Reconciliation (Part 2) – Dealing With Strife by Destroying Offenses
Wisdom pales and understanding fades in the light of strife
For fifteen years my marriage could be categorized as blessed and strife free. But then I allowed myself to become offended at my wife. The result was two years of strife, separation, and abandonment. Fifteen years of blessed communication were not even a memory in the heat of my offense. I had built a wall unknowingly that would almost claim the lives of both my wife and me through suicide. What happened? Why was I so helpless to overcome the hurts of strife?
You will never grow spiritually beyond your offenses
Strife is defined as bitter contention based on selfish desires. It is linked with the lust of the flesh in Romans 13:13 and spiritual immaturity in 1 Cor 3:1-3, yet in many Christian families strife goes unchecked. Strife is the acting out of offense. Strife is the rock in your shoe that slows your spiritual progress. As long as strife is allowed to operate in your life you will never reach the full stride in your Christian walk.
Strife is the fruit of offense and will never be rectified in your life because it is an effect, not a cause. You can rebuke it, make vows to not enter it, and even experience limited success in living victoriously over it, but strife will never be defeated until you destroy its root. The root of strife is OFFENSE.
Offense feeds on itself and produces after its kind
You will never grow spiritually beyond your offenses. Offense is like a chain-link fence that hampers your every movement. Offense is like trying to water ski with the anchor down. One summer I tried to water ski for the first time in 25 years. In my mind I remembered the slim, athletic body of my youth doing tricks and basically showing off. I was now a 42-year old, out of shape, fat man trolling for bottom fish. If it were not for the fact that fat floats, I would have been bouncing off the floor of the lake all day.
I knew what I wanted to do but was limited by the constraints of my less-than-conditioned body. This is how offense hinders your spiritual development. You know what to do and you desire to do such, but the sickness of your spirit will not allow your desires to come to maturity. Offense feeds on itself and produces after its kind. The cycle of offense is as follows:
- An event takes place and you have the opportunity to be offended. An important point to understand is that offenses need to come (Luke 17: 1-4). Offenses give you the opportunity to grow in your Christian faith by operating in forgiveness and introspection. In the above-mentioned scripture, we are admonished by the Lord to forgive seven times seven, or as often as needed to remove the offense. Offenses will come to produce Christian maturity, but the offense does not have to become your friend.
- Your feelings and/or expectations are hurt. In most cases we are offended because our feelings are hurt, or we perceive someone as slighting or diminishing us. I once greeted a pastor, “Good morning, Man of God,” only to receive a curt “Yeah, right.” He left to lead a meeting and I thought to myself how easily I could have been offended. I prayed for him the rest of that day. My feelings were hurt.
- You then take offense. When you take offense, you are valuing your hurt more than the other person. What is more valuable, your relationship with the person or your bruised feelings? People are eternal: feelings change. Your relationship with that person is of great value because you might be neighbors for eternity in Heaven.
- You make inner vows based on your offense. Inner vows are a net that ensnares and ties your offense to your spirit. Some examples of inner vows are: “I’ll never forgive my spouse,” “I’ll never do that to my children,” “I’ll never ask them for help again,” and “I’ll never try that again.”
- You speak forth words of strife based on the offense rather than the situation. It is here that strife enters the picture. The offense has been tied to your heart by the inner vows, and words of strife are unleashed.
- Offense becomes a memory. This memory becomes the seedbed for further offenses and for a root of bitterness.
- You are now set up for another event to take place where you can be re-offended. Questions now arise; how is an offense destroyed and removed? How are the walls that divide torn down and the debris removed? In Isaiah 58:6 we read, “Is this not the fast which I chose, to loosen the bonds of wickedness, to undo the bonds of the yoke, and to let the oppressed go free, and break every yoke?
Coming next month…“The Six Stages of Reconciliation”