As a teenager in church, I watched as my pastor preached and a man and his wife were so offended by the Pastor’s message that they got up from their padded pew, during his sermon, gathering their belongings in dramatic fashion, and huffed and puffed down the aisle and out the back door. They were offended and everyone knew it!
Wherever there are people, whether in secular or sacred venues, there will be offenses. Jesus said “Offenses will come.” (Luke 17:1)
Husbands and wives get offended at each other. Brothers and sisters fight and get offended. Whether it’s in the church, the home, or even the workplace, the people who are supposed to be unified and working harmoniously are often found feuding and offended at each other. However, for Christians, these things ought not so to be.
In the Bible, “offenses” are defined as “things that cause us to stumble.” Offenses are relational or theological scandals that inhibit us from being in a right relationship with God, and in a right relationship with others.
Euodias & Syntyche were offended at each other in Philippians 4.
Paul kindly rebukes them and tells them to “be of the same mind.” He is saying, “Ladies, get along! Harmony and unity should describe you ladies, not foolish feuding and quarrelsome offense!”
Notice that Paul never weighs in on the details of the feud. He never picks a side, because it doesn’t matter! Instead, he does something much wiser. He reminds these ladies how to get over their offense by having a heavenly perspective. Did you notice that I said, “he reminds them?” After all, these were ladies who had previously “labored with Paul in the gospel.”
They had previously had a heavenly perspective, but are now sidetracked with an earthly, temporal perspective.
Paul’s instruction to them essentially trivializes their offense at each other while at the same time, Paul emphasizes to them the big picture! He tells these Christian women, and the entire Philippian church, to do essentially 4 things.
“Rejoice in the Lord” - (4:4) - After all, Jesus has done so much for you. He tells Euodias and Syntyche to "Let your moderation be known unto all men," which is to say, “Control yourself.” (4:5) No yelling. No pushing and shoving. No hair pulling. No out of control nonsense. Why? Because, "The Lord is at hand," in other words, Jesus is coming again! (4:5). Then Paul basically tells them to stop worrying and start praying with a spirit of thanksgiving! (See 4:6)
Paul says, if you’ll do these 4 things, if you’ll apply this heavenly perspective to your temporal offense, Euodias and Syntyche, you will both enjoy “The peace of God which passeth all understanding” (4:7).
You can maintain that unfathomable type of peace, if you will ruminate on things that are true, honest, just, pure, lovely, and of good report. (4:8)
The implication is… Stop meditating on the exaggerated and inflammatory details of the scandal and think about Jesus because He is everything that verse 8 describes!
Then Paul explains, “I’ve done this personally! I’ve applied this to my life and it’s worked for me.” (4:9)
One of the often overlooked aspects of Paul’s ministry and spiritual success was that he understood how to overcome offenses.
He never let the offenses of life trip him up, or inhibit him from his heavenly focus. The Apostle Paul controlled the hurt, as much as possible.
There’s a difference between OBJECTIVE hurt and SUBJECTIVE hurt. When Paul was stoned at Lystra and drug outside of the city and left for dead, he was objectively hurt on a physical level!
Those specific wounds will take a specific amount of time to heal. However, when people reviled Paul, when they criticized him in a verbally insulating way, I believe that Paul understood that those words will only hurt him, as long as he lets them.
The words that people say, that so often offend us, and sometimes hurt us deeply, can either hurt us for the rest of lives … or we can dismiss the verbal nonsense, forgive the offense immediately, and only allow the hurt to offend us briefly.
Paul had a lot of haters. He had a lot of abusers. He had a lot of reasons to be offended at others but instead, his actions indicated that he never allowed these temporal offenses to cause him to stumble from fulfilling his eternal goal which was to make Christ known!
When someone offends you, you get to determine how long it hurts you.
The cliché statement, “Sticks and stones will break my bones but words/names will never hurt me,” is not fully true, words do hurt. But you have control over how bad the hurt is.
For your sake, I urge you to quickly forgive others of their offenses. Instead of living a life full of drama, and fighting, apply the Biblical principles that Paul gave to the Philippians and when you do, “the peace of God, which passeth all understanding shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”
The above article was written by James C. Johnson. He is the Pastor of NorthStone Baptist Church in Pensacola. To offer him your feedback, comment below or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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