“Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure. Do all things without complaining and disputing…” (Philippians 2:12-14).
For the past couple of years God has been working something into my soul which is beginning to gel into a nugget of truth. It has to do with offense, or being offended. We have become a culture of offense—so easily offended by the least perceived slight against our delicate feelings that we no longer have a sense of humor about anything.
Watching a talk show recently where women were offering their opinions on Gov. Romney’s statement about his “binder of women” (a remark that had been grossly taken out of its original context), all of the women being interviewed remarked about how offended they were by this comment. I wondered as I watched, how did we become a nation of easily offended people?
Taking the Offense to God
Around six years ago God began to turn this subject around in my mind, revealing all of its facets as He exposed the dark crevices where it hides. He seemed to want to bring me to a place where I no longer wore any of my feelings on my sleeve. Michael Wells says it best: “We must learn to be offended until the thing that offends us is offended to death.”
What is the thing in me that is easily offended and what is that thing that offends me?
Offense is Pride in Disguise
This is what God showed me: The thing in me that is easily offended is simply my pride. When I am offended, it is usually my pride that is offended. And so, the thing in me that gets offended is pride and that is the thing that must be offended until it is offended to death which simply means recognizing the offense immediately as pride and putting it to death.
Exposing the Root Rot of Offense
So began the painstaking process of recognizing my tendency to take offense, and then to hold that offense up to the light of Jesus Christ viewing it honestly through His lens, and then taking the offense captive in obedience to Christ every single time I felt offended. This kind of process is what I believe is meant by “working out your salvation (sanctification) with fear and trembling.” And of course we must not fail to quote the rest of that passage, “for it is God who works in you to will and to do of His good pleasure.” This is something we cannot will or do ourselves—it must be God who does the work of tearing down these long held strongholds of pride and unbelief. Our job is simply to recognize them as He reveals them, not to defend the attitude of pride or make excuses for it, simply consenting to allow Him to tear them down.
Michael Wells taught that at the root of every one of our fleshly behavior patterns lies either pride or unbelief or both. Most of my issues in my life have unbelief at the root. Offense however, definitely has pride at its root and pride itself is a great offense to God, so it is something worth my while to allow Him to reveal, expose and heal. He want to expose and heal these things because it is His good pleasure to do so. And I want what pleases Him, more than I want what pleases me.