Our testimonies are stories of triumph over adversity of some kind. Working our way through offence can be one of the most challenging triumphs to achieve so sharing our stories with others often brings hope that you too can have the same triumph in your daily life. So here is one of my stories about journeying through offence.
Many of my childhood summer holidays were spent at my grandparent’s lovely old weatherboard home on the edge of a very long and sandy beach in the north of New Zealand. In fact the beach is commonly called 99 Mile Beach, but is actually less than that in length. On fine summer days when the tide was low there were vast expanses of golden sand and it seemed to our young minds that the beach extended into infinity. We spent long hours playing on that beach, hunting for cod and crabs in the rock pools that dotted the beach, racing each other between them and hoping to be the first to find the next treasure the sea had left behind. Occasionally a pool just perfect for young children sat beside a mound of rocks and we would have a bit of a swim in the sun warmed water.
A while ago I had an experience that required both loving as God commands us to love, and the necessity in this instance, to use discernment because it would have a wide and potentially serious consequence if the situation was not handled the right way. I was challenged on my assertion that we needed to use some discernment in this particular instance, (I had a huge check in my spirit) because other party felt that was being super spiritual and we are to ‘just love people’. And of course we are; the upshot of this for me is that it had me exploring how love and the exercise of discernment can flow together.
'Turn your eyes upon Jesus
Look full in His wonderful face
And the things of earth will grow
In the light of His glory and grace'
For so many of us the encouragement to look upon the face of Jesus is the scariest thing in the world right now.
One of the biggest challenges of walking in true Godly love for each other is doing communication well. It is time for us to grow up from being children of God to being mature 'Sons' of God who handle our emotions and our communication well.
On the grace end of that spectrum we can be carrying wounds and offences that interfere with how we respond to or communicate with people. That's where love comes in. It gives the benefit of the doubt and listens to the heart of the speaker, discerning what they are speaking out of e.g. a hurt they are carrying, brokenness, or just fleshy unrestrained behaviour.
We are of course all in different parts of our journey, and sometimes we have off days when we just get our communication all wrong, but we are encouraged to strive for the building up of the Fruit of the Spirit in our lives and to exercise self-control. Honest, hard conversations can still be had with love, respect and honor. Should we be initially angry about something, that is understandable, but it should not remain that way. Always in difficult conversations God is also looking for how we are responding to the speaker. Love does not take offence when it understands that someone is speaking out of brokenness or woundedness but rather endeavours to preserve and build upon the relationship.
Another area in our communication we can pay attention to is that of taking personal responsibility for how and who we get our information from. We all know that gossip is a big no no. It never ceases to amaze me though how often we will believe something said without going to the person it is about and actually asking them for the truth and then we repeat it to others! If we want to know something about somebody else go ask them, better yet go ask God first. If He doesn't answer us, we probably don't need to know! A mature 'Son' does not allow the gossip and fleshy opinions of others sway their perception of a mutual friend or acquaintance. Love finds out the truth!
If we are lacking information and respond with 'nobody tells me anything' - it's our responsibility to find out what we need to know. If we want to know what is going in our family, don't we usually ask questions to find out?.
Much of our gossip and judgement of others is OUR NOT TRUSTING THAT GOD knows what He is doing in other people's lives.
Leaders and those with visible ministry or assignments for example, will often come under fire from those looking in from the outside. We make assumptions about what they are doing and judge whether God is in it or not. When we don't understand the who, what, where, why and when of someone in or around our life, we must go and ask God first or ask them. Some of what we are called to be and do is between us and God and not for public knowledge. There is often a back story in people's journeys with God we may not be aware of and even then we may never know the full story. Trust that God knows what He is doing with the purpose and call on people's lives. If we react badly to who they are, perhaps that is an opportunity for some self reflection on our part.
Very few people will take offence at a genuine enquiry for information or understanding as long as we respect that person's right to share only what they are comfortable with. This is why getting to know one another is so important.
Sorting out our differences with others can be daunting. It can take quite a lot of courage to ring someone up and say 'hey can we have coffee, there's something I would like to talk over with you'. If we need to, we can take a third party with us or ask a third party to speak on our behalf, but throwing tantrums, walking away in a huff, talking about people behind their back or giving the silent treatment are not mature Fruit of the Spirit.
These are all Christianity 101 - let's handle our relationships well.