I’m always amazed at how God brings certain people into my life at just the right time. Gretchen Fleming has been one of those people. We were working together on the same conference (via cyberspace) and discovered we were same-city neighbors. It wasn’t long before I recognized, Gretchen is also an amazing Bible teacher. She takes difficult passages of Scripture and makes them easily relatable to everyday events. That’s why I’m happy to have Gretchen here today to share about how Jesus reacted to offensive situations (we all know people who are easily offended) and the harm of being quickly provoked. This is a practical lesson on healthy responses to hurtful circumstances you won’t want to miss.
by Gretchen Fleming
Some moments are forever seared into my memory.
Like the time I was at Firehouse Subs with my young daughter, mom, and grandmother. It was years ago but I still cringe at the embarrassment of it all.
At the time, I had not ordered at this restaurant chain before. My husband would order for us as I sat with the 3 kids at a table, trying to keep them from getting out of hand I’m sure. This particular occasion, my mom had ordered but then I went back to the counter to add some chips, which were right by the register. I saw the people in line but I thought they were waiting for their subs to be fixed like at Subway. Without knowing I was cutting in line, I approached the register and grabbed some chips to pay.
The girl at the register rang my bill and I proceeded to give her money. Meanwhile, I heard a commotion behind me but I continued to pay attention to making my payment. That is until it got louder and louder. Now I was getting concerned so I gradually cocked my head to see what was going on when I realized that an irate woman was actually yelling AT ME! She was livid that I had cut in front her and proceeded to yell to the whole store how terrible it was.
I was MORTIFIED.
Once I realized what I had done, I stopped the payment process and told her how sorry I was and that I had not done it intentionally. Then I asked her to please go on ahead of me but she refused. She insisted that I get my precious chips and be done with it.
I practically crawled back to the table of my family, who were oblivious to the whole scene apparently. I can’t imagine how because I felt like the whole restaurant was watching. Trying desperately to hold back my tears over upsetting the lady so much and from the embarrassment of it all, I wondered what kind of life that lady must live so that she would go off on someone accidentally cutting in front of her. If something like this could make her become unglued, what would the rest of the day hold for her? What about tomorrow? Or next year?
This is somewhat of a lighthearted example but I have plenty of times where MY heart was torn by an offense-
the time my co-worker betrayed me
when my best friend rejected me
when someone close did not stand up for me
the time I was denied a privilege I deserved
the promise that was not kept
when someone who could have helped chose not to
These are but a few of the offenses that aren’t easily forgotten. But they should be, and here’s why.
I read in Luke 9:51-56 NIV about an offense suffered by the Savior and for the first time, His reaction really catches my attention. In fact, what He chooses to do, and NOT do, speaks volumes.
As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem. And he sent messengers on ahead, who went into a Samaritan village to get things ready for him; but the people there did not welcome him, because he was heading for Jerusalem. When the disciples James and John saw this, they asked, “Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them? But Jesus turned and rebuked them. Then he and his disciples went to another village.
Jesus was on His way to Jerusalem for the last time. He knew what He faced once He arrived- Calvary with all its pain and horror. If anyone was primed to be offended at the least provocation, it was Jesus. But He wasn’t and I don’t think that fact is inconsequential. There is much about Jesus’ life that we can benefit from if we take the time to look for it.
I think if we examine it, we can learn WHY it is our gain to resist taking offense.
3 Reasons To Resist Taking Offense
1. It hinders our ability to persevere. I cannot understand what was going through Jesus’ mind as He “resolutely” set out for Jerusalem but it is obvious that the offense of the town refusing His accommodation was not worth His attention. Christ CHOSE to ignore the offense rather than take it up. Even when His disciples wanted to call down fire from heaven to destroy that town, Jesus saved His harsh rebuke FOR THEM! Those Samaritans were not worth losing His peace over because He needed every bit of it for what lay ahead for Him. When we are easily offended, it saps our strength and peace that is vital to the challenges coming our way next.
2. It robs our focus for more important matters. Not only do we need to save our strength for the most important battles, we need to keep our mind alert for them as well. Becoming upset at every little thing that doesn’t go our way only distracts our focus. It says that Jesus went to another village for their needs. He moved on physically AND mentally to what mattered most. If He had stewed over the offense incessantly, how could He ever handle the rest of God’s plan that awaited Him? Taking offense requires attention we cannot spare for something that isn’t relevant in the long run.
3. It hardens our heart. Over time, as we take offense over one thing after another, it has a cumulative effect on our emotions. It should come as no surprise if our becoming offended impacts our physical stamina and our mental alertness, it will, therefore, bring about emotional consequences. Jesus was magnificent in His ability to love others without becoming hardened by their rejection of Him. That is our example. We are reminded through Christ that love is not easily offended. Those who often take offense will become cold, distant people inhibited in their ability to love others.
5 Takeaways for Letting Go of Offenses
• Let go of fighting with what God allows and grab hold of what He provides.
• Do not let opposition deter your determination. Accept the closed door and look for the open one.
• There is no winner when we retaliate but there is when we overlook an offense. Proverbs 19:11
• Stop focusing on who is against you and rejoice over who is for you!
• The healthiest thing you will ever do is MOVE ON!
Gretchen’s passion is to follow hard after Jesus, knowing He is the treasure of a lifetime and worth every minute she commits to Him. God’s Word has been life-changing for her through the most trying times—a great source of strength, wisdom, and truth. She’s a speaker, writer, and Bible teacher who loves to see Jesus change lives as He’s changed hers. Gretchen is a wife of 29 years and mother of 3 young adult children.