Nothing brings believers into defeat quicker than unresolved offenses. The enemy uses offenses to create an atmosphere of hostility and tension in a church. His goal is to sow seeds that lead to slander, backbiting and gossip.
When those dynamics are in operation, the church's mission is jeopardized because everything centers around selfish interests. Worst of all, the Holy Spirit is grieved, and close fellowship with Him is broken.
We can overcome the challenge of offenses by choosing the pathway of peace. Sue had worked hard to prepare for her ministry to the 4- and 5-year-olds on Sunday morning. She knew how important children were, and she didn't mind the extra responsibility when her turn came to help out in children's ministry.
Though it wasn't an easy job, Sue took special care to make sure that the children would enjoy their time learning about God's Word. When Troy slipped and banged his forehead on a bookshelf, Sue felt terrible.
She tried to explain how it happened to his mother, but before she could finish, Troy's mom interrupted curtly and accused Sue of neglecting the children. Those words were like arrows in Sue's heart.
But Sue was a strong believer and decided not to react unkindly or become offended. She knew that offenses could rob her of the blessings God had for her in children's ministry. Later on, she was able to smooth things out with Troy's mom, and they became close friends as a result.
Jesus marked out the pathway to peace in the local church, where He knew that issues would arise between believers. He said, "'If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother'" (Matt. 18:15). These powerful words confront us with at least three challenges we must press through when we are offended.
Can we keep it honest? When Jerry asked Marvin why he was upset, Marvin shot back, "I am not upset!" Oh, really? We need to get truthful with ourselves and then with those who have offended us. Cover-ups and denial are unhealthy and make us an easy target for the enemy. Jesus said, "Go tell your brother what your issue is."
Can we keep it private? When we go to our offender, we must do it privately. It's a mistake to bring others into our offense, even under the veil of "sharing prayer needs." Telling them of our hurt is a cheap attempt to chip away at the offender's character and a harmful violation of the spirit of unity and love.
Can we keep it redemptive? According to Jesus, the goal is to regain our brother. That's the power of the cross working in our relationships.
We've all seen attempts at reconciliation end up in a mess because the goal was to set the record straight instead of regain fellowship. But victory doesn't come when we humble our offender or prove him wrong; it comes when we make a faithful effort to restore the relationship.
By the way, keeping spiritual immunity involves a responsibility to listen when someone comes to us with a relational issue. Let's hear what the person is saying and examine ourselves to see if his perspective has merit. If there is a hurt, let's do our part to get it healed and move forward to a place of greater maturity.
We face an immunity challenge every time an opportunity for offense arises. Will we pick up the offense and risk losing our connection to God's people, or will we choose forgiveness and reconciliation? If we are wise, we'll follow the words of Jesus and keep it honest, private and redemptive.
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