Where Do You Draw the Line?
How can Christians disagree, work through conflict, and maybe even go their separate ways without being offended at each other? How do you identify that line between disagreement and offense?
In Acts 1:8 Jesus told the disciples they would be witnesses of Him in a series of ever increasing circles, and we'll use that example to help define the lines between disagreement and offense.
"...and you will be witnesses of me in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the uttermost parts of the earth."
For our use, the inner most circle, Jerusalem, is you, (spouse), and young children at home. The next circle outward is Judea. Jerusalem was surrounded by Judea and this represents your extended family outside the family home. If you have no immediate family Judea represents your closest friends and confidants, maybe even a close co-worker or friend from school.
Outward from Judea is Samaria. In Jesus' time the Samaritans were not Jews, so for us this represents unsaved contacts we interact with in life - family, co-workers, neighbors, friends. The uttermost parts of the earth in Jesus' day meant the vast world beyond Samaria, and for us it represents strangers we interact with in public, in work, in life as we go about our business.
People in each of these circles outside 'Jerusalem' might have an opinion about you, your behavior, decisions, or even how you are raising your children - in short, they may have an opportunity to become offended at you, and you at them. Knowing where the lines are determines how you and they may interact.
Defining the Lines
Offense happens when someone thinks what they think should be what the other person thinks, but they don't.
Years ago we knew a mother who was still breast feeding her 5 year old son. The boy had quick hands. Several people (myself included) had observed the boy walking up to mom and unbuttoning her top before she could excuse herself to prepare for nursing him. Every other person in church thought God's signal to wean a child was when they grew a full set of teeth - but not her.
'Jerusalem' - This mom's 'Jerusalem' was herself and her care for her son. Everyone else in church was Judea. Several women strongly disagreed with the woman, and a couple of them were offended - they were angry, embarrassed, disgusted, and refused to go to any church function where she would be, due to a possibility of witnessing a 5 year old undressing mom to have a milk and cookie break!
Here is the line - The age of weaning her son was her business because it fell in the domain of her 'Jerusalem'. Outside of that innermost circle people could shake their head in disgust, talk behind her back - whatever - but they were wrong before God by their offense though from a weaning standpoint, they were right. Rather than take offense they should have prayed for this mom who struggled with letting her first born 'grow up'. Different isn't necessarily wrong, it's just different.
Worship leaders - A husband wife were part of a worship team, and while they weren't the most gifted musicians or voices, they were faithful and sensitive to the Holy Spirit. But two women who were best friends, who had superior voices, asked me to remove the couple and put them on the worship team in their place. The ladies were offended at this couple and struggled during worship when they were on the platform.
Here is the line - This couple was not in their Jerusalem; they were in their Judea. In fact, the church was part of my Judea as I was the pastor. And this couple's involvement in the worship team was part of their Judea as well. But I had authority over the worship team, so what these ladies asked was rude and out of line. The ladies needed to retreat to protect their Jerusalem - their own heart and business - and not insert themselves into that situation.
None of Your Business Peter
In John 21: 20-22 Jesus had just told Peter when he was old he would die by crucifixion, and Peter saw John following them as they walked and talked, so he asked the Lord, "What about him?"
Jesus had been talking to Peter about his 'Jerusalem' - his faith and destiny. Peter then asks about John's 'Jerusalem' - which is none of his business. Jesus deflects the question asking, "(Even if) I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you?"
That is a good Bible lesson boys and girls: What is that to you? LOL When it deals with someone's Jerusalem, we have no right to be offended - we can disagree, see things differently, and do things another way, but there is no basis for breaking off fellowship in offense.
Fortunately it doesn't appear Peter got offended - but in our day the situation could be applied to promotions at work, one selected over another for assignment, an application to volunteer at church rejected - any number of situations might have someone asking about someone else's Jerusalem in offense: But what about them? What about ME? Don't they care how I feel? (no) Don't they care what I think? (no)
In Matthew 16:23, just after Jesus had told the disciples He would be killed and then raised from the dead the 3rd day, Peter took Him aside and rebuked Him: "Never Lord! It won't happen to you!"
We know that going to the cross was part of Jesus' 'Jerusalem'. It was the reason He came into the world. So when Peter pushed the idea of NOT going to the cross, Jesus responded: "Get behind me Satan; you are an offense to me for you are not setting your mind on God's interests, but on man's." Jesus had to protect His 'Jerusalem' from any thought or plan that was contrary to the Father's plan.
Jesus continued by saying: "If anyone wants to follow me he must deny himself and take up his cross." What are you denying yourself? You are denying yourself thinking about a plan for someone else's life other than God's plan for them, and you are denying thoughts you have toward them of changing their plan, and you are denying the temptation to push what you think they should do on them.
'Taking up the cross', a device of torture, is not a reference to any general hardship - Jesus said it was specifically about first thinking then pushing what you think God's plan is on another person, when in fact you are wrong and misguided in what you think. Keeping your mouth shut and thoughts captive to obedience in Christ is the act of 'taking up your cross'. That's torture for many, isn't it?
Think of your life and other's lives in terms of those every increasing circles. Keep relationships within those God-defined borders and be confident in how God is leading you, offer suggestions - but don't get offended at how someone else handles what happens within their border either. These are deep principles I've shared, and I don't have the space or time to write in detail - but know the ways of God and let the Holy Spirit how to apply these things to your life.
That brings us back to the start - 'He who loves his brother lives in the light and there is nothing in him that would cause him to be offended'. Walk in love, you won't be offended, you will however be a prayer warrior.
New subject next week, blessings,
Where Do You Draw the Line?