Monday, April 16, 2012

Bear the Burden, Not the Offense

My children go to bed at 7pm, and Easter Sunday was no different. At 6pm my son decided to tell me (for the first time) about a project due Monday regarding a half page summary on a chapter book he was supposed to read before spring break (which was a month ago). Imagine my delight. {Can you feel the sarcasm?}

So, with very little time to read a book AND write a summary, I decided that the book of Jonah would suffice. It was short and had chapters. Score! We read it; I paraphrased it. He wrote it. Then I re-read it again and pondered a story that I thought I knew front and back…until I got to Chapter 4. Gotta love fresh revelation.

Did you know that Jonah got angry at God for having mercy on the people of Nineveh when He didn’t smite them after Jonah {finally} warned them that He would? God asked him to do something, but then Jonah got offended when the outcome wasn’t what he thought it should be. God proceeds to call him out and asks what right he has to be angry and offended. THEN Jonah gets mad again and runs off to pout! So, God allowed a leafy plant to sprout up to provide him with shade from the scorching sun (while he pouted), but turned around the next day only to have a worm kill it. Jonah was furious now.

Here’s the teaching opportunity. In God’s conversation with Jonah, He says this: “Is it right for you to be angry about the plant? …You have been concerned about this plant, though you did not tend it or make it grow…” (Jonah 4:9-10 NIV). Jonah was offended about things that were not his concern. How many times have we gotten upset by something that we either: A) didn’t have all the facts about or B) didn’t concern us?

Whether it be church, job, school or otherwise, I can recall several instances regarding outcomes that I didn’t like or just didn’t seem fair. But the biggest lesson that I have learned over the years is not to let someone else’s offense become my offense. I guess you could call it a “sympathetic offense.” It kind of reminds me of the “sympathy weight” that a husband gains when his wife is pregnant. A lot of times we take on these offenses and don’t even realize it, or we take them on subconsciously hoping that this proves our loyalty to someone or something. {Ouch}

I am all for supporting a friend in time of need or helping carry a burden that is too heavy for them to manage alone, but there is a BIG difference in carrying one’s burden vs. carrying one’s offense. A burden is carried out of love for one another, but an offense is carried out of selfishness and rooted in bitterness. I can find several Scriptures on carrying one’s burdens (for instance, Gal. 6:2), but not one on bearing another’s offense. The Bible DOES, however, provide instruction on HOW to be a good friend through a difficult time, but it also provides very stern warnings on gossip. That is a fine line that you do not want to cross. Remember, bear the burden, not the offense.

A lot of times, we take on the hurt of a friend or co-worker and spread it because deep down we want others to know that we are hurt because someone hurt our friend. Gossip is sharing information or ideas about someone to someone who is not part of the problem or the solution regardless of the validity or positive/negative impact of the statement. Below are a few important references to note with regards to repeating what you hear:

Proverbs 17:9
Whoever would foster love covers over an offense, but whoever repeats the matter separates close friends.
Ephesians 4:29
Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.
Titus 3:2
…To speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people.
James 4:11
Do not speak evil against one another, brothers. The one who speaks against a brother or judges his brother speaks evil against the law and judges the law.

NOW, if you are the one rightfully offended, here’s my POV. {This should probably be listed as a “part 2”, but oh, well}. Obviously, God created us as humans, and He knew we would experience hurt and offense. Yet as Christians, we are raised that the word “offense” is complete taboo, that you have a “choice” and apparently are supposed to be happy all the time without expressing any hurt or feelings. I only slightly agree with that, but before the religious people start throwing stones, let me explain. Offense is normal and hurt is a part of life. It’s gonna happen. BUT the VICTORY lies in the RESPONSE. Some “offense” can actually be good according to 2 Cor. 7:8. “Even if I caused you sorrow by my letter, I do not regret it…I see that my letter hurt you, but only for a little while… yet now I am happy, not because you were made sorry, but because your sorrow led you to repentance. For you became sorrowful as God intended and so were not harmed in any way by us.” This is usually done as a form of discipline by someone placed in authority to invoke change. We could go so many different directions with this, but since this blog is not about justifying an offense, let’s not get sidetracked.

More often than not, an offense has the capability to become a nasty beast (Prov. 18:19) if we are not poised with the proper attitude and response to combat it. Thank God He gave us a “guide to life” that teaches us practical concepts when dealing with hurt. Take a look:

Matthew 18:15-17
If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses…
Colossians 3:13
Bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.
Proverbs 19:11
A person’s wisdom yields patience; it is to one’s glory to overlook an offense.

All this to say…God doesn’t expect us to be perfect or to handle every situation perfectly, but he does expect us to respond according to His teachings even when we don’t understand His reasoning. The story of Jonah isn’t just about getting swallowed by a big fish. He carried an offense that wasn’t his to bear. I hope that you have enjoyed this very lengthy “whale” of a blog! LOL! Thanks for reading!

So, in essence: Bear the burden, not the offense. Don’t gossip and choose forgiveness.