach us all truth and remind us of what He has said. The Holy Spirit is faithfully revealing sin in our own hearts first, as we seek Him. Listen and have a desire to walk in open relationship with Him daily. This is vital.
Jesus went on to tell them they would face persecution and have trouble in this world because they chose to follow Him. Not only did the religious leaders of the day treat believers in Christ with contempt, but the Roman authorities wanted to kill them; their lives were under constant threat. Family members also betrayed them because of fear, some because they did not want to obey Christ’s teaching. Some were simply offended with God. Jesus tells us in Matthew 24:10 that many shall be offended and shall betray one another and shall hate one another.
For you, it may be that your family rejects you because of your walk with Christ. Your obedience and love for God will be tested and it will determine your ability to stand for Christ and His testimony of life within you. When our family becomes an idol over God, then God cannot be Supreme (Luke 14:26). Your family may want to control your level of commitment to God and despise you for choosing Him over them. Fear is a big motivator when it comes to our family members. At times, your godly zeal exposes them to their own hearts of indifference toward God. The reasons are not as important as your response to their behavior. Often times people get caught in between an offended person and another party. Someone can react to a concern you express in genuine care, and you may find yourself being falsely accused. Don’t cower with the fear of man and their spin on your situation, stand firm and remember Jesus said this would happen. Receive encouragement by reading these chapters in John, read them over and over for a week or two and see how differently you end up thinking.
When you are experiencing a contemptuous attitude, withdrawing for a season until there is time for reflection and the Holy Spirit to work is helpful. When I think wrongly or say something inappropriate to someone, the Holy Spirit is faithful to convict me and I attempt to make it right with them. Be discerning here as well, because you can over-apologize and diminish the work of the Holy Spirit. If you have spoken truth in love, then stand upon that. Do not waiver due to fear and false guilt but be firmly committed to a godly solution. This is why God’s Word and good counsel is so important for each of us.
What you give your mind to does affect your brain and your actions or reactions. Do you need faith? Read God’s Word and get yourself into a position of faith and obedience to God. Psalm 119:165 says Great peace have those who love your law, and nothing shall offend them. Let this be your goal as you commend your soul (mind, will and emotions) to God.
I would like to recommend a great book on handling offense called, The Bait of Satan, by John Bevere. The book is loaded with great biblical principles to help mature us in this area. I have taught these lessons for women’s bible studies and it has been effectual in helping us overcome offense.
Photo Credit: Google Images, Pixabay
“Forgiveness gives me boundaries because it unhooks me from the hurtful person, and then I can act responsibly and wisely. If I am not forgiving them, I am still in a destructive relationship with them…” – Dr. Henry Cloud