Hilda and Lee were in their mid-nineties when I met them both for the first time. On my first visit, they looked frail and weak, and yet they still lived on their own in a small, white mobile home on an acre of land. They had requested, from our pastor, someone from our congregation to come read the Bible to them once a week. Their eyes were much too faded to read the fine print on their own.
I decided since I didn't live too far away, I would volunteer to come by. Weeks turned into months. I would show up with my 3-year-old daughter and newborn baby son. Hilda especially liked to hold my son in her arms as I read the scriptures, very loudly to her and her husband. Hilda was always smiling and loved visitors. Lee was always busy. Usually upon my arrival, he was tinkering in his shed or working in his vegetable garden. He produced some of the best tasting tomatoes.
As the months went by and I called their home announcing my visit that week, I was often told not to come due to it being inconvenient for them. After a few times of this, I became offended. I decided to wait a few weeks and then call again. Once again, they were too busy for me to come over. That was the last time I was going to call them, I told myself. I felt like they didn't appreciate the time I took to visit them.
Nine months had passed since the last time I visited Hilda and Lee. I showed up with my kids unannounced. My newborn was walking now and my daughter was now 4 years-old. As I entered their home, I saw Lee sitting at the kitchen table. "Hi," I said. He scarcely remembered me until I reminded him I was the "Bible reader." "Oh yeah," he said. I talked with him a little, assuming Hilda was in the back bedroom. Finally I asked, "Where is Hilda?" He replied, "You didn't know, she passed 5 months ago?" My eyes weld up with tears, "No, I hadn't heard," I said quietly. It had been hard on him and he had nothing to live for anymore, he later told me. I felt sorry for Lee.
Everyone some time in their life will become offended. It is inevitable. Some offenses may not be a bad thing. The Pharisees were offended at Jesus, but this was a different kind of offense. Anytime we become offended (jealous, angry, hateful) because of a righteous act that someone else had done, we are completely in the wrong and need to immediately repent before it escalades. Many non-believers are offended at Christianity because it convicts their heart. The fact that they are reminded that there is a God who watches their every action is very offensive to them and they react harshly to any hint of God made by others. Jesus was hated by the Pharisees because he represented God's honestly to the people, while the Pharisees misrepresented Him. The crowds took notice and followed the true light. As the story goes, the Pharisees became jealous, angry and hateful towards Jesus and anyone that followed Him. Never apologize for offending others due to your belief in Jesus or for representing him through your actions. When others become offended because of Jesus in you, remember Jesus' word in John 15:20 "No servant is greater than his master"
The other offense I really want to deal with is when we become angered against another because they jabbed our soft spot. We cannot stop people from saying or doing things that offend us, but we do have the power to not allow them to stick to us.
When I look back at my offense against Lee and Hilda I realize how foolish I had been. I allowed an unintentional offense to come between me and this lovely couple. They had no intention of being mean to me or kicking me out of their lives, but that's how I took it.
I missed a great opportunity to comfort them during Hilda's last months here. Instead, I allowed the brick wall I built to come between us.
Most times, the person who offended us doesn't even know what they have done. It's usually unintentional. We get hurt from words spoken or an action taken and we dwell on it. We stew internally until it consumes us. Then we begin distancing ourselves. It becomes a way of protecting our ego. When in reality we really only end up hurting ourselves. The person we are avoiding is confused why we have separated ourselves and it becomes a big mess.
We must learn how to handle offenses, so they don't master us.
1) First, if someone is intentionally trying to offend you through their words or actions, go to them and let them know how it makes you feel and to please stop. Sometimes, it only takes confronting an issue for it to stop. Be sure to come in a spirit of meekness and reconciliation and not anger and bitterness.
(In my case, they had no idea I was offended. Therefore it would be silly for me to go to them and tell them I was offended. This type was all me. It was my own issue that I had to sort out.)
2) Second, we must forgive that person. This is the most important part in order for reconciliation to take place. Forgiveness is like a healing ointment that helps us to overcome hurts.
3) Lastly, don't dwell on it. Dwelling on our hurts will only amplify the situation. When we begin to replay it in our minds or are tempted to gossip to others about what wrong had been done to us, remind yourself that you've forgiven this person already and move on.
There are different degrees of offenses. The deeper the wound, the longer it may take to heal. But never allow offenses to come between you and others. Always seek reconciliation concerning the issue. Even if you do not continue as friends, be sure to never end on a negative note.
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