If your home is anything like mine, by the first week of September you are knee-deep in the fall routine. The kids have been back in school for 3 weeks now and we are all settling into the rhythm of a new year around here.
For myself and many other Christian women the new school year also means the beginning of a new ministry year and thus, the return of small groups. Whether it's a couples small group, a women only small group, a singles small group, college group, or whatever other category your group falls under, I trust there are countless women preparing to jump back into the routine of regularly meeting with other Christians this time of year.
As we prepare to dive back into regularly meeting with one another, fellowshipping, and studying God's word together, I think it's important to address an issue that women often come up against as we spend more time together: becoming offended.
Being offended is that intermingling of both hurt and anger. It often times bubbles up inside us because we feel we are owed something that wasn't given to us. Maybe it's hurt over feeling left-out, looked-over, or ignored from events or people we feel we should've been included in. Maybe it's angry feelings over something someone said or, the tone that someone used that we feel was a lack of respect or care on the part of another toward us. Whatever it is, let's be honest with ourselves, with each other, and with God...as women these feelings surface often in our hearts.
In the life of a Christian, being offended by one another is something we should be actively and aggressively fighting against. When we let those feelings sit and linger we are opening ourselves up to bring bitterness, division, and unrest among the body of Christ. Dear sisters, these things should not be so among us! As we embark on the beginning of a new ministry year, let us make a commitment to be women who are, "eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace" Ephesians 4:3 and work to guard against becoming offended.
4 WAYS TO GUARD AGAINST BECOMING OFFENDED
1. Think Like Jesus
Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.
The first, and arguably, most important way we can guard against becoming offended is to take on the very mindset of Jesus. Philippians 2 is a great place to start with learning how to do this because here, Paul unpacks for us not only the mindset but also the action points of how we can follow Jesus' example. We are to count others more significant than ourselves, to remember the interest of our fellow brothers and sisters, and to take on the mindset of Christ as a servant of all. When we take on the thinking of a servant, this should alleviate all tendencies to feel offended. A servant is in place to serve; nothing else should be required or expected other than service. When service becomes our expectation there's nothing to be offended about. May we enter every service, fellowship, event, or activity thinking the same way that Jesus did - like a servant.
2. Stop Talking About It
Whoever covers an offense seeks love, but he who repeats a matter separates close friends.
The second way we can guard against becoming offended is to STOP TALKING about the instance that brought up these feelings in us. By continually talking about the instance or issue, we are dwelling on it over and over and over again. Even if it's only to your best friend, your husband, or your mom, we need to put a guard over our mouth (Psalm 141:3) and stop repeating the matter. If your own sanctification and well-being isn't enough to keep you from talking about it, consider your listener. When the person you're talking to finds out about something that has caused you offense, they will often feel hurt or angry on your behalf and often times, will then have a hard time seeing the other party in any different light. It really just boils down to gossip and divisiveness so we must be committed to stop talking about it.
3. Train Yourself to Assume Good Intentions
Be kind to one another...
Third, rather than assuming ill intent or rudeness, we need to assume good intentions. We need to be eager to see each other in the best light, eager to be gracious and kind toward one another. Too often we immediately jump to the conclusion that people are trying to be hurtful, rude, or demeaning. We must actively practice assuming the best in others...ESPECIALLY those that are in the family of God. I love the way that one of my spiritual heroes, Amy Carmichael, puts it in her book If, "If I do not give a friend, 'the benefit of the doubt,' but put the worst construction instead of the best on what is said or done, then I know nothing of Calvary love."
4. Cover Offenses in Love
Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all offenses.
Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense.
Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.
1 Peter 4:8
Last, we need to be willing to cover offenses in love. Maybe the feelings of hurt we wrestle with are in fact validated, even still, we need to be willing to cover over the offenses of others with the same love that Christ has covered us and our offenses. We need to remember that we long for others to extend to us this same type of love and graciousness should we slip up. We need to remember that we have been covered by Christ - he himself has covered our offenses against the righteous and holy God of the universe, so that when God the Father looks at us, he sees his Son. Let's practice doing that same thing with the family of God. When we look at others and see the offenses someone has caused us, let's see the blood of Jesus instead and remember that love covers all offenses (Proverbs 10:12).
Jesus said, "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35). Guarding against becoming offended by one another is a great way to display the love of Christ not only to your church family, but also to the watching world. May we be diligent to fight against this tendency in ourselves this ministry year and thus, bring much glory and honor to the gospel of Jesus.