Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Don’t give offense. Don’t take offense. Forgive everybody everything right away.

Don’t give offense.
Don’t take offense.
Forgive everybody everything right away.
I recently came across this statement while exploring a spiritual blog on the internet.  The blogger was unaware of the author of the quote, so it must have been the famous author of many a quote, Mr. Anonymous. It struck me as a profoundly simple but accurate description of the Christian life.  Despite its succinct simplicity it is frustratingly difficult to live out.  It would require exacting humility and earnest attentiveness to live this very spiritual axiom.  But why bother?

The easiest answer to that question is that it is how Jesus lived.  At first glance that might be difficult to swallow.  Did not Jesus give offense?   Were not many of those who heard the words of the itinerant Galilean prophet offended?  Did not they plot His death because of His proclamations.  Indeed they did take offense!  But this was not because Jesus intentions were to offend others.  Rather they took offense because the words He spoke were a direct challenge to their self-conceived or culturally-shaped sensibilities.   It is difficult to say that Jesus went about to be deliberately in-your-face provocative.  Simply being who He was was enough to offend, enough so to result in the Cross.  As St. Anthony of old said, "A time is coming when men will go mad, and when they see someone who is not mad, they will attack him saying, "You are mad, you are not like us." 

The second and third lines of the quote strongly resonate with our perceptions of Jesus: “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23.32)  These words are powerful reminders of the way of Jesus, and it points to His witness of what true humanity is like.  It is the clarion call of God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, that as Christ has overcome our sin and death, that He also invites, even commands us to enter into His life which is to say both His being, and His way of being.  (This is to embrace the mystery of who I am, and the wonder of living it out: being who I am.)  When we stand on the solid rock of personal identity, which is revealed in the person of Jesus, then we are able to ignore remarks or actions that might otherwise be offensive personal attacks.  To take no offense is possible when we are intensely ‘other’ focused, knowing that the other person who has said something that in our brokenness would be offensive, is a person who has not embraced their own personhood..  Thus we readily willing and able to forgive them.

So it is then: “Don’t give offense. Don’t take offense. Forgive everybody everything right away.”  These truth-ladened words, succinctly state a Christian mantra of how we should attempt to live out our life in Christ.  So write it down somewhere, memorize it, take it up, and before long you shall realize that you will desperately need the Holy Spirit to live it.  But with eyes firmly focused upon Jesus, with daily prayer, reflection, and repentance, we shall find in it the joy of the abundant life, renewed hope in the fullness of the life to come, and best of all we shall find Christ’s love deepening in our hearts, and Christ’s love flowing from our hearts to all others.

LORD have mercy,  Brian+