Conflict and Offense
Genesis 43:1 -
More than anyone, Christians should be the best at dealing with conflict and being offended. Unfortunately, experience shows us that we may be amongst the worst. Nothing dirties the church’s so much, and nothing better gauges the spiritual maturity of a person than how we deal with conflict and trials amongst us.
This message is very important so please follow closely and look up scriptures to study in more details at your convenience.
Let’s start this lesson by using what Joseph went through as an example of how God can use the worst offences, things we would never experience, for good. Some of us know the story of how his brothers were jealous of him because he was Dad’s favorite, and instead of killing him they sold him into Egyptian slavery, telling their father that he had been eaten by wild animals.
The long and short of the story is that Joseph rose to great power in Egypt and had a great opportunity to get revenge against his brothers during a famine, but he refused and actually helped them in the end. His famous words at the end of Genesis were that "you meant it for evil, but God meant it for good". What a great picture of forgiveness and reconciliation.
Like Joseph, can we see offence and mistreatment as a potentially sovereign gift from God? We are told many times that suffering is to be expected when we follow the Lord. Can we rejoice for acting as Jesus commands when we are offended by someone?
The root of being offended is insecurity, fear, and lack of faith in God. Holding on to offence and unforgiveness is a misguided way of protecting ourselves, rather than allowing God to be our protector. Sometimes not reacting, doing nothing, is the best response to another’s attack. Jesus was the ultimate example of this.
Now I’m sure some of us are thinking, "come on, we have to fight back sometimes." Well do we? We are going to see that leaving it up to God, is exactly God’s will. I am confident in saying that besides insecurity, the other reasons Christians don’t handle conflict well are because we either don’t know or understand scripture, or we don’t really believe it. If we did, we would live our lives according to it.
David is another example. David could have easily killed Saul who was chasing David through the countryside to kill him, but he didn’t, why? Why did God give him this easy opportunity in the cave? Simply to see if this man after God’s own heart would be obedient, and David apparently passed the test, by sparing Saul’s life.
God knows our hearts and will test us with challenges. If he already knows how someone will react according to his will in a situation, those people will usually be spared from going through those kinds of situations.
But if you find yourself in difficult circumstances, it’s likely that God is testing your heart and your obedience. He knows whether or not you will respond to offence as he would like, and he will give you continued opportunities to deal with it according to his will. Often though these people who are easily offended and hold onto offence, tend to go into victim mode.
"Why does this happen to me?"
"Why do people treat me this way?"
Rather than looking at how they react, they blame and look for sympathy. Often God is giving them opportunities to change their reactions, as opposed to wanting to punish them. Chances are as a Christian, if you’re not good at dealing with conflict in God’s way, you will get more opportunities to go through conflict than someone who has learned to deal with it in God’s way. Conflict is always an opportunity for spiritual growth. In fact it’s probably the best training ground to demonstrate the fruit of the spirit and maturity.
The bible makes it very clear that we are not put in a position to protect the world from injustice, and immorality, that is God’s job. Our job is to love those who are treated badly, and love the ones who treat others badly, so that they may be changed by the love of God. We are to trust God, not flesh, to protect us from offence and dole out justice. How many people have left churches and families and workplaces because they didn’t like what the leadership was doing? We are called to submit to leadership even if it’s bad.
We have a right to lovingly say something directly to our leaders if we see them acting unbiblical. But leaving a church because of offence is very dangerous. This is what creates cafeteria style church and spiritual gypsies. Remember that if you’re in the place that God wants you, the Devil will try to offend you to get you out. He wants to uproot men and women from the place God plants them, to disrupt the body that God is putting together. If he can get you out, he’s been successful. If you won’t budge, even in the midst of conflict, which is not of God by the way, you will spoil Satan’s plans. God allows this so that we can grow, unite, and strengthen the body of Christ.
As long as we’re focused on flaws in people and leadership, we will become critical and judgmental rather than helpful. When you’re out of the will of God in this regard, you will not be a blessing or help to any church, and even the good relationships will be strained. A plant doesn’t thrive when it’s constantly being replanted. The roots don’t have a chance to really deepen, and growth is stunted. When storms or droughts come, the roots are shallow and weak. If it’s deeply rooted it can withstand more heavy rains and droughts. A smart gardener won’t keep moving a tree just because conditions are not great for a while, he allows the tree to adapt and strengthen itself. We are to expect refining in the fire and not flee from it. If we keep running we never grow.
Look at Mark 4:16-
People in the church like this become untrusting spiritual vagabonds, wandering from place to place, crippled in their ability to produce real spiritual fruit, struggling in a self-
Hebrews 5:8 says about Jesus, "Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered". He was a son, he didn’t deserve any of what he got, but through this he learned to be obedient to the God the father. He stuck it out, clinging to his father’s will. Did you know that almost two thirds of divorced people have been divorced more than once? The more we run from problems, the easier it gets to run. But we can never get far enough away from God to be problem free, if we don’t learn to deal with them. The root of the problem is in you. So wherever you go, you will eventually run into the same types of problems. We can pester the Lord regarding something for which he has already shown us his will but we don’t like it, and he will allow us to do what we want even if it’s not in our best interest. But he won’t shield us from the consequences of our own choices. He might ask us to face hurts and attitudes we don’t want to face to make us stronger, but we refuse and run, for temporary relief, but the problem remains and always resurfaces eventually. We can easily be offended by God when we are using him, aligning ourselves with him for what he can do for us, rather than obeying and serving him for his sake. No one, including God owes you anything. The truth is that once an offence or emotional hurt is received it can never be healed by someone else, even the one who inflicted it. It’s not like an external cut or scrape where someone can see it and treat it. But even then, it’s your own body that ultimately heals it. You can spend a lifetime carrying this internal open wound waiting for the person who inflicted it, or someone else, to make it better. Often the offender is already dead and we still carry it. The wound is in you and nobody else can see it, or touch it, or heal it, but you with God’s help. Don’t think that even an apology is going to make it all better.
Let’s talk a little about ENTITLEMENT (read Mt 17:24-
We read in 1 Corinthians 10 that a true follower of Christ will never hurt or offend anyone for their own comfort, rights, or well-
Lack of forgiveness of self and not releasing self from guilt is often what keeps us imprisoned. Most unforgiving people have not experienced the true forgiveness of God, and therefore have not forgiven themselves thus finding it hard to forgive others. They tend to have extremely high expectations of themselves and need to portray to others that they are perfect. Often this is mistaken for pride, but in fact can be self-
John explains that if someone says I love God but hates his brother, he’s a flat out liar. Some believers are so tormented by unforgiveness that they may hope death brings relief, but this is not true. We must deal with unforgiveness now or be called upon to pay the unpayable. Jesus payment will not apply to our account if we refuse to forgive others as he forgave us. Because do you see that if we don’t forgive, we haven’t really accepted the free gift he gave.
Jesus means what he says and he didn’t usually explain his parables, but he did in this case because he wanted to make sure everyone got the point. Some may think this is a hard message, but it’s really a message of mercy and warning, not harsh judgment. Would you rather hear this now and experience genuine repentance and forgiveness? Or would you rather refuse to forgive and hear Jesus say, "Depart from me", when you no longer have the chance to change? We also need to look at VENGEANCE (read Romans 12:17-
Acts 24:16 shows that we must exercise the ability to keep void of offence toward God and people. Our culture is based on self-
Many have used Matthew 18:15 the wrong way, where it says to go tell him his fault when a brother sins against you. Are we going to the person just to let them know how hurt or angry we are with them, to demand an apology? Or are we going to them to reconcile using all that we’ve talked about today? Has anyone ever come up to you and said, "I just want you to know that I forgive you for being such a jerk." Then when they’ve finished blasting you, they give you that look that says, "Now you owe me an apology."
You stand there in a little bit of confusion and kind of hurt. They didn’t come to reconcile your relationship, but to intimidate and control you. They are kind of like, "look how good I am, I’m forgiving you, now make up for what you did". But that sure doesn’t feel like forgiveness, because it isn’t forgiveness, its manipulation.
Your goal needs to be that you are letting them know clearly how they affected you, and that they are completely off the hook no matter how they respond. If it doesn’t seem to work, Jesus gives us further instruction not to give up, not for our sake, but for theirs. Matthew 18:16-
THE ABSOLUTE WRONG THING TO DO is to take our offences to everyone else so that we can feel justified in our anger getting everyone to agree with us, instead of going straight to the offender first. Remember when you go to others, you’re telling your side of the story to make yourself feel better, not necessarily the facts and only the facts. Not only that, you’re probably not very confident that your position is true, otherwise you would go to the person that was there when it happened. You know that they know the truth so you go to those who weren’t there because they will more likely buy your side of the story and it "becomes" the truth. Don’t try to get others on your side, before you go to the offender.
Remember also, that reconciliation will not always happen, Romans 12:18 says "if possible, so far as it depends on you", God knows it takes both sides. However, we are to follow all of the commands Jesus gives to make it possible, then if the other person just will not come around to have peace with us, at least our conscience can rest. It’s all about real love, God’s kind of love that sacrifices itself for others. Scripture says Love never fails. That is how we RELEASE the poison of offence. What do we do? Get alone and quiet with God and ask the Holy Spirit to bring people from the past and present to mind whom you have something against. Don’t hunt for something that isn’t there just let him reveal people to you. Acknowledge the feelings that may come up, then picture each one individually and forgive them, cancel the debt they owe you. Then repent to God of your own unforgiveness and for holding on to this for so long. Take each person to the cross and do with them as Christ did with you. Not as people did with Christ. Forgive them once and for all. If you find yourself relapsing, work hard to release those thoughts and feelings right away. Pray for these people regularly as you would pray for yourself. I said at the beginning that our own insecurity is at the root of being offended. You will perceive other’s words and actions through the glasses that you see yourself with. Others just push the buttons of how you think of yourself deep down, and it’s easier to blame them and lash out at them, than to acknowledge that they are simply triggering unresolved feelings you have about yourself at deeper levels. If I lined up 10 people here and offended them with the same insult, some would lash back at me or defend themselves, some would sulk and say to themselves, yeah, your right, and others would look at me with compassion because I was so wounded that I needed to insult them. The first two react the way they do because at some level they give power to what I say and maybe even believe it about themselves. The others know it isn’t true, they know who they are in Christ, and they are able to see my offensive behaviour for what it is, a response to my own deeper pain. They don’t need to react. If we really believe God is our healer and protector, that it’s him and him alone who defines us, we can sit in the security of that knowledge and when attacked, we can seek to heal rather than defend and attack back. Do you believe that God will protect you and work through you if you respond as he has commanded, to other people’s mistreatment of you? That’s where faith comes in. I am so OK in Christ’s arms that I can completely leave my ultimate well-
Let me close with this:
"To be wronged is nothing unless you remember it." Every time you remember something bad that happens to you, some wrong that was done to you, you feel those bad feelings all over again. You record the event in the neuron structure of your brain, and it plants itself in your subconscious. Now it’s a scientific fact that your subconscious doesn't know the difference between a vividly imagined or remembered event, and the real thing. It’s all "real" to your subconscious. When you subject yourself over and over again to painful, angry memories, eventually your system begins to break down. The poison of the not forgiven hurt and anger attacks you from the inside out. It usually starts as chronic physical pain, and if not taken care of can lead to disease and even death. Holding on to bitterness and unforgiveness hurts you most, it can kill you in this life, and as we heard from the Lord, it may kill you in the next as well. Let it go, free yourself with God’s help, and live.
God Bless Us All!