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Lesson 3: Unoffendable
All is not right with the world. We have a serious problem that is permeating everything.
While this topic is common to the human condition, I do not have the skills to speak to it generally, therefore I would like to confine my remarks to those who are followers of Jesus/Yeshua.
I believe the enemy has a two-stage tactic in everything. The first-stage tactic is to keep us from knowing the truth.
For example I would contend that the evil of Replacement Theology is a truth that the enemy would prefer that we never know, never recognize as sin, and never repent of in any way.
But if we are to learn the truth about something, whether to learn about an evil like Replacement Theology, or something good such as the Jewish roots of our faith, the second-stage tactic is to take offense at others who do not share our viewpoint.
For example, suppose a Christian learns how painful the symbol of the cross of Christ has been in the history of the Jewish people. Suppose you are this Christian and you take a decision that on your next trip to Israel, you are not going to wear a cross visibly on the outside of your clothes. You speak to the leader of your tour group and suggest that perhaps others would like to refrain from wearing their crosses so visibly. Let us say that in this case, not only is the tour group leader not willing to make this a requirement, but he/she will not even let you make an announcement to the group about your personal conviction. At this point, the secondary tactic of the enemy kicks in, and you are tempted by the enemy, or as the Jews would say, by the evil inclination (Yetzer Harah), to take up an offense.
This example is hypothetical, but it is really a tiny picture of a much bigger problem that happens in more ways than we can count. Here are several larger offenses:
- Those in the Hebrew Roots or Jewish Roots movement can take offense at those who won’t recognize the value of observing the Shabbat or the feasts.
- Those in traditional Christian churches can take offense at those in the Hebrew Roots movement for their separateness, their perceived haughtiness and self-righteousness.
- Those in the Messianic streams can take offense when traditional Christians ask why they can’t be “more like regular Christians”.
- Those in politically conservative evangelical congregations take offense at mainline denominations for their liberalism, and vice versa.
- Protestants take up offenses against Catholics, and vice versa, for various sins.
Once an offense has been taken up on any side, the enemy leverages it for great harm. As it is written.
Make sure that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no root of bitterness springs up, causing trouble and defiling many. Hebrews 12:15 (CSB)
But if we are at least aware that this is a huge tactic of the enemy, then we at least have a chance to see it coming and refuse to slip down into the poisonous root ourselves.
But how does one stop oneself from slipping down into the trap of offense, if it is all too common around us, especially in the circles of those who follow Yeshua?
I’ll tell you the path that has helped me. Notice I said helped, not solved! It was to realize that Jesus/Yeshua was unoffendable.
Have you ever been taught that? I had not. But I was at a wedding in 2017, and had felt the strong sense that the problems one of the attendees was facing was the need to forgive certain people who had wronged him in the past. I spoke with him about the importance of being willing to forgive using the verses that immediately follow the Lord’s prayer:
For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. Matthew 6:14-15. (NIV)
Just then the groom’s father, who happened to be standing nearby said:
“That’s right, and did you know that Jesus never took up an offense? He was unoffendable!” He went on to say, “I just read a good book about it by Brant Hansen.”
What is the connection? To refuse to forgive is an example of, if not the heart of, taking up an offense against someone else.
As soon as the groom’s father made that comment about Jesus never taking an offense, I immediately remembered a story that had happened twenty-five years earlier. A friend of mine at church had a profound experience with the Holy Spirit, where while he was in church he was sort of “caught up” into heaven. In our small group meeting later that week he shared what had happened to him: there before him was Jesus, greeting him with the widest range of assorted fruits and vegetables of the earth, spread beautifully on tables with gleaming white table cloths. Jesus held out his hands towards the nearest table, and gestured to my friend, as if to say, would you like to enjoy these foods? I can’t remember if he said that table had fruit or vegetables on it. Anyway, what was amazing is that my friend said back to Jesus: “I don’t want what is on this table at all! I’d like something else!” My friend was kind of short in his comeback, and didn’t even say “Please!” But the part of the story that I most remember, was his description of what Jesus did next. He said Jesus simply turned towards another table, without the least bit of offense, and said, “Well, how about these over here? Would these be better?”
When he told this experience that evening, several of us were telling him: “Are you crazy?! Don’t you know that you were turning up your nose at God’s own creations? Why didn’t you at least try something that was offered? Why didn’t you speak more kindly in return!” All our friend could say was, “It didn’t seem to matter.”
So when I combined that memorable story, with the title of the book, Unoffendable, I suddenly realized I didn’t have to read the book at all. All I had to do was to go back and read the gospel accounts with a new eye: read them with the view that what Jesus/Yeshua was expressing was never coming out as a byproduct of a personal hurt, it was simply the best response for the situation.
If you do that, I promise it will change your perception in no small way. Instead of seeing offense and “righteous anger”, you will see a whole lot more love.
All is not right with the world. We are permeated by offense. We look on as people not only take offense, they invent new ways and reasons for the taking up of offenses against others.
In the light of this evil age, our only response is the opposite. May we all find God’s grace to resist offense, until perhaps one day we too might attain to a love that is itself ever-present and unoffendable.