We've started a study in one of my small groups, The Bait of Satan, by John Bevere (same guy as "A Heart Ablaze"). He covers the subject of offense - being offended and being the offender. Well - 2 chapters into it and I'm not completely convinced. He makes some good points - but fails to have balance - at least so far.
He talks about Jesus' attitude of forgiveness from Matthew, "In My greatest hour of need, My closest friends deserted Me. Judas betrayed Me, Peter denied Me, and the rest fled for their lives. Only John followed from afar. I had cared for them for over three years, feeding them and teaching them. Yet as I died for the sins of the world, I forgave. I released all of them - from My friends who had deserted Me to the Roman guard who had crucified Me. They didn't ask for forgiveness, yet I Freely gave it. I had faith in the Father's love...I knew that because I had sown love I would reap love from many sons and daughters of the kingdom. Because of My sacrifice of love, they would love Me..."
Bevere goes on to talk from his own experience of sowing love - that the love he was giving was being sown to the Spirit, eventually reaping the seeds of love. And not seeing it as a failure when love wasn't returned from the person he was giving it to. He states, "If more Christians recognized this, they wouldn't give up and become offended...We walk in a selfish love that is easily disappointed when our expectations are not met...We set ourselves up for offense when we require certain behaviors from those with whom we have relationships. The more we expect, the greater the potential offense."
Ok - I can somewhat agree with the "more we expect..." aspect. However, to infer that Jesus has no expectations of us I believe is wrong. First - He already knows the outcome. He KNEW what everyone around Him was going to do. How HARD would that be to go through on a daily basis -- to live in a perpetual deja vu state is as close as I could imagine. He already KNEW to not have expectations of us. Second - He knows we can't do it alone. We have to come to Him, accept Him as Savior of our lives and be given the gift of the Holy Spirit to even try to walk right. Third - He does have expectations of us...to accept Him and His forgiveness, to turn from our sins ("go and sin no more"), to become more like Him in our sanctification process, to have a relationship with Him first and foremost in our lives, to love others as ourselves, etc. There are expectations in that. So I'll take his point a step further - when we don't do what Jesus expects, are we offending Him? Or because, as John Bevere believes, Jesus has no expectations of us he is not offended, but cherishes anything He can get? Personally, I've discovered that Jesus wants ALL of me - not just what he can get. And I believe he was sad long ago because I have at times set Him aside in my life. Of course He loves us unconditionally - He proved that on the cross. But loving unconditionally does not mean He doesn't get disappointed at times with me or that He doesn't have expectations for me to live out.
Bevere goes on to another point that has no balance: when we're offended we build walls of protection. "The focus of offended Christians is inward and introspective. We guard our rights and personal relationships carefully. Our energy is consumed with making sure no future injuries will occur. If we don't risk being hurt, we cannot give unconditional love. Unconditional love gives others the right to hurt us." And by building walls, deception can creep in, and he goes on to talk about believing false prophets.
Ok - yes, I have built my fair share of walls in life. However, I have worked with the Holy Spirit to break those down. I think my self-esteem is the last frontier... But what about a healing process? I've also being reading some writings of Cloud & Townsend, "Safe People," and Dr. Cloud's "Changes that Heal." These fellas are all about the healing process. They also wrote the "Boundaries" series. What these guys write conflicts with Bevere's opinion (at least so far since Bevere doesn't really talk about healing from hurt). I brought this up in our group -- is there a difference between setting a boundary for healing and building a wall?
I've recently gone through some relationship challenges. And I admit, before the main confrontation event of one experience, I had expectations of being accepted, being invited, being involved, being a part of the group. After the "meeting" I've set some boundaries. I've sacrificed what I thought was a pretty good friendship because I don't want to bring someone else down by my reaching out too much for acceptance (beware: sometimes that's offensive to others). And I've tried to not have expectations of being accepted, involved, etc... But the hurt is still there. Forgiveness is not even an issue. That was granted on all parties I believe, at least I know on my part it has been. I love these people too much not to. But healing is a process - and when someone is being healed, they need to BE LOVED because GIVING LOVE is not going to come out right. It's almost as if your cup o'luv is empty and you need some help filling it back up. (Jesus is good for that - in spades!) But because I am not an all-knowing, all-loving deity, I have to have a healing process before the unconditional love concept can kick in.
When Bevere states that "unconditional love gives others the right to hurt us..." to me that's just crazy. No one should have the RIGHT to hurt you. Unconditional loves opens us up to being hurt, yes...but no one should be given the RIGHT to hurt someone.
Have I reached out since the meeting? Not to those involved, but I have to others. My boundary is that if those who had issues with me do not want to have relationship with me - that's their choice. But I know my need for bonding with others is vital to get through this earthly life while living alone, and I will continue to reach out. If I get my hand slapped, so be it.
Thank God for Jesus. Thank God Almighty for the absolute truth of Jesus, His love, His sacrifice on the cross for my sins, His forgiveness, His giving me the RIGHT to be His child when I accepted Him. Praise the Lord Most High for His grace (which I do not deserve), His Long-suffering with me, the gift of the Holy Spirit that fills me and helps me heal. And someday I will be able to come boldly with fear and trembling before the throne to be made perfect for eternity. My only expectation then is to praise the Creator of the Universe with all those other sinners-made-perfect. No more hurting, no need for healing, no need for boundaries or walls...living in the truest form of relationship with Him. Yeah!