(To get to the beginning of this series click here)
I’m offended! My feelings are hurt! These are things I have heard from people that have left the church. And you know, they were right. They were offended. Their feelings were hurt. We’ve all been offended at one time or another. It is inevitable. If you haven’t yet, you will be. It’s a part of our human nature. The bible says that we will be offended, and we will offend. Look at Ecclesiastes 7:21-22 ESV “Do not take to heart all the things that people say, lest you hear your servant cursing you. Your heart knows that many times you yourself have cursed others.” It is impossible to not be offended at one time or another. We should however, as soon as we are offended, nip it in the bud. In other words, don’t let it take on a full bloom. The longer it is left to grow the deeper the root gets. The deeper the root the harder it is to deal with. The offense will turn to anger, bitterness, and gossip. Ephesians 4:26,27 NKJV reads, “’Be angry, and do not sin’: do not let the sun go down on your wrath, nor give place to the devil.”
I understand the hurt and the anger. I’ve been there. From the hallway to the altar, I’ve been offended at one time or another. There was a time when I thought I was invisible when I went up for prayer at the altar. The sermon was powerful, and the preacher made a call for all of those that wanted to be healed to come to the altar. I didn’t hesitate. I walked fast to secure my spot near the front of the prayer line. I stood there worshipping with my hands raised, crying and praying as I waited to be prayed for. The pastor came by and prayed for the one on my right. He then passed me and prayed for the one on my left. Okay, I thought, maybe I didn’t need it as much as these others did. That first time it happened I just ‘blew it off.’ But it kept happening, service after service. By the fourth or fifth time it happened, I lifted an eyebrow. I started to take it personal. It wasn’t always the same preacher either. By about the 10th time, I quit going up for prayer. I was offended. I went through the whole gamut of emotions. From I wasn’t good enough, to what did I do wrong, to I’m so special God doesn’t want anyone to pray for me, to just being hurt. I know now that all the thoughts I had were lies from the devil. To this day I still don’t know why that was happening, but I know what I learned. I now rely more on my own prayers instead of seeking someone to pray for me. I do go up during altars calls now and occasionally don’t get prayed for. That’s okay. God meets me there. I’m not looking for what man can do anyway. Only God can heal my mind and my body. I don’t blame any of my pastors at all. They probably didn’t even realize it was happening.
There were other times when it wasn’t me that had my feelings hurt, but my kids. When your kids hurt, you hurt. I don’t know if it was because we lived on the other side of town or if we were perceived to be different or what. But my kids always learned about how much fun the others had after the fact. They would come to me and ask "why didn’t we get to go to so and so’s party?" I didn’t have an answer. We just simply were not made aware of it. It made me sad because one of my reasons for wanting to be a part of a healthy church was so that my kids would grow up with other like-minded Christians. But God also was teaching us things in the process. The way I saw it was that we, in general, didn’t get invited to many get togethers. We always heard about them afterwards. Because of that, we hosted our own. We tried to make sure everyone knew about it and felt comfortable to come fellowship with us. Just as I’m sure the others tried to do. One time we put together a themed sleepover for our kids. We went all out to make it special; my girls were happy and had a good time. We had a good turnout. Then the very next week this same group of “friends” that had come over had another party and my kids were not invited. They only heard about it afterwards. Their feelings were hurt. They felt disliked by this group and my mom counseling skills had to go into overtime. After that, we kept our distance and did our own things. I allowed and encouraged my kids to make more friends that were outside of the church than in the church. In the end, my kids were always inviting friends to church and would bring guests all the time. It only caused more alienating but, they were doing what they were called to do. I could’ve let this thing become a deal breaker and go find another, perhaps more welcoming, church. Instead, we focused more on God and why we were going to church in the first place.
It is what we do with the offenses that will make the difference. What we do will either cripple our walk or strengthen it. Good for us, the bible also tells us what to do! Proverbs 19:11 ESV “Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense.” Like I said in the beginning, we are going to be offended at some time or another. Go ahead acknowledge those feelings, because they are real. Then get past it. It is important to know that when we are offended, we think only about ourselves and our needs. Without offense we are a blessing to others. We need to look to Jesus and His work on the cross instead of nursing the hurt and pain of an offense. We need to admit and tell God what we are going through because He knows our heart. Ask Him for help, ask him for healing. Know who you are in Christ. Get into God’s Word and pray in the Spirit. Ask Him to forgive you of your sins and just as He has forgiven you, forgive those that have offended you.