Have you noticed all the offense taking place? It is everywhere – in the media and politics, among friends, neighbors, and even family. Everywhere. For some, it has actually become entertainment to see how one will retaliate when offended by another, and then the action is repeated in reverse order, over and over.
The more screams there are for specific ideologies to be embraced, the less tolerant and trusting society becomes. In fact, maybe you’ve noticed as I have that many who shout the loudest are the most likely ones to quickly reject anyone else – not just a rejection of another’s ideas, but a rejection of the actual person – who will not agree. Each one wants their own way regardless of the cost to anyone else. Selfishness abounds; sure sounds, from 2 Timothy 3:1-5 in action.
“But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God- having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.”
As I think about why people (including myself) react so strongly to offenses, offense often reveals our own frail identities or perceptions: 1) I’m hurt by what you have done, or by what you think, 2) I don’t know how to properly express my thoughts or feelings, and 3) I don’t trust that my point of view will be heard and valued by you, or the worst of all; 4) I will demand and get my way one or another because I am above (more valuable than) you. Out of frustration and self-preservation, people resort to manipulation, accusations, blaming, name-calling, anger, or even isolation, in attempts to control the situation or the other person.
How did society get to this boiling point?
Blame for our condition is also everywhere. Is it really the fault of electronic devices and social media that we can no longer be intellectually social? Is it the fault of the ever downward spiraling educational systems that teach more and more on tolerating – rather, requiring acceptance of everything under the sun — and less and less on academics? Maybe the parents are to blame for being too strict, for not being strict, for overprotecting, or under-protecting. It’s this political party’s fault that we’re so messed up. It’s the other party’s fault. The police’s. The President’s. How does one even begin to deal with attitudes like this?
Maybe part of the blame lies on our own shoulders – actually, I’m sure of it.
“For we… are all under sin. As it is written: “There is none righteous, no, not one; there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks after God. They have all turned aside; together they have become worthless; there is no one who does good, no, not one.” “Their throats are an open grave; with their tongues they have used deceit”; “the poison of vipers is under their lips”; “their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness.” “Their feet are swift to shed blood; destruction and misery are in their paths; and they do not know the way of peace.” “There is no fear of God before their eyes.” (Romans 3:9-18)
That pretty much sums things up!
So how do we get free, be cause-free, and keep free from offense? How can we be part of a positive difference in this world?
Consider this good advice:
“Therefore, my beloved brothers, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger,” (James 1:19).
“If it is possible, as much as it depends on you, live peaceably with all men.” (Romans 12:18)
Maybe more importantly;
“For our fight is not against flesh and blood…”
(Your struggles are not against your neighbor, your friends, your family members, even the opposing political party!)
“…but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, and against spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. (Ephesians 6:12)
How do you fight that?
“For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds, casting down imaginations and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ, and being ready to punish all disobedience when your obedience is complete.” (2 Corinthians 10:3-6)
The world is fighting with bitter words, manipulations, threats, attempts of control, character assassination, and blatant deception and lies. The Christian has DIVINE power to demolish such strongholds – anything that goes against God. That power comes by taking your own thoughts, opinions, and understandings captive and submitting them to Christ. In other words, humble yourself, hold your tongue (until the appropriate time), read and know the scriptures, and pray. The Lord who knows all things and sees all things, will give you wisdom, understanding, and guidance.
Did you catch the last part of that verse? There’s an important key there!
“…being ready to punish all disobedience, when your obedience is complete.”
Change starts with you being obedient. Put on your armor (Ephesians 6:11-18), be imitators of God (Ephesians 5:1-2), set your mind on things above and live with godly love and unity (Colossians 3:2), do not judge a matter before its time (1 Corinthians 4:5), pray continuously (1 Thessalonians 5:17).
Think about what happened in Acts 19:16-17.
“The evil spirit answered, “I know Jesus, and I know Paul, but who are you?” Then the man in whom the evil spirit was jumped on them, overpowered them, and prevailed against them, so that they fled from that house naked and wounded.”
When even those who believe in God — but are not soundly grounded in relationship with Him — try to demolish strongholds, it may very well backfire.
The body of Christ must mature. Jesus discipled His followers and sent them out, giving them authority to drive out demons, heal all kinds of illnesses, and of course, to disciple and bring people to repentance. He warned them that it would be hard and that they needed to be wise and aware (Matthew 10). Are we doing that? If we are not, it is because we are not yet mature. We do not yet fully believe or obey.
This is the time, Christians, to engage in worldly affairs and stand up for what is right. But you must be living in obedience. Then you will have the maturity and power from on high to demolish strongholds.
Fight the good fight and run the race with obedience and maturity.