Opportunities to give in to offense present themselves to everyone at one time or another. No one is exempt. We all must continually guard our hearts against the temptation to become offended and harbor grudges and other negative emotions.
Where does offense come from? It comes from Satan. Ephesians 6:12 says, "We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places." Offense is the enemy's strategy to keep us from fulfilling God's will and ultimately destroy us. Certainly, people can yield to Satan and cause problems. But the root of our problems in life is the devil, not people.
Now, in any competitive sport, if we truly want to win, we need a good defense. We can have a great offense, but if our defense is deficient, we won't win many games. Similarly, if we're going to win in life, we need a good defense against Satan's offense.
One of our first lines of defense against offense is simply to realize that offenses will come. But there also are some key steps we can take to build our defenses and ensure that we're ready when those offenses show up.
Abide in the Word
One step we can take to defend ourselves against offense is to continually abide in the Word.
Psalm 119:165 (NKJV) says, "Great peace have those who love Your law [Word], and nothing causes them to stumble." This verse is talking about loving God's Word. When we do that, nothing can make us stumble and fall away from it—nothing!
Verse 105 of the same psalm reads, "Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path." When the Word of God is in our hearts, we can see where we're going so that we won't stumble. Another verse in Psalms says, "With You is the fountain of life; in Your light we see light" (Ps. 36:9 NKJV). As we keep a firm hold on God's Word in our hearts, we'll see where we're going and recognize offense when it comes.
Cultivate the Fruit of the Spirit
A second step we can take to build a good defense against Satan's offense is to develop the fruit of the Spirit in our lives.
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,
23 Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.
The last part of this passage says, "Against such [against these fruits of the Spirit] there is no law." In other words, when God in you has control of your life, Satan cannot gain control! You would have to relinquish your position for the enemy to get a foothold and make you stumble. When you're walking in the fruit of the Spirit, you're manifesting the fruits of righteousness—the characteristics of God. And you will not be easily swayed when the temptation to sin comes.
Choose Your Teammates Wisely
A third step we can take to become good "defensive players" in the game of life is to use wisdom in choosing our teammates. First Corinthians 15:33 (NIV) says, "Do not be misled: 'Bad company corrupts good character.' " Proverbs 13:20 (NIV) carries the same idea: "Walk with the wise and become wise, for a companion of fools suffers harm." The Bible is clear on this point: the company we keep will influence us for good or for evil.
When I talk about being influenced by people we associate with, I mean taking on certain aspects of their character and even some of their opinions and viewpoints. That's fine if the people we're around love God and base their lives on His Word. But it's not fine if those people are critical of others and are continually offended.
Why? Because over time—little by little—we'll begin thinking the same bitter thoughts. We'll develop an intolerant, critical attitude. And we'll find ourselves becoming offended. Just as the Word says, the "bad company" we keep will corrupt our minds, emotions, and actions. That's why it's so important to choose our teammates wisely.
Keep a Clear Conscience
A fourth step we can take to defend ourselves against offense is to keep our consciences clear. Look at what the Apostle Paul said in the Book of Acts:
ACTS 24:16 (Amplified)
16 Therefore I always exercise and discipline myself [mortifying my body, deadening my carnal affections, bodily appetites, and worldly desires, endeavoring in all respects] to have a clear (unshaken, blameless) conscience, void of offense toward God and toward men.
Paul endeavored to keep his conscience clear before God and man. He diligently kept his flesh under the control of his spirit by disciplining himself in spiritual things.
Like Paul, we can develop ourselves to instantly recognize and avoid things that cause us to sin and grieve the heart of God. We can get to the place where we hear something ungodly, such as gossip or slander, and an "alarm" will go off in our spirits warning us not to listen.
As we train ourselves in the Word, we'll become spiritually sensitive. If someone says something we shouldn't listen to, our consciences will know it and caution us. If we start to say something we shouldn't say, that voice will witness to us that we should keep quiet instead. This will help us avoid the sin of offense.
As opportunities to become offended arise over this busy Christmas season, remember to keep your defense strong. James 4:7 says, "Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you." When you yield to offense, you are yielding to the devil's influence, and you certainly don't have him on the run. Instead, he has you on the run.
But if you build a good defense, resisting the devil and refusing to become offended, you are yielding to God's influence. And the Bible says that when you do that, you will run the devil off every time!