Unoffendable, Part 2:
In our last teaching we looked at offenses and examined the lethal effect an offended spirit could have upon our lives. We discussed how the only way to not be permanently offended was to attain the unoffendable heart of Jesus Christ.
Attaining Christ's heart is not a minor issue. Remember, Jesus warned that in the last days "many" would be offended.
A wounded spirit is not the same thing as an offended spirit. We may have experienced a cutting remark or slander from someone that wounds us. As the wave of this event rolls over our thoughts, it is right at this moment that we must determine the outcome, that with God's help we will make this work for us. It is at this juncture that we must process our wounds in a Christlike manner. If we fail to respond rightly we will begin to fake our Christianity.
Indeed, an offended spirit, left unattended and brooding in our minds, will soon manifest as betrayal, hatred and cold love. Jesus said offenses would be the ultimate cause that leads many to fall away from the faith. Listen well: in the above verse, Jesus linked the real cause of apostasy not only to wrong doctrines, but wrong reactions.
Isn't it important that our doctrines are correct? Of course, but we can have right information and still have a wrong response. Doctrinal information can always be upgraded and refined, but Proverbs warns that someone "offended is harder to be won than a strong city," and "contentions" between people "are like the bars of a castle" (Prov. 18:19). Yes, beware of false leaders, but more deceitful than false prophets or teachers are our own hearts when they are offended (Jer. 17:9).
Are you living with an offended heart? If so, you are gradually slipping away from true Christianity, which is known for its agape love.
Thus, dealing with an offended heart is vital in maintaining ongoing spiritual maturity. For this reason, we need to look again at the things that offend us.
The unrealistic expectations we sometimes put on others will, at some point, cause people to fall short and offend us. For instance, I know married couples that expect their spouse will meet their every need -- and yes, they will meet some of our needs. However, at the deepest level, our souls were created to find security in God, not man. As we put our confidence in God, we can live more comfortably with the people around us.
Still, the very strength of our expectations can choke out the sweetness of a personal relationship. Suppose that, instead of burdening people with our expectations, we simply learned to appreciate them for themselves -- no strings attached. What if we approach family and friends with gratitude for who they are rather than disappointment for what they failed to do?
Suppose that a husband, instead of expecting a full-course dinner from his wife each night, learned to appreciate whatever she was able to offer him? Then instead of his failed expectation degrading into an offense, there would be a living, sincere appreciation for the food his wife prepared. I know we have arrangements by common consent, but in reality, a wife is under no obligation to cook special meals or do housekeeping. You did not marry her to be your housekeeper, but to become one with her.
Or imagine a husband who works a long, tiring job. However, his wife expects that he will work another two hours at home or go shopping with her or listen attentively about her problems. What if instead she welcomed him at the door and sincerely thanked him for daily giving himself to support their family? What if she met him not with demands but with appreciation? Perhaps she might even massage his shoulders and, because of love, have his favorite meal prepared.
You see, expectations can seem like legitimate aspects of a relationship, but false or unrealistic expectations can also cause us to be disappointed and offended when people fall short. I have known situations in the past where my expectations actually blinded me to the efforts being made by a loved one. They were trying to improve in an area I was unaware of because my focus was preset upon a different expectation. I should have been grateful and encouraging, but instead all I thought about was having my expectation fulfilled.
Of course, today I discuss my expectations with those close to me. But the greatest expectation I have is that my heavenly Father will help me to respond like Christ to all situations. I put a premium upon enjoying the uniqueness of others, sincerely thanking God for their contribution to my life.
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This vital message from Pastor Frangipane was adapted from a lesson in his online school, In Christ's Image Training. This course has touched and inspired thousands of believers from over one hundred twenty-one nations and territories and all fifty U.S. states. Learn more about In Christ's Image Training, at www.icitc.org.