Handling offense can be challenging. However, even more challenging how to handle to being labeled as offended publicly, being placed in a defensive position within a body of believers. But exactly what do you do when you have been unjustly labeled as offended, with the self identified offender never seeking proper reconciliation? Sometimes there isn’t much we can do to make things right except to make sure we seek the Lord and be obedient to His promptings. Being offended is something most people actually can recognize within themselves. Advice to the offended is simple, go to that person and speak with them. If needed, go a second time, with a witness (Matt 18:15-16). Most importantly before you do anything…Always take the issued before the Lord FIRST. Although, perhaps we are the offender, offending someone, knowing that we ought to passionately pursue peace with that person, seek them out, and build that bridge. Honestly we have ALL been on both sides of the fence.
Offense can be quite the slippery slope and without Godly guidance no matter if you are the offender or the offended, all will fail at bringing the Lord His due glory, if our heart and motives are not right before Him.
Do you have a pointy finger? Name calling rarely builds bridges, it tears them down. As a body we ought to be seeking any and every opportunity to build a bridge to our brother or sister that may not be within our “inner-circle”. Building bridges can only strengthen the body; resulting in glorifying God! To call someone offended publicly is not Godly, ever. Let their fruits speak for themselves, no need for interpretation from you or anyone else. This just encourages division within a group. This behavior whether intentional or not looks much like placing a jersey barrier, the concrete dividers on a freeway that are used to split traffic, right between this person and the body; especially if this comes from an “inner-circle” or pastoral position from within the church. I cannot tell you how many of God’s people I have seen become professional Jersey barrier installers all in the name of looking superior by being the first to point a finger. People naturally feel as if they have to be on one team or the other. This only has the potential of becoming a public spectacle that will damage’s a church body’s ability to witness to those opposed to church in the first place.
Are they really offended, or did they just disagree with you? Too many times a rift will grow over simple personality differences. The only way a person can recognize if what is going on is a personality clash or a communication issue is to build that bridge, extend a bit of you to them. I understand that this can be hard work, but the investment made will be returned in ways you will not expect! Some people love to discuss opposing views, while others cannot handle disagreement (interpreted as rejection); figure out the basis of the conflict then move on (Rom 14:1-23). Not everyone in the body is meant to be your new found BFF( best friend forever) and that’s okay! Just as long as there is an understanding and respect is built within this new bridge.
Are you qualified to see offense in them? Do not label those offended that you do not have a personal or close professional relationship with. After all as discussed just previously it could be a case of lacking in understanding or insight into that persons personality. Let’s define these relationships. Personal relationship means you meet together on an unofficial basis; there is direct communication (not exclusive to text or IM’s. You know their history and family make up beyond knowledge of a testimony. You “break bread” with them regularly. Professionally, you would be in direct working relations; supervisor, employee, or co-worker on an equal level with the same job. If you are outside of these close relationships you are not qualified to call someone out as being anything. Instead, get to know them…start on that bridge!
If you recognize someone as offended, then as the offender what should you do? Use a Biblical model in love. Do not use text messaging, FB, or email as a means of communication. Heart is rarely felt or properly communicated in this manner. It will greatly hamper any feeling of genuine reconciliation. Having ANY conversations about the matter with anyone other than with those directly involved WILL cause damage. If a “consensus” is needed, do so in a proper face-to-face with all parties present. Do not be one sided. Do not tell them how they feel (offended, bitter, angry, or hurt). They are perfectly capable and more qualified to interpret their own feelings. Doing so will only place a jersey barrier between you and them and bridge building will cease. While they just may be offended (or not), acknowledge your part or role. We are not to make a brother or sister stumble (Rom 14:21). Offense in the Greek means just that, “to stumble”. Be humble, be gracious, and most of all be hopeful for real reconciliation. This is a new opportunity to get to know a brother or sister better and for all parties to grow in the Lord. Blessing will be multiplied more than you know if we have the courage, patience, and strength to handle these matters God’s way, not our way.
Pursue peace with everyone, and holiness—without it no one will see the Lord.