Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Taking on the Offense of Others

     Have you ever been caught in the middle of two warring factions?  It is not often a pretty sight, and the worst part is that we can get caught up in it to the point that we are unable to lend true encouragement to either side should they ask us.  Furthermore, we may end up siding with one person in the dispute.  If this happens, it can lead to bitterness towards a brother/sister in Christ.  Taking on another person's offense only leads to heartache both for the person wounded and the one who has come along side.
     Certainly, as Christians, we want to encourage a brother or sister who is hurting.  God has called us to minister to one another.  However, the danger is that we can go from helping to judging the person who caused the pain when we may not have all the information.  After all, there are always two sides to every story.  None of us is sinless in any disagreement.  What we need to recognize is the sovereignty of God in every situation.
     For example, God may be using a disagreement between two people to bring about growth in one or both people.  He sees things from an entirely different perspective than we do.  His viewpoint is free from the tunnel vision that we have as creatures bound by space and time.  He also knows the beginning and the end of a matter.  There are been several times in my own life when I felt devastated over broken relationships, but always I recalled the verse of Jeremiah 29:11:  "For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope."
I cannot even fathom the things God has planned for me, and I am certain you cannot either.  Therefore, we need to place our trust in Him for an outcome far better than we ever imagined.  If we throw ourselves into the middle of a conflict, we might be hindering the lessons God is trying to teach.
     In addition, we need to remember that painful circumstances and people are merely tools in the hands of God.  He will never let us be tempted beyond what we are able to bear.  Through Christ, we have the ability to persevere for He won the final victory over sin and death.  While we may struggle for a time, we will pass through the valley and once again, experience God's comfort and peace.  This is what we must remind our friend who faces pain at the hands of another.  If we get entangled in trying to sort out why things are occurring as they are, we may be no better than Job's friends who never really brought him reassurance he needed.
     For those of us concerned about loved ones in conflict, we must keep in mind that if we do take on the offense of our friend, we can become bitter towards the person who brought about the pain.  Romans 12:17-18 instructs us:  "Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all.  If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all."  The verses which follow tell us that it is up to God to repay.  We are to do what is totally out of character for fallen creatures.  We are to feed and give drink to our enemy which in turn heaps burning coals on his head. Then Paul concludes with these words of wisdom:  "Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good" (vs. 21).  This is how we win the victory.  It is not in OUR nature to do this but by the power of the Holy Spirit, we can fulfill this call.
     Allowing anger towards another because they hurt a brother in Christ will also reap for us fruit that we will not enjoy.  We can become depressed, worried, fearful, angry, and develop a negative focus on life and even our own circumstances.  When it begins to reach this point, we have to stop and ask ourselves:  "Is God capable of righting wrongs?  Is he sovereign?  Does He love our brother in Christ as much as we do?"  If we answer "yes" to any of these questions, then we need to let go of trying to manage what is not under our control anyway.  In fact, if we continue to take on our friend's offense, we can become just like the person who caused the hurt to begin with.
     Instead, God calls us to put our focus on Jesus, our perfect example.  We also need to remember that God may be using a painful person in the life of our brother in order to give them a chance to let God reveal Himself through them.  He may be trying to teach us that as well.  The Apostle Paul reminds us to think on things that are good in Philippians 4:8:  "Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things."  Far better for us spend our time in prayer for those in conflict and speak words of encouragement than to wallow in all the negatives.
     This I know and believe that God has an answer and a purpose for everything that comes to us or our friends.  Our goal should be to encourage and act as a peacemaker rather than an agitator.  The world if full of the latter, and they bring no comfort to anyone.  Therefore, let us make it our goal to glorify God and avoid taking on the offense of our brother so that those around us will see Christ in our lives.  Selah!

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