Are we too offended to see the goodness in others?
The power of communication
I don't know about you but does anyone else get annoyed when someone sends you a message at an inconvenient time asking you to do something or asking you for something? What about when someone from work messages you on your day off?
Or when someone publicly comments on something that directly or indirectly calls you out? What about those common situations where someone just doesn't realise the power of their words that they have used?
To me, the power of communication is a big deal. When communication is not done well, or even just not respected, I find it quite upsetting or frustrating.
I get upset when people don't understand the effect of their words or their whole message, or when I don't feel respected by the words used or how they are conveyed. I think words should be chosen carefully, considering the impact of the words used and thinking about who is receiving your message.
Now while I do believe in the power of communication, I realise I have to humble myself and admit that I can be a little self-righteous at times. My reaction is not always someone else's responsibility; they may genuinely have no idea what I am doing or how I am positioned to receive their message.
Where the offense lies
By taking offense to what people say, we can begin to hold onto hurt and hold it against people - rather than offering them the grace and forgiveness which God freely gives to us. This can start to affect how we view God; doubting His goodness because we judge Him by man's flawed and limited standards.
I never notice when my words are the ones that affect someone else (unless they tell me), when my messages interrupt someone else's day, or when I message my workmates on their days off.
See, I think this is one of those things that I like to hold everyone else to account for but I neglect to hold myself to account in the same way. The implication of this is that sometimes I can let it affect the way I see the person: 'oh they are so annoying because they do this', 'oh they frustrate me so much because they said that like this.'
The problem with offense
By holding onto the hurt that we could get from the way someone has communicated to us, we can start falling into the offense trap. When we are offended, this can prevent us from seeing people's goodness.
And really that is not fair - not fair by a worldly standard, not fair as followers of Christ - we are not called to hold onto hurt and let it shape the way we think about and treat others. We're called to love freely and let go of everything.
Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego
Lately I've been seeing the phrase 'and if not He is still good', referring to Daniel chapter 3, verse 18. Chapter 3 of the book of Daniel tells the story of King Nebuchadnezzar who made an image of gold that he ordered everyone to worship.
But Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were Jews and did not serve Nebuchadnezzar's gods or the image of gold he made. Nebuchadnezzar did not like this and ordered Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego to be thrown into a blazing furnace.
However, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego are full of faith - they proclaim that God will save them from the fire. They go onto say that even if He doesn't, they will still serve Him - 'and if not, He is still good.'
Firstly, I just love their faithfulness. They are bold and they really know God is good. They also do not get defensive and shift the blame onto Nebuchadnezzar or try calling him out for making an idol. They are not self-righteous.
They could have been offended by Nebuchadnezzar disrespecting their faith in God - they could have held onto this offense. This could have affected their belief in God's goodness and His ability to rescue them. But they chose to continue to put their faith in God, and see goodness. They were faithful and they knew God and knew that He is good.
In the end, they were saved by the goodness of God.
God is good
The thing is God IS good - He wouldn't be God if He wasn't. In Luke chapter 18, verse 19, Jesus makes it clear that God alone is good. It is emphasised through the story of the young, rich ruler found in that passage.
I think we can forget how truly good God is. We don't realise how important communication is, but even more so, we don't realise how destructive offense can be and how easy it is to fall into the offense trap. Because of this, we fail to see that when we are offended, this affects how we see God's goodness and our brothers' and sisters' goodness.
I have a feeling that this is something to wrestle with for a long time. But I think we can find encouragement in Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego's story. God is good and so are His people, even when their communication doesn't fit in with our busy schedules