Ever hear someone start off their sentence with, “No offense, but…” and you KNOW they’re about to say something offensive next? It’s a common opening line for a person who’s already offended at you, armed and ready to drop some judgmental truth bomb. And before there’s time for you to escape, they’ve said it. Now–surprise, surprise–all of a sudden, you are the one who’s offended. Tag, you’re it.
I’ve always thought that if you need to preface something with a disclaimer, you might want to reconsider what you’re about to say. I taught my kids that principle long ago, partly to help keep my own heart (and mouth) in check. It’s a good rule to follow. And just as important as carefully choosing our own words is also keeping a careful watch over our tendency to take offense. Because once we make a habit of taking offense, we begin carrying it, and that’s even worse. Let me explain.
Obviously, we are all offensive at times. Some of us more than others. And of course it’s natural to get offended now and then. There’s legitimate stuff that should offend us! But what I’m talking about here is the day-to-day stuff. The habit. The pattern we get ourselves into. Scroll through Facebook or Twitter for even just a few minutes and you’ll feel that familiar twinge.
Because the root of offense is judgement; the fruit of offense is bitterness.
We can see the correlation between them all around us. They feed off one another in an ongoing, vicious cycle. We sow judgement, we reap bitterness. We sow bitterness, we reap judgement. And it’s this cycle, this pattern that I refer to as ‘carrying offense.’ It’s like a heavy backpack filled with rotting garbage that pollutes not only our own environments, but the whole atmosphere everywhere we carry it.
But why do we judge, why do we offend so easily? The simple answer is that it’s our inclination towards sin, but specifically, it’s the deep-seated belief that we are somehow better than others. That we’re the ones who know more and do better. We may be sinful, but not that sinful, not like that. How many times have you secretly thought, “Well, at least I don’t…” or “I would never…”? I don’t think most of us even catch ourselves thinking those things because it’s so second-nature.
I had a radical encounter with my own sinfulness about a year ago. This particular confrontation by God was really life-changing because he called me out on my lifelong ignorant attitude that, since I had lived a pretty good life by the world’s standards, I really wasn’t all that bad compared to some other people. Now, I don’t think I ever consciously thought that, but the ‘at least I don’t’ disclaimer was a regular part of my inner dialog.
And in the midst of this encounter with God and my sin, he showed me the ultimate consequence of my judgements: they stood, like a towering blockade, between me and the Father I was so desperate to know.
You see, our offenses are obstacles to intimacy with God.
We can’t rest long in the presence of the Holy, Spotless One when we continue to carry that reeking backpack of offense. He is happy to take it from us and dispose of it, but it is up to us to hand it over.
When we allow ourselves to regularly judge and become offended by others, something happens to our heart. It becomes hardened and cold.
A pure heart is like pure gold—soft, tender, and pliable. Hebrews 3:13 states that hearts are hardened through the deceitfulness of sin! If we do not deal with an offense, it will produce more fruit of sin, such as bitterness, anger, and resentment. This added substance hardens our hearts just as alloys harden gold. This reduces or removes tenderness, creating a loss of sensitivity. We are hindered in our ability to hear God’s voice. Our accuracy to see is darkened. This is a perfect setting for deception.”
― John Bevere,
What’s more, deception only reinforces that cycle of offense, judgement, and bitterness–just like I described in my own experience. All of it leading to a clouded, hardened heart.
And when our hearts become hardened towards people, our hearts are also hardened towards God.
In the Parable of the Sower, Jesus quotes Isaiah to warn people what will happen when they allow this pattern to take root in their lives:
‘You will be ever hearing but never understanding;
you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.
For this people’s heart has become calloused;
they hardly hear with their ears,
and they have closed their eyes.
Otherwise they might see with their eyes,
hear with their ears,
understand with their hearts
and turn, and I would heal them.’
That sounds an awful lot to me like you and I will be left–unhealed–to our own devices if we choose to hang onto what the Lord says we should let go of. Like that backpack.
My friends, I want to speak to your hearts as well as to my own: some of us are still carrying that heavy burden of offense. Some of us have so much of it, we metaphorically pile it up on a big ol’ pack mule and lead it around with us everywhere we go.
It’s time to let it go before it’s too late, and we have become hardened, deceived, and far from the Father’s embrace.
Let’s lay our offenses aside, and clear our path towards him.