Are You a Bridge Builder or a Jersey Barrier Within The Body?

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 jersey-barrierbody; 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 how-to-build-a-bridgerarely 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.
Hebrews 12:14

Happy Valentine’s Day to who?

There were those days, too many of them in fact.  The days were every married couple around me seemed so very connected.  I noticed the inside jokes or references.  I noticed glimpses of affection and courtesy.  I would envy the opportunities for connection:  Sitting together at church, worshiping and studying together, shopping together, dining together, ect.  These were not just tasks done at the same time, but and honest time of connectivity.  Either an opportunity for new ties, or old ties strengthened.  They are living life together.  I couldn’t help but begin to feel hopeless.  I saw everything that my marriage lacked, blinded to what my marriage had.

I have been studying and observing how offense has such an impact on our relationship with the Lord, and with others.  One of the most common, overlooked trap is comparison.  When we are busy comparing to others we are no longer focused.  In almost ALL cases of offense, wheither we are offended or happen to be the offender, we are not focused 100% on the Lord.  Yes, 100%.  Do you actually think He would actually require less?  If we keep our focus on Him, are no longer concerned with the affairs of others, what they may say, or what they have or have not done.  We look for Him in all aspects of our lives.

I should be focused on how He works in my own marriage.  I will never see the blessings if I am busy counting what is lacking by comparison to others.  I have a husband that would give us everything he has.  He is loyal, and he loves me unconditionally.  We have challenges that most other marriages do not have to contend with.  He is home only a few days a month.  Our only source of connectivity is the phone, almost 90% of the time.  Fatigue, bad service, and general communication failure happens daily.  Even more reason to remain focused on the Lord, who saw fit to bring us together.

That being said, wives — If you have your husband home every night, love him.  If you have the joy of serving the Lord with him, praise God.  If you have your husband there to pray when you pray, you are very blessed.  Always have his back, and speak highly of him.  So forgive me if I do not always seem so eager hear stories of all the wonderful things that your spouse is able to do.  But do know that I praise God that He is working in marriages around me.  He is working to take that sting away, a little at a time.  I can not afford to be pricked by a thorn of jealousy, for it is a huge stumbling block in my relationships with my friends that are happily married.  We are called to share in praises and blessings with in the body of Christ.  Jealousy, or the act of comparison gets in the way of being able to wholeheartedly take part.

There was a man all alone;
    he had neither son nor brother.
There was no end to his toil,
    yet his eyes were not content with his wealth.
“For whom am I toiling,” he asked,
    “and why am I depriving myself of enjoyment?”
This too is meaningless—
    a miserable business!

Two are better than one,
    because they have a good return for their labor:
If either of them falls down,
    one can help the other up.
But pity anyone who falls
    and has no one to help them up.

Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.
    But how can one keep warm alone?
Though one may be overpowered,
    two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken. Ecc 4:8-12

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All In The Name of Justice….or is it?

It is so easy to caught up and held up in the whole what is right and what is wrong.  I find myself there much too often.  After all we do have laws!  So how is it that someone can break the law and get away with it without someone crying for justice?  Especially if you yourself had rightfully (morally) and maybe even legally wronged?

I have personally fell in this trap with my boys father owing child support.  He owes over $100K in child support.  There has been no enforcement despite the laws that allow them to do so.  His family enables his crimes against us with full knowledge that the oldest is totally disabled and will never be self sustaining.  It is legally and morally WRONG.  We never asked for this.  A dear family member of mine, blind sided by divorce.  He comes home and is told in a nut shell “I have been wanting to leave lady_justice_by_sadthree-d35nicpfor over a year, sign this and I won’t keep MY kids from you.  You are to move out and leave everything…”  He never saw it coming.  It is straight up morally WRONG.  He never asked for this.  My mother living on SS had her car breakdown.  Not wanting to tow it out of town takes it to the mechanic nearest by.  He quotes her, promises to fix it.  She being on a fixed income trickles payments to him.  9 months later, $900 lost, he is gone (evicted out of his shop), car is in pieces, not even any new parts purchased.  He is not worth suing.  She is out a car and $900 that is nearly impossible to replace.  It is legally and morally WRONG.  She never asked for this.

It is IMPOSSIBLE to live in this world and not have the opportunity to be offended.  It is not a matter of if it will happen but when and how often.  Our response determines our future.  So how do we respond?  If you anything like me where thinking for the most part is very black and white, where wrong is wrong and right is right, then you will become ensnared as a “justice seeker”.  Or others have seen have fallen trap to pride.  Ever heard the wounded say “…I’m okay” or “…I will be fine”.  They deny that just how deeply they have been wounded and ultimately never deal with it, that pain roots into bitterness, anger/rage even, and resentment.  All of which can lead to an even worse condition of hardheartedness, insensitivity, ultimately hindering you from hearing God’s voice.  This condition will set you up to be lead into total deception.  Just because you were mistreated does not put you in the right to hold onto the offense.  Two wrongs never equal a right.  An offense not dealt with properly simply leads us away from the heart of God, and ultimately we produce the fruits of sin.

So if we acknowledge this, then it feels as if we are unable to do anything in response to the offense.  I have many times turned to God and asked, “Don’t you have my back?”  “Do you not see?”  “How can they just get away with this?” God almost seems to turn a blind eye.  We feel ignored or abandoned (here is the start of the deception!).  Straight up:  Present, immediate justice is not God’s agenda.  As my pastor told me regarding this subject:

How can you love your enemies if you want them to fry. 

YIKES.  Okay I get it, this is not new….the whole we must love our enemies command gets me more often then I would like to admit (could that be a dose of  pride?).

24 The Lord’s slave must not quarrel, but must be gentle to everyone, able to teach,and patient, 25 instructing his opponents with gentleness. Perhaps God will grant them repentance leading them to the knowledge of the truth. 26 Then they may come to their senses and escape the Devil’s trap, having been captured by him to do his will.  2Tim 2:24-26 HCSB

“…gentle to EVERYONE….”  It does not say to those whom are nice to us.  His will is ultimately to bring them into repentance and knowledge of Him and His Word to EVERYONE.  That won’t happen if their feet are held over coals.

Remember the Lord uses ALL things to work towards the good for those that love Him (Rm 8:28).  Many times the worst of the worst offenses refine us.  Let me explain:  The refining process (when speaking of gold) causes the impurities to come to the top or surface if you will.  They can then be removed (dealt with).  An issue with forgiveness, anger, faith, or any other sin can not be dealt with if not brought to the surface.  You will come out on top if you handle it God’s way.  It is no mistake that the root of the word offense is the Greek skan-dal-id’-zo:  to entice to sin to put a stumbling block or impediment in the way, upon which another may trip and fall, become ensnared or tangled, metaph. to offend.  In other words for one to offend you, you are being caused to sin.  Do not fall into this trap!

No where does God promise immediate judgement for wrongs.  He does not play games of tit-for-tat.  However, God does promise ultimate justice upon His return.

It is a clear evidence of God’s righteous judgment that you will be counted worthy of God’s kingdom, for which you also are suffering, since it is righteous for God to repay with affliction those who afflict you and to reward with rest you who are afflicted, along with us. This will take place at the revelation of the Lord Jesus from heaven with His powerful angels, taking vengeance with flaming fire on those who don’t know God and on those who don’t obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. 2Thes 1:5-8 HCSB

He will have vengeance on those who do not obey, and those who refuse to know Him.  But He honestly wishes for ALL to be save, for ALL to come to know him.  To be in alignment with the Lord means we must demonstrate HIS love.  We can not do that and be “justice seekers”.

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