A few questions: Have you ever been offended? Have you ever caused offence? Are you offended now? Do you have a growing feeling you might be offended by the end of this message?
The last couple of times Pastor Dave shared with us he addressed the whole issue of the formation of Christ in our heart. We were reminded of this core truth: the final and ultimate proof that Christ is formed in us is an unoffendable heart. We all gasped for our next breath and then went on our way. But we can’t just “go on our way” from this kind of core truth; we need to keep it in front of us and allow it to deal with our hearts.
The central point I took away from Pastor Dave’s teaching is: To the extent that Christ is formed in me – to that same measure my heart will be beyond offence.
One more question before coming to our scripture reference: Is your heart easily offended?
Scripture Reading:Proverbs 18:19 -A brother offended is harder to be won than a strong city; And contentions are like the bars of a citadel.
Growing up in the church I heard this scripture used exclusively as a warning and rebuke concerning the offender. A brother offended is harder to be won than a strong city; so for goodness sake don’t ever offend a brother. This proverb is not addressed to any offender – in fact it doesn’t even suggest there is an offender.
That is the first truth we need to understand here: It is possible to have a heart of offence when there is no actual offender. This proverb is dealing with that scenario; that reality. It is addressed entirely to the offended brother, and it tells us why he is offended and what the consequences of that condition of offence are.
When I sense the first stirrings of offense in my heart I ask a question – not to the one whom I may think has offended me, but to my own heart: Why am I feeling what I am feeling right now; why am I offended? What I find every time without exception is that my heart’s offence cannot finally be explained or accounted for by things external to me but rather by things I allow to live in my heart.
To understand why this brother is offended we need to look at the definition of the Hebrew word that is translated offended in our English Bibles.
The core idea of the root is a breach of relationships between two parties in which there is a casting off of allegiance, and thus rebellion against rulers; it has to do with ‘rejection of authority’. A final note on this Old Testament word – and please hear this carefully – ‘offended, i.e., pertaining to being angry or indignant and so holding a grudge, as an extension of the meaning of being in open revolt against authority.’
When we move ahead to the New Testament Greek the meaning of this word ‘offence’ becomes more poignant and aggressive: ‘to rise up in open defiance of authority with the intention to overthrow it or to act in complete opposition to its demands; i.e. to rebel, to revolt.’ And finally listen to this: ‘rebellion against authority with a special focus upon verbal opposition.’
Based on the definition of this one word we now know why the brother in Proverbs 18 is offended. It has nothing to do with things external to him such as the people around him. It has to do with his heart. And the particular heart issue that makes this brother always vulnerable to offence is his view of authority and how he relates (or fails to relate) to it.
Christ is calling us to an unoffendable heart. Proverbs 18:19 is giving us a picture of a highly offendable heart. And at the core of this highly offendable heart are serious authority issues. The reason I am presenting this today is because of my conviction that the journey into the unoffendable heart requires that I honestly assess and deal with my offendable heart.
This much I do know – there are people who live in a perpetual state of offence; offended by everything and everybody. They go through life looking for something to be offended about or to take up the offences of others. The second thing I know is this: if you dig deep enough you will discover there is an unhealthy view of authority.
We now know why the brother of Proverbs 18:19 is offended. Let us now consider the consequence of living in that state of perpetual offence. It is found in this part of the text: And contentions are like the bars of a citadel.And again, it’s all in the definition of a single word.
Note the picture that the proverb gives us: ‘the bars of a citadel.’
This highly offendable brother of Proverbs 18:19 is hidden away in a strong citadel where he is locked up behind bars. The strong citadel or fortress is his own heart and the bars he is locked away behind are the attitudes he allows and protects.
The explanation of how this citadel with its bars is built as well as what it is that keeps this brother in that place of separation is found in the definition of this word: contentions: to crush by pounding or beating; also a crushing, oppressive weight.
To live in this place of offence sets up an attitude of contention within the soul. This means that no matter what you try to do for this brother he beats and pounds and crushes it until the effort is lost and buried beneath the oppressive weight of that contentious attitude. And every time he does this he adds one more bar to his citadel, his fortress, his prison.
Questions to ponder:
How approachable are you? Are you easily entreated? Do people want to be around you? Do you prefer to be alone? Do you tend to see what’s wrong or what’s right in people and situations? Do you tend to be lonely, fearful, angry, protective and defensive? Do you have to have the last word?
How teachable are you? Is it easy to direct you? How do you receive counsel and instruction? Do you welcome accountability? How well do you work in a team situation?
Is there an edge to your attitude? Are you easy to work with or do people feel like they are walking on egg shells? Even when you agree to do something do you still have to make a point, throw a little jab, a little dig, a little barb – even in the form of humour? Do you feel threatened by constructive criticism? Do you need to be in control?
How well do you do with rules? How easy is it for you to trust?
The difference between the Proverbs 18 heart and the Jesus heart comes down to one word: reconciliation. To the extent that our heart is relationally reconcilable we are demonstrating the heart of Christ. To the extent that my heart is irreconcilable I am demonstrating the Proverbs 18 heart.