A few months ago I attended a special event coordinated by the singles ministry at our church. This single event has prompted a journey in my life I could not have dreamed possible. The journey to discover what it means to live unoffended.
The Monday after Thanksgiving one known in charismatic circles as a man of powerful healing came and shared his story of how God redeemed him from a destructive pit and delivered him into a life of love. Todd White doesn’t believe that God won’t heal someone he prays for… Does that mean everyone gets healed?
I don’t know. But, I’ve seen and experienced the powerful way this man administers the gifts God has entrusted him to express and offer. He ministers the Gospel of Jesus and walks in signs and wonders. Believe it or not – He reads his Bible and refuses to believe that what he reads about God is not relevant and valid today. He goes to malls and walks the streets of cities around the world offering God’s healing power to anyone who will receive it. He does not give up until he sees God move.
And if that were all, would that be enough? Todd was so radically healed and set free when he met Jesus that he walks the earth advancing the Kingdom and giving away what he so freely received at salvation.
Todd’s testimony is amazing from FUGITIVE to GOSPEL FREEDOM FIGHTER. A prodigal, if there ever was one, now walking in victory as a son of the Most High God. I will refrain from indulging my desire to tell his entire story because it really is not the point of this post.
I have come to realize in my life that you can argue points of theology, doctrine and the interpretations of learned scholars (men), but the one thing you cannot argue with is the good fruit that comes from one person’s testimony about God’s love, goodness and grace. Based on what I’ve seen of Todd White I cannot argue with the testimony of his faith.
That night as one of my favorite worship leaders stood on the stage and poured out her heart like oil before the Lord my heart opened to receive. As Todd took the platform I realized how much God must delight in this man who donned a Hawaiian shirt, Fivefinger shoes, and lots…
Did I say LOTS?
Yes. Lots and Lots off dread locks. He’s a simple man who walks in the simplicity of his utter faith in God and walks also in great authority and power. Not puffed up with pride, but doused and immersed in love and humility.
Where was I? Oh yea... He took the stage, and this man who looks like he has lived some rough, rough life steps up and starts to speak.
“Whoa! That was worship. Do you feel that? I mean…” He begins to weep. “You shouldn’t sing that stuff if you don’t mean it. Don’t sing it if you don’t believe what those words say… You shouldn’t sing it, man. It’s sick if you do.”
I found myself nodding in agreement and crying along with him. So true.
If I tell you Todd White got all up in my business with his next point, I would not be lying at all. HE. GOT. ALL. UP. IN. MY. BUSINESS. YA’LL.
I remember thinking: I didn’t know that was even possible!
Yet, as Todd shared his story I could not get past that one thing. I began to ask God, “What does it look like to live unoffended? ”
As the few weeks that followed led to Christmas I wrestled with God much like Jacob did at Peniel. I came under conviction for all the judgments and offenses I continued to carry. All the times I have uttered the words: “Well, I don’t know about that, but you know she…”
Yea, that’s me – guilty. I’ve done it over and over. Oh I eventually move to forgiveness all right. Forgiveness, and not just in the sense I say what they did doesn’t matter or that it is okay, but forgiveness as in I sit before God and acknowledge what the specific person did that offended me. I acknowledge how that made me feel, and I confess any judgments I’ve made against them as a result. I also acknowledge that in and of myself I have absolutely no power to forgive. At the end of all of that, I choose by an act of my will to give every bit of it to Jesus, who earned the right to take that offense and all of its effects along with my judgments off of me and put them on the cross. Then I ask Jesus to give me something in exchange.
Now, it would be nice to sit here and confess right after that moment when I receive from Jesus life-giving power to overcome offense that the issue never arises again. Nice, but not at all true.
I remember one particularly difficult year when I was nursing a broken heart and a particularly grievous offense that threatened a vital relationship in my life. I chose by an act of my will to engage God’s heart of forgiveness early in the journey through that valley of betrayal. But, before I even got to that forgiveness prayer, I sat in my car the night I learned of the offense and prayed, “God I cannot forgive ____________ right now, but You can. I don’t even know what is going on yet. But, You do. So, God I ask You to forgive _____________ and then work that out in me. In Jesus Name, Amen.”
I believe had I not set my heart on forgiving this loved one that very night this story would have come to a very different conclusion.
But, after that day a few weeks later when I engaged my will to embrace God’s grace and mercy, the wound remained like a surgical incision working through the process of healing. Stitched as it was, if you got too close and bumped up against it – it bled, it ached, it throbbed and it even tortured my heart. I would run into the one place I could be alone – the “toilet closet” and sit there on the closed lid of our commode rocking and praying, confessing Scripture until the moment passed. I would say, “Remember… God. Remember, I forgave ___________. We did this. Help me, God. Help me to heal.”
That season changed my life. But, not like this new season is changing my life.
Right after Christmas an offense rose up between someone else close to me. And God used that as an opportunity to bring Todd’s words from a month earlier home to me. What does it mean to live unoffended?
After several days, I remembered something that had helped me through the earlier episode where forgiveness became so relevant and healing to me. A pastor I respect and admire sat in a board room and shared about grace.
He said, “God’s grace is what it is. You can’t out-sin it. You can’t undo it. You can’t earn it. You can’t take advantage of it. It is what it is. Once you receive it you cannot lose it.”
Powerful. Right? I sat there as revelation poured over me like a soothing wash of anointing oil. I knew he wasn’t saying that grace is a license to sin – but, that it covers sin and forgives it. As he spoke I began to feel this awareness come over me so I raised my hand.
He smiled and nodded for me to speak.
“So, what I hear you saying is that if I try to forgive someone out of my grace, they can take advantage of that, they can hurt me with that – because my grace is not unconditional. It is not free. But, if I forgive someone out of God’s grace at work in me, then they can’t take advantage of me or hurt me with it because it was never mine to give in the first place. It is up to God to take care of that – and He is a God of grace.”
The pastor smiled. He picked up his pen and asked, “Would you say that again?”
He then responded. “So, What I hear you saying is that you are not going to be codependent on someone else’s response any longer. You’re not going to live codependent anymore.”
I just nodded and smiled. “That’s right.”
I needed to immediately let go of the thing that hurt me in what my loved one had done. So, I chose not to let it offend me.
Wait. What was that? Yes, you read that right. I chose not to let it offend me.
You are probably asking what I asked that night when Todd White first illuminated this topic for me. “Can you choose not to be offended?”
And, my testimony, is yes. Yes, you can.
In the days that followed God showed me that His heart is that we remain unoffended so we need not forgive. You see, I cannot control what other people say and do to me or around me, but I can control how I respond to it.
Bitterness, prolonged unforgiveness, is like a weed in a lush green lawn. If you let it go unchecked, soon it will take over the entire yard and destroy the beauty that is planted there and instead replace it with dry and drab unsightly scrags that creep along the ground choking the life out of everything around it. Oh… I know I may be stepping on some toes, but it is just where I am in all of this.
If I allow offenses to take root in my heart, at some point I have to go and dig them out. If I don’t they become a root of bitterness that covers up all the beauty God intended for me to receive in this life and contaminates the lives of all those around me. Can I just say weeding the garden is a LOT of work?
So what if we tended the garden by choice, and refused to allow those weedy seeds of offense to enter in the first place?
What I have learned is this… I can walk unoffended, unaffected, by the choices and offenses of others. I must guard my heart and take responsibility for what I allow to take root in it. I am only responsible for what I allow the actions and words of others to do to my heart. I cannot change them, but I can change me – and if I remain unoffended I can pray for them and what it is that is hurting them to be revealed and healed. AMEN?
“Above all else, watch over your heart; diligently guard it because from a sincere and pure heart come the good and noble things of life.” ~Proverbs 4:23 (The VOICE)
Just before Easter I ran across the following video that moved me beyond what words can adequately expressed. It is powerful! Life like that.