We live in an “Age of Offense.” While taking offense has always been part of our human DNA, today’s culture (including many of us) has placed narrowly defined personal “rights” and interests on an unprecedented pedestal. This self-interest idolatry is a destructive toxin which divides peoples and sabotages healthy and respectful relationships across a diverse set of people and ideas. We see the impacts across our land whether it be the need for safe spaces, trigger warnings, and the creation of an ever changing “microaggression” landscape. Which redefined word is offensive today? What will it be tomorrow?
What is the practical spiritual and emotional reflex that allows us to navigate this current “Age of Offense” and to maintain a healthy and resilient lifestyle? Simply put, we must learn to “Flee the Spirit of Offense.” The Bible has a lot to say about this. Let’s dive in:
Why “fleeing?” My mind turns to the story of Joseph, when trapped and tempted by Potiphar’s wife. It was not enough to politely say “No”, nor was it sufficient to simply walk away. He had to flee, even without his garments, to break the enticement of that temptation. Or consider Lot’s wife. While fleeing from Sodom & Gomorrah, she quit “fleeing” and looked back, an act of disobedience resulting in eternal condemnation as a pillar of salt. Hence, there are times when we should actively, aggressively, with all our might, flee temptation. As the scriptures admonish:
But flee from these things, you man of God, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness.“ ~ 1 Timothy 6:11
Yes, we should flee those things that disturb our fellowship with God and with our fellow man. One of the subtle temptations we all face is to entertain a “Spirit of Offense.” Although very subtle, such a mindset certainly disrupts personal peace and collective unity. Hence, this is a situation, an attitude, a mindset, a spirit we should flee from. First of all, what is a Spirit of Offense? How does it manifest itself?
- James 1:19 says “Be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.” A Spirit of Offense is the opposite of a James 1:19 mindset: A Spirit of Offense is quick to speak (including rumors), slow to listen (including not hearing the positive aspects about others), and quick to become angry (or offended).
- Being “quick to take offense” often occurs
o Without all the facts
o On the word of a third party, or a rumor
o On behalf of another who may not be offended at all
Usually accompanied by rumors and “whisperings” (gossip)
o “What dainty morsels rumors are- but they sink deep into one’s heart.” (Proverbs 18:8, NLB)
o “They visit me as if they are my friends, but all the while they gather gossip, and when they leave, they spread it everywhere.” (Ps 41:6, NLB)
o “Then when you call, the Lord will answer. ‘Yes, I am here,’ he will quickly reply. “Stop oppressing the helpless and stop making false accusations and spreading vicious rumors!”
o “Do all things without murmuring and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world.” (Philippians 2:14,15; NKJV)
o This makes for a very illuminating topic study. There are many more references which illumine God’s thoughts about rumor, gossip, and “whisperings.”
Sometimes motivated by “selfish ambition and conceit:”
o “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves;” ~Philippians 2:3
What are the results of such a Spirit of Offense?
Disrupts unity, love, trust & confidence
Produces organizational and interpersonal tension, and “mini-crises”
Saps energy, enthusiasm, and focus
Results in long term roots of bitterness and “emotional cutoffs”
What are some ways to remedy a Spirit of Offense?
Recognize that this is WAR. Satan prowls, seeking to devour. If he can’t nail us on the big things, he’ll try more subtle approaches. Hence, the Armor of God (Ephesians 6) is critical for protection and sensitivity to the subtle, but pernicious Spirit of Offense.
A military maxim says “The first report is always wrong.” Hence, don’t jump to conclusions.
O Develop heightened sensitivity to negative input about others…don’t just accept at face value.
O Assume the best about a brother or sister…grant a gracious “benefit of the doubt.”
Don’t entertain or overly empathize with grievances expressed by another that should rightly be discussed in supervisory channels.
Resolve interpersonal issues scripturally
Exercise accountability regarding rumors and gossip. Work hard to keep oneself in check, and lovingly remind others as appropriate.
Leadership makes a difference! When leading, model a culture of grace and communication. Systemic information flow often eliminates the information vacuum in which rumors abound.
As Paul exhorts in Phillipians 4:8, “Fix your thoughts (attitudes) on what is true and honorable and right. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.” No doubt this also pertains to our words, as well as our responses to the words of others.
No doubt many reading this can add other rationale, and provide additional scriptural underpinnings. And… many model right behavior in this regard. As a bottom line, however, I encourage you to join me in renewed efforts to personally flee from such a Spirit of Offense in our lives. And may we together rebuke this trick of Satan as we proclaim the name of Jesus and as we walk in the power of the Holy Spirit. May God truly bless our application of these important truths as we seek to be “doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.” (James 1:22, KJV)
“Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.”
(James 1:19, NLB)
Respectfully in Christ,