Sustaining Relationships

1. It is All About Relationships

Jesus summed up the entire law as “Love God .. love neighbor” (Matthew 22:36-40). So we know that it is all about relationships. Yet, we see broken relationships all around us – in our families, offices, churches, social groups. It is sometimes convenient to retreat and say that we love God in our hearts and that is enough – as if that would excuse us from having to deal with people around us.

God’s word reminds us repeatedly that we cannot love God without also loving the people that He created. The two are inseparable.

1 John 4:20 says, “Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar.”

So we need to do all we can, to keep our relationships proper.

2. The ONE thing that damages relationships

We all have people with who we once had a good relationship, but no longer. There seems to be one ingredient in all cases of broken relationships – taking offense. One or both parties feel offended at something the other has said or done. In this article, we will see some of the things that Jesus said on the issue of offending others and taking offense.

We will use Luke 17:1-10 for this study.

3. Offending Others

We all must have offended people at different times, knowingly or unknowingly. As imperfect people, we all have certain offensive tendencies to varying degrees- like a tendency to be arrogant, egotistical attitude, gossiping behind people’s backs, a lack of empathy, being quick to accuse, being quick to misinterpret and misrepresent, etc.

We wouldn’t be offending others if we have the fruit of the Spirit listed in Galatians 5:22-23“the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”

Better not be that one who offends people. Luke 17:1-2 “Then He said to the disciples, “It is impossible that no offenses should come, but woe to him through whom they do come! 2 It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were thrown into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones.”

Some people take offense at the message of Jesus and the cross. We are not talking that. We are talking about unnecessary offense or hurt.

4. Taking Offence

Just as some people tend to offend others a lot, there are those who take offense easily. This tendency to take offense easily is as problematic. Offended people tend to offend others and it becomes a vicious cycle. Both the offenders and the offended contribute to a toxic environment and cause obstacles to our goal of bringing glory to God. So it is important we address the issue.

We live in a world where people will offend (intentional or otherwise). It is inevitable. People will offer you offense, but you don’t have to take offense. It is optional. To refuse to be offended seems to be the right, honorable, wise and biblical way. To be like Jesus, we have to learn how not to take offense when offered.

One can be rightly outraged against sin or on behalf of injustice done to others. We are not talking about that. We are talking about the feeling of being personally wronged.

5. Unfair Or Unwise

To take offense is either unfair or unwise.  To take offense when the person did not mean to offend is unfair and small-minded.  On the other hand, if the offense is intentional, it will be unwise to give in to the offender what he wanted.

Rightly dealing with an offense is a matter of wisdom and control of one’s spirit. If we do not have control of our feelings and anger, we are like a city without walls – vulnerable to invasion, no defense and will be ruled by others.

Proverbs 19:11 “A person’s wisdom yields patience; it is to one’s glory to overlook an offense.”

Proverbs 16:32 “Better a patient person than a warrior, one with self-control than one who takes a city.

Proverbs 25:28 “Like a city whose walls are broken through is a person who lacks self-control.”

6. When there is an Offence

Jesus continues in Luke 17:3-4 “Take heed to yourselves. If your brother sins against you, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. And if he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times in a day returns to you, saying, ‘I repent,’ you shall forgive him.”

6.1. Unconditional Forgiveness

Mark 11:25 25 points out “When you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.”

So basically Jesus’s command is to forgive in our hearts unilaterally and unconditionally – even when the offender is not interested.

This is not about apathy, but about love. Jesus, says in Matthew 5:44-48“Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven ..”.

This is not the same as being gullible either. One can forgive in the heart and yet be cautious and wise as needed (Matthew 10:16). We leave justice in the hands of God (Romans 12:19).

6.2. Keep No Record

Some of us tend to keep a record of all the offenses. That is not a healthy state of mind. Certainly not a Christian state of mind. Healthy minds remember positive things and drop off negative things.

As Jesus said, even if it repeats 7 times in one day, we should still forgive. We should not be carrying the grudge/resentment from previous occasions. In 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, we are reminded that love, among other things, “keeps no record of wrongs”.

6.3. Rebuke and Restore

There is also an aspect is confronting, rebuking, getting the offender to repent (or clarify a misunderstanding) – this is for the restoration of trust and relationship. This is bilateral and mutual. The foundation of any relationship is mutual trust.

Rebuking does not mean lashing out in antagonism. Galatians 6:1 tells us to restore “in a spirit of gentleness”.

7. Faith – High view of God

Jesus presented the challenge to the disciples to forgive even if it is 7 times in a day. The disciples ask Jesus, “Increase our faith.” (Luke 17:5).  Jesus replies in Luke 17:6: “If you have faith as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be pulled up by the roots and be planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.”

Jesus seems to be saying that the ability to not take offense and to be able to forgive is possible through faith. Faith is nothing but having a high opinion of God as reliable and in sovereign control.

As Romans 8:28 says, “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose”.

Joseph’s own brothers sold him. He went to prison on false accusations. Yet, he says in Genesis 50:19: “Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”

God is in sovereign control for our ultimate good. No one can touch us unless God permits. We don’t seem to have such faith or a high view of God. That is why we take offense.

8. Our Servanthood

Jesus continues to explain in Luke 17: 7-10 that we should be having the attitude of a servant: “..when you have done all those things which you are commanded, say, ‘We are unprofitable servants. We have done what was our duty to do.’ “

We are God’s servants, only doing what we should – nothing to be congratulated for nor nothing to be offended about. As sinners, we deserve to be punished. So in the final analysis, what can be worse than what we deserve? True, that God has adopted us as His children and as co-heirs with Christ, but He gave that as a free gift – not something we deserved.

We forget that we are servants. We forget what we actually deserve. That is why we are egoistical, arrogant and complain about others.

9. Conclusion

The cure to not take offense is having a high opinion of God and recognition of our place as servants. This is the solution to our relationship problems. 

If we refuse to take offense, our marriages, families, churches, communities will be better, as God intended.

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