How you handle offense has the potential to make you or break you as a leader. You will offend. The only question is: who will you offend? And you will be offended. The only question is: how will you respond to offense? As God expands your sphere of influence you’ll offend more and more people. It’s inevitable. But there is a right way to handle it and a wrong way to handle it.
First things first: who are you offending? Some leaders are so afraid of offending people that they offend God instead. Let me tell you who you should offend: thou shalt offend pharisees! That is who Jesus offended. And he did so regularly and intentionally. He could have healed on any day of the week right? I think he chose the sabbath to confront the pharisees who couldn’t see the miracle through the theological trees!
So go ahead and offend Pharisees. But while you’re at it, make sure you aren’t one of them! How do you know? Well, read the Gospels and see the distinctives of Pharisaicalism. Self-righteousness is chief among them. Pharisees are low on humility and high on criticism. That critical spirit results in a focus on the letter of the law with very little room for grace. Pharisees use, or I should say misuse, the Bible as a weapon. And they have an uncanny habit of focusing on what’s wrong instead of celebrating what’s right. They bring division instead of unity. The sow discord instead of peace. They aren’t advancing the kingdom of God. They actually undermining it by backbiting and infighting. And instead of building up they tear down. That’s the tip of the iceberg, but I think a pretty good caricature.
Can I just come out and say it? If we quit fighting with each other and converted all of our sideways energy into forward motion, I think we’d win the world to Christ. But we’ve got to love each other first. After all, they shall know us by our love!
Now let me flip the coin.
Thou shalt offend Pharisees, but don’t be offended by them!
Proverbs 19:11 says: “It is to the glory of a man to overlook an offense.” Circle that promise. The more offenses you overlook, the more glory! If you get offended by an offense, you quit playing offense and start playing defense. And when you get defensive, you stop leading and start reacting!
I made a decision a long time ago that I don’t play defense. I have an advocate. His name is Jesus. And that’s who I’m accountable to. And of course, all of us need human accountability but it’ll be to the people we’re in relationship with. We need to submit to the righteous rebuke of a brother and the conviction of the Holy Spirit. No one is above or beyond rebuke or exhortation. But you also need to consider the source. Is it coming from a genuine spirit of love? Or is there a critical spirit or mean spirit? Is the rebuke a love offering or tough love? Or does it derive from wrong motives? Do you know the person and do they know you? Now, no matter who is doing the rebuking or how they are doing, if the rebuke is accurate then you need to repent. But if it’s not, don’t swallow the poison. You need to shake the dust off your feet. And whatever you do, don’t become defensive! Play offense!
You need the emotional tenacity of Nehemiah who said to a couple backbiters named Sanballat and Tobiah: “I am doing a great work so I can’t come down.” Don’t let anyone or anything bring you down! Let it steel your resolve! Don’t get sidetracked by sideways energy!
Press on with the mission.
Press into the presence of God.