By Mary Abrahamson
To most things in life there are two sides. So too with the issue of offense. Is it given or taken?
(As a little disclaimer, I’m not talking here about Biblical giving of offense, as in causing another to sin or to stumble in his or her faith.)
I’m writing here about the word offense as we use it today, in regular English. Most often when we say, “I’m offended,” we mean, “Someone made me mad or uncomfortable.” Mostly when we say, “I don’t want to cause offense,” we mean, “I don’t want anyone to be mad at me or uncomfortable because of what we say.” If we don’t like what someone says or does, we can say, “That is so offensive.” Or we can say, “I took offense at that.”
So that’s the backdrop of what follows.
I’ve been holding an unforgiving attitude in my heart regarding a Christian brother. I’ve been angry and bitter. And hurt. For several years.
And all this time, I have thought that this brother sinned against me. Or at least, if I use a milder description, I thought I was right and he was wrong.
But recently, because of … let’s call it a realignment of loyalties among one of my peer groups, … I’ve had reason to ponder anew this ersatz feud. I use the word ersatz because I have no idea if this brother even knows we’re feuding. Really. Several years ago, over the course of a year or two, I had several heated disagreements with this brother. I had come to consider myself his arch-enemy. Note, I don’t consider him my arch enemy. From my perspective, he is simply an annoyance. But somehow, I consider myself his nemesis.
Ok, back up, Mary. How can you be an enemy of a Christian brother and be carrying on an ongoing feud with him and yet he might not even know about it?
Ahhhh, let me explain. This is one of those online Lutheran acquaintances. Those strange friendships if friendships they are, that are somewhat beyond the previously held norm for friendship and other casual interaction.
The plot thickens.
In my head I had elevated these online arguments and strong disagreements to such a strong level of import that I really assumed that I was the arch enemy of this online brother. And in my head (that warren of sinful notions and convoluted emotions) I was frightened that this war would run over into other relationships, the real live ones, and that my relationship with real live people would be tainted because of the poison of this war.
Am I far enough off the subject?
To put it concisely, I had taken offense. I had held a grudge against this Christian brother because he hurt my feelings. He made me mad. Oh, yes, it was not just once. It was mostly every time we had reason to exchange words. We always disagreed. Strongly.
And all this time I blamed him. He was the one who was arrogant. He was the one who used harsh words and pejorative terms. He was the one who was unbending in forcing his ideals onto others.
“This is all HIS fault not mine!!!” every ounce of me screamed every time I heard or saw his name.
That is the history. Now let’s look at this from two sides.
“He made me mad.” or “I got mad.”
“He used pejorative terms.” or “I took his words as an insult.”
“He was unbending.” or “I didn’t agree with those things on which he took a firm stand.”
We are back to the giving and the taking of offense. I had felt offended by my brother. And therefor assumed he caused the offense.
For all of this several years, I had assumed that this brother sinned against me.
And not we get to the waxing of bones.
And I had held a grudge. Fear had crept into my writings and conversations. My confidence had eroded. My bones had waxed old.
Without realizing it, for all these things I blamed this Christian brother.
All this, until when I most recently was scared of losing real life strong and core friendships because of this.
And so with King David in Psalm 32, I confess my sin. And God has forgiven the iniquity of my sin.
1 Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven,
whose sin is covered.
2 Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity,
and in whose spirit there is no deceit.
3 For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away
through my groaning all day long.
4 For day and night your hand was heavy upon me;
my strength was dried up[b] as by the heat of summer. Selah
5 I acknowledged my sin to you,
and I did not cover my iniquity;
I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,”
and you forgave the iniquity of my sin. Selah
6 Therefore let everyone who is godly
offer prayer to you at a time when you may be found;
surely in the rush of great waters,
they shall not reach him.