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Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Amish farm on Strasburg Pike, Lancaster County PA 9/5/13
Amish farm on Strasburg Pike, Lancaster County
(Click on photo to enlarge.)

"A Consideration Of Being Offended"

Message summary: Today we consider a growing problem in interpersonal relationships.

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"Do not pay attention to every word people say, or you may hear your servant cursing you—for you know in your heart that many times you yourself have cursed others" (Ecclesiastes 7:21,22).

Several weeks ago I made a call to speak to a man in one of the companies we serve. The receptionist who answered the phone told me he was out of the office. Thinking I was speaking to the woman who has a small pet pig I asked, "How's Porkie?" She answered, "I'm fine". Not knowing why she would say that I immediately clarified that I was asking about her pig and found out I had the wrong person! However her name sounded similar to Porkie (Courtney) so she had merely misunderstood me. Thankfully it was quickly cleared up without the individual being offended.

In this age of increasing outrage over just about anything, some people take offense over the slightest misunderstanding or sometimes just a difference of opinion. With words like "trigger", "microaggression" and "safe spaces" being bantered about in many circles, patience, forbearance and reasonableness are diminishing virtues. Thankfully in my phone conversation I didn't deal with some young social justice warrior that sought to make a mountain out of a mole hill by using my unintentional faux pas as an excuse to get me into trouble!

Years ago my older brother Mike went through this. He was a cable car operator in San Francisco. If you ever rode a cable car you just might have ridden with Mike! Cable cars are a popular tourist attraction and can be very crowded with people inevitably bumping into each other similar to riding a crowded subway. Once my brother was threatened with a disciplinary issue because a lady claimed he had inappropriately touched her. The issue was reported several days after it happened and he had no idea what he had done but surmised he might have inadvertently bumped up against her. Thankfully the issue did not result in consequences to Mike's job but for some time it sure caused him a lot of personal stress.

We made a point in yesterday's message that many now feel they have a right to a job that protects them from being offended by anything, even the slightest matter, that they may now or in the future find offensive. Following our church service on Sunday we talked to a longtime friend, Tim, who shared with us about the sensitivity training he had to submit to in his secular employment, including the threat of getting written up concerning any perceived offense. He spoke of the stress he endured when another employee had threatened to have him written up based upon the offense she had taken to a conversation she overheard between Tim and another employee. Now we've known Tim for over 15 years and we are quite sure he didn't say anything wrong but in today's culture merely saying something Biblically correct but politically incorrect can get you into trouble!

There are a number of Scriptural principles that address this matter such as patience, forbearance and grace. In studying for this message I came across today's rather obscure text that I don't recall ever giving consideration to before but it sure speaks to the matter:
"Do not pay attention to every word people say, or you may hear your servant cursing you—for you know in your heart that many times you yourself have cursed others" (Ecclesiastes 7:21,22).

The first part of the verse addresses the tendency to be easily offended.
"Do not pay attention to every word people say". Apparently going back at least to Solomon's time people said a lot. Now social media is full of what people say and once it's said it may spread like wildfire, often getting embellished along the way. It seems like our world is full of people being outraged about this or that.

"Or you may hear your servant cursing you." That would sure be offensive and hurt wouldn't it! But the same principle would apply to "you may hear something you misunderstand", "you may hear something you disagree with" or "you may hear something that may hurt your feelings".

The latter part of the verse is something we all do well to consider,
"for you know in your heart that many times you yourself have cursed others." Does that sting a little bit... or a lot? It sure does for me. Again the same principle would apply to the many times you yourself "said something others misunderstood", "said something others disagreed with" or "said something that may have hurt others' feelings".

Giving consideration to this verse can be helpful in restoring reasonableness to human interaction, in the family, church, at work and in general. We need to consider the words of Jesus who admonished the judging crowd with His unexpected declaration, "He who is without sin cast the first stone".

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying manDaily prayer: Father, the old saying "sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never hurt me" could not be further from the truth. The words we speak and the body language we use can either build people up or tear them down. That's why we must not let unwholesome talk come out of our mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. Help us to be kind and compassionate, forgiving each other, just as in Christ, You chose to forgive us. Help us to be careful in not carrying a chip on our shoulder, or look for fault in others. We want to be careful to give the benefit of the doubt. We want to live a life of love just as You loved us. In Christ's name we pray. Amen.

See Ephesians 4:29, 32

Several additional considerations on offending and being offended:

1) Of course this message should not be construed as an excuse to bully or intentionally offend others.

2) All through life I have been insulted and/or offended. I think this has been virtually everyone’s experience. Sometimes the insults were intentional and mean, but most of the times unintentional, a misunderstanding.

3) And I have also insulted and/or offended others. I also think this has been virtually everyone’s experience (to use the phrase in today's Scripture, we "know in our heart"). Most of the time these insults and offenses to others have been unintentional, or likely a misunderstanding. But frankly,
especially in my pre-conversion days, I look back and see that I was intentionally mean at times, such as getting a laugh at someone else's expense. In some cases I have sought forgiveness from those I hurt, in other cases such as a lost contact I must leave it in the Lord's hands.

4) Now "being offended" can be used to silence those with whom you disagree and if lawyers get involved can be a potential source of big money.

5) An example of reasonableness and grace. Several weeks ago I had a conversation with a friend who had a deep loss several years ago when he lost a grandson in an accident involving a drunk driver. He was sharing with me about a recent family vacation and showed me a family photo and looking at it I inquired concerning his son "and that's ______" accidentally mentioning his deceased grandson. I immediately clarified and thankfully, but not surprisingly, experienced the gift of reasonableness and grace. He knew I wasn't being intentionally insensitive, I simply had confused his grandson's names.

Today's Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources

"Found In You"  Video  Paul Baloche We enjoyed this song used in our church service this last Lord's Day.

"Chain Breaker
"  Video  Zach Williams

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Scripture references are from The Holy Bible: New International Version. © 1984 by International Bible Society; NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1995 by The Lockman Foundation, New King James Version (NKJV) Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. and the King James Version.

Personal Mission Statement: "I am created by God to bring Him glory. Through God's Son Jesus Christ I have been redeemed and make it my life's goal to please the Lord. My mission in life is to honor God through my faith and obedience and prepare myself and all whom I may influence for eternity."

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