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Updated: Aug 30, 2020

Offenses: A Fact of Life

Whenever, I read this verse, I can’t help pondering how we’re to handle people who’re habitual offenders. This passage tells me that though God expects us to forgive, He doesn’t insist that we endlessly present ourselves as vulnerable whipping post for calloused unchanging offenders. We have recourse to facilitate a significant shift that will effect the dynamics of the relationship’s future. Another way to express this is that insult offenses are easily forgiven, but the reestablishment of trust tends to have impenetrable barriers. The proof of this as a reality in the lives of conscientious Christians is the number of sexual betrayals; divorces; activated control freaks; parents who abandon first spouse & kids; thieving crack addict teens; & church hoppers. Jesus said that offenses would come and nearly every Epistle has several passages encouraging that all possible be done to maintain the bond of peace. The truth is that most of us need help in dealing with the offenses in a manner that doesn’t leave us guilt ridden.

Prov 18:19 (NKJV) A brother offended is harder to win than a strong city, And contentions are like the bars of a castle.

Barnabas & Paul were strong city personalities. They’d been close ministry associates for 15 years until Paul’s unwillingness to utilize John Mark on their 2nd missionary journey. The contentions between them was so sharp that they parted and were never reconciled as traveling companions. Paul chose Silas and later incorporated Timothy as John Mark’s replacement in his apostolic band. Barnabas took his cousin John Mark. The lives of all concerned continued strong in the ministry in separate portions of the Lord’s Vineyard. Barnabas became the founder of what evolved to become his homeland’s Cyprian Orthodox Church. He’s only mentioned once again by Paul and the context was not flattering. It was said that he became ensnared in the same hypocrisies about the Law of Moses as had Peter while visiting the Galatian Church. However, Paul much later spoke warmly about John Mark. He asked that he be sent for as a valuable asset to his troop.

Here is the item that I want clarified in your heart. In spite of the offense dismantling Paul & Barnabas’ working relationship, without missing a beat, they continued on separate tracks with God pleasing lives. As a man of God, I’ve observed this phenomenon in others & have experienced it myself. With believers we must accept that forgiveness is a given. The obstacle is the ability to abide in peace with those who don’t have normal Christian sensitivities about offending people. I’ve had to face up that there are saints with whom I cannot dwell without offense springing a leak somewhere. I’ll take the blame, but am way past wallowing in it. I’ve rationalized that often the impetus that brought me & these individuals together no longer exists. In such instances commonality dissipates & can be lost. Here’s the progressions of the inner sensations that I’ve experienced. I’ll say at the onset that these don’t hinder effective healing ministry on behalf of offenders. It begins with a sense of awkwardness when encountering a certain familiar individual. Then it can spiral down this list: Aloofness, alienation which gives way to abject estrangement as it’s discovered that life goes on with or without them.

It is my belief that Heraclitus, a Greek philosopher born in 544 b.c. described the dynamics of trying to. act as though a history of offenses has no consequences - “No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it's not the same river and he's not the same man.”

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