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We’ve all faced situations in our lives that greatly challenge us in our commitment to walk free from offense. Offenses tend to catch us by surprise.
As long as we live in this world, we’re going to have to deal with the potential of being offended. We can’t prevent offenses from happening, but we can avoid taking offense and getting bitter. Opportunities to get offended will always present themselves to each one of us. In fact, Jesus Himself told us that it would be impossible to avoid offenses because they will come (see Luke 17:1). Jesus wasn’t being the bearer of bad news when He said that — He was just telling us the truth.

So if there’s one thing we all need to learn, it’s how to deal with people and the offenses that inevitably occur in life. That’s why the apostle Paul wrote in Hebrews 12:14: “Follow peace with all men…” That word “follow” is the Greek word dioko, which means to follow, to pursue, or even to hunt. The use of this word indicates that peace isn’t always easy to come by ? we may have to search for it. And in our relationships with the more difficult people we encounter in life, we will have to aggressively seek peace.

Hebrews 12:14 goes on to say, “Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.” This verse bothered me for years because it appeared to say that if a person died with bitterness or strife in his heart, he wouldn’t go to Heaven. After all, the last phrase says, “without which no man shall see the Lord.” But when I pulled out my Greek New Testament to look up this word “see,” I discovered this phrase could be better interpreted: “without which no man shall be admitted into the immediate presence of God.”

This verse really isn’t talking about admittance into Heaven. It’s referring to entrance into the presence of God right now. In other words, if a person knowingly harbors bad attitudes, strife, or unforgiveness in his heart, those attitudes can set up a roadblock in his life that prevents him from experiencing the power and presence of God right now.

We’ve all faced situations in our lives that greatly challenge us in our commitment to walk free from offense. I don’t believe that anyone ever wakes up and thinks, I fully intend to become offended by someone today! Offenses tend to catch us by surprise. And if we’re not on guard against the temptation to be offended, we can easily fall into the trap of offense.

That’s why it’s so important for you to commit yourself to living free from offense ? and to make this commitment before you’re faced with the opportunity to become offended. If you’ll make up your mind and settle the matter ahead of time about how you will and will not respond, you won’t slip, trip, and get stuck when the trap of offense is suddenly sprung on the path before you.

The ‘Pygmy Pastor’
I want to share a personal story that I’m not proud of, but it’s one that will illustrate how offense gets started and how it grows out of control if you don’t commit to living free of offense. Something happened between another pastor and me many years ago in the early years of our ministry in the Soviet Union.

As a result of my immaturity, I became deeply offended and my behavior ended up becoming just as ugly as the person’s behavior that had offended me. I am thankful that the Lord confronted me and required me to repent in a dramatic way ? dramatic enough that I would learn the lesson and never want to repeat it again. But before I tell you the story, let me begin by saying that he and I are great friends today and are very thankful for each other!

Soon after our family moved to the former Soviet Union in the early 1990s, Denise and I began broadcasting the first daily Christian TV program in the history of the USSR. After a while, we held a large conference ? and to our absolute shock, thousands of people attended the meeting. We saw real New Testament signs and wonders during that conference: Cripples were healed; the paralyzed were restored to health; and the deaf and dumb spoke. It was a miraculous event that caught the attention of the entire nation.

During that conference, God asked me, “What are you going to do with all these people who have been saved this week?” Of course, I understood from His question that He was calling Denise and me to start our first church where we lived in Riga, Latvia, the capital of a small Baltic republic that had once been a part of the Soviet Union.

At that time, there were only two aboveground churches in Latvia. All of the other churches were underground, concealed from the sight of the KGB. Of these two aboveground churches, one was a traditional Pentecostal church that had the guts and gumption to emerge into public view. The other visible church had been started by that Pentecostal church’s former youth pastor.

This man just couldn’t bear with the religious tradition, so he started a church called New Generation and declared that he and his church were going to lead the way forward for the next generation of believers in Latvia. At the time God told me to start our own church, this man’s church was the most progressive and boisterous church in Riga. As a result, it had grown quickly and made quite a noise within the Christian community.

However, there were things I didn’t like about this pastor’s church. For example, some of the doctrines he taught back then really rubbed me the wrong way. I didn’t believe they were scriptural. I also didn’t like his arrogant attitude toward all the other Protestant churches in Riga and throughout Latvia.

He had publicly bad-mouthed a lot of the underground churches, as well as the other public Pentecostal church. Hearing someone talk like that really irked me. It was true that some of the other churches seemed stuck in the traditions of their past, but their congregations were filled with good, faithful people, many of whom had spent time in prison for their faith. I felt they deserved respect.

But this pastor sincerely believed that that all of the other congregations would ultimately merge as a part of his church. So when Denise and I started our church, he wasn’t very happy about it! We were on TV every day, giving voice to the Gospel in the nation where he wanted, but had not achieved, spiritual dominance.

And when our church began to grow quickly, he felt threatened. One day he retaliated and started a war of words. Standing in front of his church, this pastor told his congregation, “I know there is another church in Riga that is growing rapidly. But let me tell you what I think about it ? any pastor who is bald [referring to me!] is under a curse of God! Don’t go visit a church where the pastor is cursed!”

When I first heard what this pastor had said, I thought it was funny. But the more I brooded on it, the more I began to get angry about the situation. How dare he say something so stupid to influence and manipulate people! I fumed. People regularly informed me that this man was continuing to make fun of me for being bald ? and was even judging my anointing by virtue of my baldness.

I wasn’t upset because he said I was bald; I don’t care about that. I had been losing hair since I was 17 years old, so that didn’t bother me. But his arrogant attitude did bother me. And the more I thought about that, the more annoyed I became. This preacher who continually reproached me in public was a short man. So to get back at him for what he’d been saying about me, I began to change the way I referred to him in public, calling him “the pygmy pastor”!

I had allowed myself to take offense at this pastor’s words and his judgment of me. As a result, those words began to eat me up on the inside. It got to the place where I found myself standing behind my pulpit in my own church, saying something very “un-Christ-like” words about this man to my own congregation. I began, “I understand there is another pastor in town ? I’m not going to say his name ? who has said that any pastor like me who is bald is under the curse of God. But let me tell you what I think…”

I could see Denise squirming in her chair on the front row. I knew she was hoping I’d stop before I said what I was about to say. But I barreled forward full blast and declared, “If you want to know who I think is cursed, I think anyone whose growth has been stunted is the one under the curse of God!” Then I threw down the verbal gauntlet: “I want to make it clear today that if anyone is cursed, it’s a ‘pygmy-sized pastor’ on the other side of town, and I recommend that no one should attend his church!”

At that moment, a feud marked by raging carnality erupted between me and this other pastor. Back and forth, we began to publicly rip at each other with our words. It was shameful.

I was ready to keep spewing my ugly words as long as it took to win this feud. Then the Holy Spirit arrested me long enough to pose a question to me: “Rick, do you want to have revival in your life and in your church?”

“Yes, Lord, you know I do,” I replied.

He asked me again, “Are you absolutely sure you want revival in your church?”

I answered, “Yes, Lord, you know I do.”

A third time, the Holy Spirit asked, “How badly do you want revival in your church?”

I answered, “Lord, you know how desperately I want to see revival. I’ll do anything You ask of me if it will bring revival in my church.”

That’s when the Holy Spirit answered me, “Then I am requiring you to deal with your wrong attitude toward this man, because this foul attitude in your heart will stop you from experiencing revival.”

Source: You Can Get Over It: How To Confront, Forgive, and Move On by Rick Renner.
Excerpt permission granted by Rick Renner Ministries

Author Biography

Rick Renner
Web site: Rick Renner Ministries
 
Rick and Denise met while they were each on an individual quest to wholeheartedly follow God’s plan for their lives. Rick was a college student, growing in his teaching ministry. Denise was a talented vocalist. She chose not to pursue a course that held the prospect of performing with the Metropolitan Opera so that she could instead pursue a relationship with Rick and fulfill her heart’s desire to enter full-time ministry.
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