He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,
yet he opened not his mouth;
like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,
and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,
so he opened not his mouth.
The very One who had every right to open His mouth and “put us in our place” kept His mouth shut. The very One who had every right to judge us, condemn us, and berate us kept His mouth shut. The very One who had every right to be offended by our treatment of Him kept His mouth shut. Yet, the One who “opened not his mouth” did not keep his mouth shut because He was stewing over how to exact revenge; He kept His mouth shut because nothing and no one could alter His love.
Jesus never took offense at those who reviled Him. Jesus never took offense at those who unnecessarily condemned Him. Jesus never took offense at those who could not understand His ways. Jesus took no offense. Jesus loved. He loved those who loved Him. He loved those who despised Him. His love kept Him on the cross. His love covers our sins.
And His love is our example.
Yet as I was driving the other day, I began thinking about how we often react to the not-so-nice people and the not-so-nice events of this life. And it is often not in love.
The online Oxford English Dictionary defines offense in several different ways. One definition in particular is as follows:
Annoyance or resentment brought about by a perceived insult to or disregard for oneself.
I am sure we have all experienced this feeling before. Someone says or does something to us or to someone we love, and we think to ourselves, “How dare they?!” We are shocked that someone could do or say something so egregious. And whether the offense was intentional or unintentional, perceived or actual, we are left with a feeling of being wronged in some way.
Yet here’s what God reminded me the other day: offense is not love; offense is pride.
But it’s truth. Look with me at the definition of pride in the online Oxford English Dictionary:
The quality of having an excessively high opinion of oneself or one’s importance.
Now when reading the above, you may think to yourself, “My opinion of myself is not excessive.” And no, on a day-to-day basis, you may not exhibit pride by having an excessively high opinion of yourself. However, when it comes to those times when we face the opportunity to take offense, if we do take offense, I believe pride is the culprit. For when we take offense at something or someone, we are ultimately saying we deserved better. Someone forgets our name and we think they should have remembered. Someone forgets to email something and we think they should have remembered. Someone does something that hurts our feelings and we believe we did not deserve what they did. Someone hurts our loved one and we think our loved one did not deserve it. Someone misjudges our actions, and we feel betrayed and dishonored.
Yet whether someone says or does something hurtful to us intentionally or unintentionally, that feeling of anger, resentment, and yes, pride often immediately bubble to the surface. And it is when those feelings arise the choice to be offended or to let it go becomes imminent.
And I get it. I’ve been there. I’ve been on both sides of the offense divide. Yet we must take an honest look at the heart of offense: and I believe at the heart is pride. I believe offense comes when we put ourselves in a higher place than we deserve.
Now of course I must insert here a couple of very important points. First, I am in no way saying that if someone hurts us we deserved it. It is never okay to intentionally hit someone or to intentionally hurt someone; that is sin. And sin is never okay. I am also not saying everything that hurts us is due to the sin of another. Jesus was perfect, yet many were hurt and offended by Him. What I am saying is when we do feel hurt, we must also remember that no one is perfect–and that to take offense is also sin. Romans 3:10-12 reads: as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” Romans 3:23 states, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”
None of is perfect; all of us sin. So instead of choosing offense when sin (perceived or actual) arises, we need to choose more wisely and choose differently; we need to choose love. Read with me the following verses:
Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all offenses.
Proverbs 10:12 ESV
Whoever covers an offense seeks love, but he who repeats a matter separates close friends.
Proverbs 17:9 ESV
Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense.
Proverbs 19:11 ESV
Love covers a multitude of sins, and we must remember we have all sinned. We have all hurt others–intentionally or unintentionally. Everyone messes up; everyone needs Jesus. No, this does not mean we “deserve what we get” or “have every right to do what we did.” But it does mean we must be wise and humble in our reactions to the sins (real or perceived) of others.
This is not an easy pill to swallow, I know. Yet we need to remember that God calls us to walk in forgiveness, in humility, and in compassion. He calls us to follow the example He set for us. How did Jesus respond to criticism and rejection? He died on the cross. Jesus walked this life in perfection, yet he was spit on, ridiculed, cast out, and ultimately put to death for being perfect. Yes, the only One who ever had the right to be offended laid down His life for us. The only One with every right to curse us called out from the cross, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). Jesus did not become offended; He loved.
And so should we.
Here is what we must remember: offense is a choice–not the choice of the offender; it is the choice of the one offended. To walk around offended is to walk around in pride and in self-righteousness. Offense goes beyond “that’s not fair” to “that’s so not fair I’m going to punish you in return through unforgiveness.” Offense believes “I would never do that.”
The men in Jesus’ day who were offended by Him were offended not because Jesus was wrong; they were offended because Jesus was right. Jesus went against their human rules. Jesus went against their self-righteous behavior. Jesus went against their perceptions and their expectations. But Jesus wasn’t wrong; they were.
And so today I encourage you to be honest with yourself. Next time someone does or says something to you that upsets you, ask yourself, “Is it worth taking offense?” “Is it worth letting go of love?” Prayerfully, you’ll say no. Prayerfully, you will recognize that when people hurt you (intentionally or unintentionally), they did the same to Jesus. And Jesus was perfect.
So take no offense today. Walk this life in humility, walk this life in forgiveness, and most importantly, walk this life in love. For love truly does cover a multitude of sins.