I didn’t make up the word “unoffendableness.” I first read the word in a staff meeting at Bethel Life Center many years ago. Our youth pastor asked if he could lead a team-building exercise. Each one of us were handed a 3×5 notecard and were asked to write our name on the top. Then, we passed the cards to the person on our left. With each card, we were to write a positive word, statement or phrase that, in your opinion, best described that person. When the circle was complete, each received their card back with a list of people’s best thoughts about you. It really was a great exercise. I still have that card.
My friend Mark (the youth pastor) wrote on my card. “I appreciate your ‘unoffendableness.’” He chuckled as I slowly tried to pronounce the syllables out loud.
I asked him why he thought that I was unoffendable? He went on to explain that as a music minister, he had watched me deal with cranky musicians, difficult sound guys, take open criticism for song choices (even having received a few racial slurs about some of my choices), staged large Easter and Christmas productions, worked long hours…and nothing seemed to phase me. He stated, “You get along with everybody and you never get rattled.”
I don’t relay this encounter to toot my own horn or for any reason except to say, Mark was right. I cannot remember the last time I was offended. I attribute some of that to my dad’s influence. You could spit in my dad’s face and he’d take you for coffee to talk about it 5 minutes later. Maybe some of it came from childhood pastor, J.P. McCamey. Talk about a man smooth under pressure. He is always smiling, always believing the best in everybody, no matter what they’ve done or where they’ve been. I’m also quite sure I learned much under Ken Woods. If he was every upset or irritated about something, you could never tell. Again, smooth leadership, even when it was tough.
I honestly cannot think of one person on this planet that I would not go up to and hug and wish them God’s best if I saw them on the street today, regardless of what our past may look like. Why? I’m not offended. I’m not ashamed. I’m free.
I’ve always been the type of person that would rather apologize to save the relationship, even if I had nothing to apologize for. (And I’ve had plenty of missteps for which I needed to apologize…and have done so.) I’ve stood in the pulpit on many occasions teaching on forgiveness and proclaimed, “I cannot be offended.” That statement always brings a chuckle from the crowd…and some have taken that statement as a personal challenge to prove me wrong. They lost every time.
Here’s why. The Apostle Paul wrote in Hebrews 12:15, “See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.”
We fall short of the grace of God in our own lives when we refuse to offer the same grace to others. But the second part of this verse is the most disturbing to me: “…no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.”
Who are the “many” who would be defiled?
- You. If we choose not to participate in the grace of God toward others, then we undermine the grace of God in our own lives. We cannot fully understand what an incredible gift His grace is until we actually pass that gift on to others in need of it.
- The one trying to offend you. Wounded people…wound people. Yes, offense is always available, but remember, you may be the one true representation of Christ this wounded person may see. Would Jesus react with anger, bitterness or offense? No. Then why should you? He may be setting you up to be the healing agent in their lives. It doesn’t get any better than that!
- Your family. Please never forget that your family is watching. Your spouse will thrive and stay well-guarded if you maintain your innocence. If you choose the path of offense, a root of bitterness will eventually creep into the ones you love the most. Be very careful of “borrowed offenses.”
Rick Renner posted this morning: “You can’t be offended without your own consent.” Remember, offense is your choice. Every offense that you hold onto from the past is like a weight. With each new offense, more weight is added until it becomes very difficult for you to move forward with joy in any area of life. The cycle has to stop and with God’s help, you’re the only one who can decide you’ve had enough. Offense is a prison sentence. Offense produces a sick heart and leads to poor physical health. Heed Jesus’ warnings to forgive so that you can be forgiven.
Allow me to clarify one thing. I have never said that I haven’t been disappointed or let down by others from time to time. That’s part of life. However, each of us own the choice to hold on to those disappointments until they fester into a cancer on the soul.
Not long ago I was pointing out a very “disappointing” comment made to me in a meeting. One defender of the comment said, “Well, you obviously took offense to that.” I stopped him quickly and said, “No, I wasn’t offended and I’m still not. However, the statement was wrong, ill-advised and I want you to know that I won’t stand for it.”
Was I offended? Absolutely not. Did I forgive that person, even though an apology was never offered? Absolutely, almost immediately. Was I providing a necessary boundary around someone else’s choices so they clearly knew where I stood? Yes…and that’s a very healthy, empowering thing to do.
Wounded people tend to rehearse the offenses of the past and live only to survive. Thriving has almost become impossible because all they see is how they’ve been hurt in the past. We should empathize and pray for them, but never dwell there with them, borrowing their offenses and making them our own.
You’re not called to be a doormat…you’re called to overcome. Overcome the enemy by never allowing offense to produce a bitter root that will choke out God’s peace and separate you from others. (It’s also very fun to win with people, even if they don’t want to be won.)
Thanks for that card, Mark. It was a game-changer.