This is a topic which affects us all. Defensiveness is like pride, everybody's got some! Most of us have a bit more
than we “need.” Let me ask you some questions which might help you get in touch with your own tendency to defend
yourself in a way that’s not Christlike.
• Do you often suspect that others are thinking ill of you?
• Do you generally try to protect yourself from pain by keeping a safe distance from others?
• Do you feel the overwhelming need to make sure others know you were right in a particular circumstance?
• Do you usually get offended when someone offers even "constructive criticism"?
If you had to answer 'yes’ to any of these questions, I suggest that you might well have a problem with defensiveness.
Please read on with an open heart and mind.
The theme of this short study is that defensiveness is 'defeatable'. It's something which can be overcome with the
help of Jesus. Though none of us are 'sinless’, our goal is to sin less and less.
Why Bother To Defeat Defensiveness?
• We must defeat defensiveness because it builds walls which substitute for God's protection...
Notice how David refers to God in Psalm 27 as his "shield, fortress, stronghold/ and his "rock." He tells us in the
Psalm how he refused to be afraid of what others might do to him. He chose to rest in God as his stronghold and be
hid safely in the shelter of His tabernacle. Instead of defending himself he decided to “be strong, take heart and wait
for the Lord."
Do you generally try to protect yourself from pain by keeping a safe distance from others?
Remember also how David dealt specifically with his ruthless persecutor, "king of defensiveness," Saul. He had two
opportunities to stop the persecution by assassinating Saul. Yet in both instances he refused to take matters into his
own hands, insisting that God could and would deal justly with the man. He said. “Don’t destroy him! Who can lay a
hand on the Lord's anointed and be guiltless? As surely as the Lord lives, the Lord Himself will strike him, either his
time will come and he win die, or he will go into battle and perish. But the Lord forbid that I should lay a hand on the
Lord's anointed" (1 Samuel 26:9-11).
Again, when David was hiding out in the cave at Adullam he wrote several of his most faith inspiring songs. Psalm
57 is one of those. You can see it in its very title.
For the director of music. Of David. A miktam.
When he had fled from Saul into the cave.
1 Have mercy on me, O God, have mercy on me, for in you my soul takes refuge. I will take refuge in the shadow
of your wings until the disaster has passed. 21 cry out to God Most High, to God,
who fulfills (his purpose) for me. 3 He sends from heaven and saves me, rebuking those who hotly pursue me;
Selah God sends his love and his faithfulness. 4 I am in the midst of lions; I tie among ravenous beasts- men
whose teeth are spears and arrows, whose tongues are sharp swords. 5 Be exalted, O God, above the heavens;
let your glory be over all the earth. 6 They spread a net for my feet - I was bowed down in distress. They dug a pit
in my path- but they have fallen into it themselves. Selah 7 My heart is steadfast. O God, my heart is steadfast; I
will sing and make music. 8 A wake, my soul! Awake, harp and lyre I will awaken the dawn. 9 I will praise you, O
Lord, among the nations; I will sing of you among the peoples. 10 For great is your love, reaching to the
heavens; your faithfulness reaches to the skies. 11 Be exalted, O God, above the heavens; let your glory be
over all the earth.
Even though he had the cave as an earthly shelter, David knew he needed God as his "refuge.” Though he faced
'lions and ravenous beasts' he was able to sing, “Be exalted, O God, above the heavens; let your glory be over all the
earth.” He could do this because his heart was “steadfast"! He trusted God to be his first and only line of defense!
He chose to trust Him as his shelter and protection.
Defensiveness is building walls of our own to protect ourselves. But David decided to leave his protection in the
hands of God. He chose not to build his own fortress, but to rest in the Father's care. Whenever we defend ourselves
we build a wall, put up a fortress, dig a hole which God never intended to be dug. We substitute God with our own
invention for protection.
• We must defeat defensiveness because it builds walls which keep people out...
Your wall of protection becomes a wall of separation, alienation, and isolation from other people. Paul speaks of an
old “dividing wall of hostility between people" (Ephesians 2:14). Nobody wants to be around a defensive person.
While he's trying to protect himself from being hurt he's alienating himself from contact with others altogether.
Someone once said, “A defensive person can’t be a growing person because his world is no bigger than himself
and the circle of his horizons is closed." A defensive person is safe but separated. Nobody can hurt them because
nobody can touch them. The price of that type of safety is isolation! Too high a price I'd say, especially since God
offers security for free!
Norman Grubb compared the Christian life to a person inside a house, enclosed by four walls which hold up the roof.
The walls are the sins which separate us from other people and keep us from loving our neighbors as we should.
The roof represents our disobedience and unbelief which separate us from God. When we are converted the Holy
Spirit blows a hole in the roof of our house. This opens the way for relationship with God. Through prayer, studying
God's word and the other disciplines we are constantly trying to enlarge the opening in the roof. But after a while we
get the clue that if we'll knock down the walls which separate us from one another, then the roof will come down all by
• We must defeat defensiveness because it builds walls which keep God in...
It's not that we're defenseless. We can defend ourselves, but the walls we have to build in order to do so are worse
than the things against which we are trying to defend ourselves! The self protective walls we often build end up
restricting the expression of the life of God in and through us. We're told to, 'Work OUT our own salvation... for it's
God who 'works IN us' both the power and desire to do His will (Philippians 2:12-13). In other words. His life and
power are IN us. It’s our job to see that it gets OUT and gets expressed!
It seems that the more we protect ourselves (rather than letting God do it), the less we'll see the treasure of His
nature manifested in and through us. He's put the riches of His character in our inner man at new birth, but it takes a
broken 'outer man' for the treasure within to get OUT!
A defensive person is safe but separated. Nobody can hurt them because nobody can touch them. The price of that
type of safety is isolation! Too high a price I'd say, especially since God offers security for free!
The things we defend ourselves against are usually sent by God to break our exterior and release the interior life
from within us. Growth in Christ is not really the impartation of God's character in us (that comes at salvation). Growth
is the release of the nature imparted at new birth. It's when our 'outer man' gets broken enough to let some of Him
out! It's the same principle as the breaking of the alabaster jar so that the sweet fragrance of the perfume can
escape and be enjoyed.
Our defensiveness builds an obstacle to that process and keeps the treasure of the Lord cooped up and imprisoned
within us. Defensiveness is definitely in the way of brokenness. And since brokenness is the path to Christ-likeness,
defensiveness is in the way of our much sought-after goal! We find that we're actually fighting against God when
we're defending ourselves! That's because while we're trying to protect us, He's trying to break us (so His nature can
The Bible is replete with references to God's desire to break our 'outer man':
- Ps. 34:18 The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.
- Ps. 51:17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.
- Ps. 69:20 Scorn has broken my heart and has left me helpless; I looked for sympathy, but there was none, for
comforters, but I found none.
- Matt. 21:44 He who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces, but he on whom it falls will be crushed.'
It's evident that when God protects us we will get "pierced" and "crushed" and "broken", but only so the inner man
can come out. We may get hurt, but never harmed if we stay close to the One Who is "close" when we're
What Does Defeated Defensiveness Look Like?
Since our goal is to become non-defensive, it would be nice to be able to know it when we see it. Paul gives a
beautiful picture of it in Romans 12:14-21…
'Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who
mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position.
Do not be conceited. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is
possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room
for God's wrath, for it is written: 'It is mine to avenge; I will repay,' says the Lord. On the contrary: If your enemy is
hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink, doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head. Do
not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Our defensiveness builds an obstacle to that process and keeps the treasure of the Lord cooped up and imprisoned
• Defeated defensiveness looks like living at peace with all who will...
Paul advocates we “live of peace with all men if it is possible...as far as depends on you". He’s not saying... if you
can ... if you want to. He means that it is possible that others will not allow peace between you and them. And since
you have no control over them and their lives, you can't really have peace, in the truest sense of the word, between
you. He's not giving us permission to not work at it. He's actually doing the opposite. He's saying, "Always do your
part! Whether or not they do theirs, you do your part."
Defeated defensiveness looks like us living at peace with those who will. And for those who won't, we keep doing
our part to cultivate peace and harmony.
• Defeated defensiveness looks like leaving room for God's action...
“Don’t take revenge,” Paul says, “but leave room for God's wrath.” There's not enough room for both your wrath and
God's! And when you're retaliating you're in His way! He says. "Vengeance is Mine!” And when God says something
is His, it's His! So if you take vengeance you're taking something which belongs to God! You are actually usurping
His authority, which in essence is rebellion against Him. God can handle expressing vengeance, you can't!
The former Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev once said, "there is much in Christ that is in common with us
Communists, but I cannot agree with Him when He says when you are hit on the right cheek turn the left cheek. I
believe in another principle. If I am hit on the left cheek I hit back on the right cheek so hard I will knock your head off."
Did you know that the country of Iran has declared a national "Day of Hatred," wherein the citizens cry, "Revenge!
Revenge!"? As someone said, "Revenge is like picking up a burning hot rock to throw at your enemy. You wind up
getting more burnt than they."
• Defeated defensiveness looks like loving even when rejected...
Paul says, 'Don't be overcome with evil, but overcome evil with good.' The way evil overcomes you is when you react
to it with evil. Booker T. Washington said, "I'll not allow any man to make me lower myself by hating him!” When we
live to get even we actually become a function of the other person's evil. We find ourselves being ruled by their
wrong! If we want to be truly free, we must love even when we're treated with evil. Someone said, "Some fights are
lost even though won. A bulldog can whip a skunk, but it just isn’t worth it!"
So, Paul's advice is to "overcome" instead of "being overcome". We can overcome rejection with acceptance, hate
with love, and resentment with forgiveness...
What do you do with criticism? A defensive person has walls that keep it all out (whether the constructive or
destructive type). "You can't tell me...!” "You're trying to control me...!" I think a better response (more non-defensive)
would be to honestly consider the content of the criticism. Then, if you find it's valid, put yourself on a path of change.
If you don't feel it's good advice, then reject the counsel without rejecting the person!
God can handle expressing vengeance, you can't!
Being non-defensive doesn't mean we have to believe in, act on, or feel guilty about all criticism. That would smack
of a lack of self confidence. But to be non-defensive one must be particularly secure and self confident. It takes a
strong self esteem to be able to process all criticism without becoming threatened or defensive. Security is the great
key to non-defensiveness.
How Do You Defeat Defensiveness?
Dr. Paul Brand in his book, Fearfully and Wonderfully Made makes a good point about defensiveness.
"We don’t really know the cause of this disease (rheumatoid arthritis) which somehow produces a hypersensitivity
in the cells of the joints. Suddenly a joint becomes flooded with enzymes that normally occur only when bacteria
and foreign protein call for defense mechanisms. A usually healthy reaction turns cannibalistic, and the cells of
the synovial membrane respond as if they were inflamed by infection. When we open up the joints and examine
them, we can find no enemies, just the angry presence of defensive cells vainly attacking the body's cartilage and
ligaments. A dreadful civil war has broken out; the defense mechanism itself has become the disease."
He then goes on to correlate this with spiritual defensiveness. "Spiritual rheumatoid arthritis sometimes attacks the
work of the Christian church. Members become hypersensitive, taking offense at imagined criticism. Their own
dignity and position become more important than the harmony of the group."
Each of the four pieces of advice we'll give are in reality the same thing stated in four different ways. It all boils down
to confidence in the Father and His care. John told us that it was our 'faith that overcomes the world' (1 John 5:4).
There are four passages which specifically address defensiveness, each providing keys to defeating it.
First of all you must learn to...
When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he
entrusted himself to him who judges justly (1 Peter 2:23).
We've already commented on this passage, so suffice it to say that we must learn to 'entrust' ourselves to the care of
God rather than defend ourselves. Remember, that the Living Bible translates this, “He left His case in the hands of
God...". We must leave our situation, our plight, our grievance in His hands.
Booker T. Washington said,
"I'll not allow any man to make me lower myself by hating him!”
Secondly, you must try daily to...
...those who suffer according to God's will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do
good (1 Peter 4:19).
Instead of defending ourselves we could commit ourselves to Him Who is in charge of the destinies of our lives. The
word, "commit" makes me think of stepping off of one boat into another. There's a point in which you're "committed."
You can't be committed to two boats at the same time for long!
The word in the original Greek for "commit" means to deposit something with a friend that you can trust for safe
keeping. It's when you have something valuable that you don't want to be responsible to protect. You'd rather put it in
the hands of someone bigger than yourself. Then the responsibility is theirs, and not yours. When you put money in
the bank it shouldn't be a painstaking battle to let go of it. We should be happy to get it off our hands and into theirs.
In the bank they'll put the money in a thing called a "safe." It’s called that because of its function. It's job is to keep
things 'safe.' And God has a real 'safe safe'! When you put your life and protection in His bank you won’t have to
worry about it – it’s safe.
When you make a deposit in the bank there's no sense getting a submachine gun and camping out front to protect
your money! When we're defensive we're doing just that with our lives. It's God's job to guard you and your life.
Remember that you don't belong to you. You deposited yourself into His hands, you need then to leave yourself there
for safe keeping!
Notice also we're told to commit ourselves to our “faithful Creator." It's one thing for Peter to commend us to the God
Who is "faithful" (because He's faithful we know that He'll never let us down. He can be relied upon...). But Peter, in
order to describe the Lord, uses the term 'Creator." Since God is only called "Creator" four times in the entire Bible,
we know that the term is reserved for special occasions. This is such an occasion. He Who made you can protect
you! If He's able to assemble you to begin with, you must know that you can have confidence in His ability to guard
His own creation. You're safe in His hands!
Lastly, if you want to defeat defensiveness you'll have to...
'Then Joseph said to his brothers, "Come close to me." When they had done so, he said, I am your brother Joseph,
- Have confidence in God’s providence
the one you sold into Egypt! And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here,
because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you. For two years now there has been famine in the land,
and for the next five years there wilI not be plowing and reaping. But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you
a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance. "So then, it was not you who sent me here, but
God. He made me father to Pharaoh, lord of his entire household and ruler of all Egypt....
But Joseph said to them. "Don't be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it
for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.' (Genesis 45:4-8; 50:19-20)
Before reaching middle age, Joseph was dropped in a pit, sold into slavery, falsely accused of attempted rape,
unjustly imprisoned, forgotten by the cupbearer who promised him he'd put in a good word for him... He was
rejected, forsaken, and forgotten! Talk about giving a guy a prime scenario for a complex! But, when you read the
'end of the story' (in chapters 45 and 50, cited above) it's clear that somehow Joseph saw it all from God's
perspective. For this reason, he's been called the most Christ-like man in the Old Testament! Instead of getting
bitter, he just got better! He never took things into own hands! He was able, in the midst of all his trials, to trust the
providential care and concern of God. Instead of becoming a victim, he was forever the victor! Instead of giving in to
resentment and self-pity he continued to believe that even the things which were instigated by men or Satan, God
could turn around for good!
The fact is, that Joseph never took things out of God's hands! “He entrusted himself to Him Who judges justly.” He
was a perfect example of a man who "suffered according to the will of God," and then "committed himself to his
faithful Creator," and then "continued to do good"! We saw that Jesus had this spirit, but here we have an everyday
man living with his life in God's hands! How could he do it? There seems to be a key tucked away in chapter 41 of
While living in Egypt, Joseph married and started a family. He named his two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, which
in the Hebrew mean, 'forgetful' and 'fruitful'. When he named them this he said, 'It is because God has made me
forget all my trouble and all my father's household, and... because God has made me fruitful in the land of my
suffering.' God had given him grace sufficient to forgive and "forget" so that he could be "fruitful!" You can't be fruitful
if you hold on to bitterness and resentment. Joseph dealt responsibly with his grievances with his family and others
and therefore was able to say. "I've forgotten in such a way as to become fruitful again." He was able to see God's
hand in all of his circumstances and was therefore set free from the bondage that unforgiveness brings. He saw how
that God in His providence can turn circumstances around which should by all means kill a person's fruitfulness to
actually activate that fruitfulness.
Instead of becoming a victim, he was forever the victor!
In Genesis 49 there's another statement about Joseph's resilience.
'Joseph is a fruitful vine, a fruitful vine near a spring, whose branches climb over a wall. With bitterness archers
attacked him; they shot at him with hostility. But his bow remained steady, his strong arms stayed limber, because
of the hand of the Mighty One of Jacob, because of the Shepherd, the Rock of Israel, because of your father's
God, who helps you, because of the Almighty, who blesses you with blessings of the heavens above, blessings of
the deep that lies below, blessings of the breast and womb. Your father's blessings are greater than the blessings
of the ancient mountains, than the bounty of the age-old hills. Let all these rest on the head of Joseph, on the
brow of the prince among his brothers. " (Gen. 49:22-26)
As a vine, Joseph clinged to climb over all his adversities! He had lots of walls to climb over, but he scaled them all
like a vine overcoming. The Jerusalem Bible translates this, "Joseph is a fruitful creeper near the spring, whose
tendrils climb over the wall..."
It says he was "attacked by archers", but his bow remained steady, his strong arms stayed limber..." To shoot a bow
you have to have a stiff arm. You can't shoot a bow and arrow with a limber arm! Joseph didn't harden his heart or
stiffen his arm! He left it all in God's hands, the hands of "the Mighty One!"
When, as a vine, he got to the top of the wall he had climbed he could see things from God's perspective. He got a
"God's-eye view!" Thus, he turned his misery into ministry! His pain had purpose! He's now a "fruitful vine near a
I'm sure we all concur Joseph was quite a role model. But let's look at our Primary Role Model. Let's look at the life
of our Lord Jesus, and glean from Him how to defeat defensiveness. He, the "Man of Sorrows and acquainted with
grief," shows us and empowers us like no one else how to leave our care in the hands of God. Peter speaks of Him
when teaching us how to deal with unfair treatment, unjust suffering.
He got a "God's-eye view!"
… he turned his misery into ministry!
For it is commendable if a man bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because he is conscious of God. But
how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and
you endure it. this is commendable before God. To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you
an example, that you should follow in his steps. 'He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.' When
they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted
himself to him who judges justly. (1 Peter 2:19-23)
Being Non-Defensive with Peers
It was just before the Passover Feast. Jesus knew that the time had come for him to leave this world and go to the
Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he now showed them the full extent of his love. The evening
meal was being served, and the devil had already prompted Judas Iscariot, son of Simon, to betray Jesus. Jesus
knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God;
so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured
water into a bash and began to wash his disciples' feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.
He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, 'Lord, are you going to wash my feet?' Jesus replied, 'You do not realize
now what I am doing, but later you will understand." 'No," said Peter, 'you shall never wash my feet.' Jesus answered.
"Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.' John 13:1-8
Jesus chose an incredibly vulnerable, humiliating position in the presence of His disciples - the level of their feet!
You cant get any lower than that! And to add to the impact, what we find Jesus doing here, the disciples were most
unwilling to do. In fact, while He was preparing to wash their feet, they were at that very moment arguing. The other
Gospel accounts of the Last Supper tell us they were arguing about who among them was the 'greatest'. Now what
would have precipitated such a disagreement? It’s likely they were arguing about whose turn it was to wash the feet
(since they obviously didn’t have a servant in their employ). 'It's not my turn,' said Peter. 'I'm too great for this kind of
menial job,' replied James. And on and on ... Suffice it to say, no one seemed to be fighting for the towel!
I suggest that theirs was a spirit of defensiveness. And they were about to have demonstrated in front them history's
greatest example of non-defensiveness. As they were saying, "It's not my turn.” Jesus was showing them, “It's
ALWAYS your turn!" Then He told them definitively,'... you should wash one another's feet. I have set you an example
that you should do as I have done for you.'
The key to being able to put oneself in such a humble place is what we hear John saying about the Lord in verse 3:
"Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to
God; SO he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and..." When you know who you are, where you came
from, and where you're going you have nothing to prove and nothing to lose! In other words, insecurity is at the root of
defensiveness. Or to put it positively, the root of non-defensiveness is security with who and what you are. When you
are assured of your own identity, your relationship with the Father, and your role in the world you can be so humble
as to get down at foot-level and play the role of the servant of others.
Please note that as soon as He finished the thankless foot washing He predicted Judas' betrayal (verse 18). In other
words, Jesus just washed the "heel" that was going to be to “lifted up against him"! He was so secure that He was
willing to give Judas a clean foot with which to step on Him! Now that’s security!
Following the meal He went into the Garden to demonstrate non-defensiveness again. It's one thing to be non-
defensive with peers, but what about His attitude with His attackers?
…no one seemed to be fighting for the towel!
Being Non-Defensive with Attackers
Jesus replied, 'Friend, do what you came for.' Then the men stepped forward, seized Jesus and arrested him. With
that, one of Jesus' companions reached for his sword, drew it out and struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off
his ear. "Put your sword back in 'its place.' Jesus said to him, 'for all who draw the sword will die by the sword. Do
you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels? But
how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way?' (Matthew 26:50-64)
Amazing! His last miracle was to heal an enemy! He refused to take things into His own hands and defend Himself -
all the way to His death.
It's important to remember that Jesus was in no way defenseless, but “non-defensive.” He could've called 12 legions
(a legion is 6,000; 12 legions is therefore 72.000 angels!). He could've defended Himself, but He chose not to.
We can defend ourselves, but it always turns to our own detriment when we do. The end result of defending
ourselves (walls) is usually worse than what we were defending ourselves from in the first place! More on that later...
Jesus could have defended Himself in the Garden, yet He resisted the temptation. He refused to take things into His
own hands! Remember? 'He entrusted Himself to Him Who judges justly...'
He acted in what the Bible calls, "meekness". Meekness is being secure enough to leave your protection to God! It’s
being strong enough to be weak! Someone once quipped, "If you think meek is weak, try to be meek for a week!"
You've got to have an incredible inner-strength to be a meek person.
Where does one get that kind of "strength?" Well, where did Jesus get it? It's my thesis that He got it in the Garden.
It's why He even went to the Garden in the first place. He went there to get the strength from the Father through
prayer to resist the temptation to retaliate. While still in the Garden He said to the disciples, 'Watch and pray so that
you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak'(Man. 26:41). It was in that place of prayer
that He overcame the temptation to defend Himself and avoid the cross altogether. Praise God He went to the
Garden to pray!
Several hours later He faced His next temptation to retaliate.
Meekness is being secure enough to leave your protection to God! It’s being strong enough to be weak!
Being Non-Defensive with Mockers
In the same way the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders mocked him. "He saved others.' they said,
'but he can't save himself! He's the King of Israel! Let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in
him. He trusts in God. Let God rescue him now if he wants him, for he said, V am the Son of God." In the same way
the robbers who were crucified with him also heaped insults on him. (Matthew 27:41 -44)
It's pretty easy to deduce from this that to trust God to protect you doesn't mean you won't suffer! Our Lord trusted
His Father more than any man before or since, and yet He suffered an excruciating death. But the last word wasn't
spoken when they took Him down from the cross. Neither is it all said and done when you and I leave our destinies in
the hands of God, die to our flesh and our plans and our desires. Don't forget that there's a resurrection just on the
other side of every death!
If we die with Him we shall also live with Him. 2 Timothy 2:1
Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand, that He may lift you up in due time. 1 Peter 5:6
In other words, you will get hurt in life by others. But it's your choice whether to get bitter or better!
We're not advocating repressing emotions and feelings about what others do to you, thinking that it's not Christ-like
to tell others how you feel or to communicate about injustice when its done.
We're not recommending the repression of true heart-felt emotions, rather the confession and expression of them in
prayer to God. Nor are we suggesting that we have no right to feel angry when victimized and violated. But when this
is the case, we must learn to go to our Father with those feelings and get strength from Him to begin forgiving. As
someone has said, "The Healer of our hurts is the Feeler of our hurts.” And, "The One Who wipes our tears also
weeps with us."
What we're proposing is that we must learn to process our feelings in the context of our security in Him. We need to
learn to leave our defense to God and refuse to build walls which will inevitably keep God and others out!
On the cross, Jesus was in a most vulnerable position. He, with hands outstretched, had no way to defend Himself,
to protect Himself. His situation personified non-defensiveness. And He CHOSE that posture! He'd escaped several
stonings earlier in His ministry because He'd chosen the cross (the epitome of vulnerability) on which to give His life!
Notice how his mockers were emphatic about His not being able to "save Himself." Their concept of messiah-ship
and kingship was founded upon an individual's power to protect, save, exert oneself. Most of the kings they knew
had violently assassinated their predecessors in order to rise to office.
'This Man is no King.' they mocked, 'He cant even save Himself," 'He saved others, but He can t save Himself.'
They were right that He saved others, but didn’t realize that He had determined NOT to save Himself so that He
could save others! It would've been history's most tragic self-defensive act had He decided to save Himself! Nobody
would have blamed Him. He certainly would've impressed His mockers had He come down off the cross when they
taunted Him saying, "Let Him come down now from the cross, we will believe in Him."
Books would have been written about, "The Man Who Came Down Off The Cross". The catch is. He wouldn't ever
have been able to save another had He suddenly had enough, and given way to the temptation to retaliate, and
come down from the cross. He really had the choice between saving His reputation and saving others from sin!
He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich.
(2 Corinthians 8:9)
While you and I aren't facing the option of saving ourselves or others from sin, we do have a decision to make. We
either go through life building walls around ourselves to keep our feelings and reputation safe from harm, or we leave
them in God's hands and live to help others find His saving power.
Books would have
been written about, "The Man Who Came Down Off The Cross".
Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who being in very nature God, did not consider equality
with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in
human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death -
even death on a cross! (Philippians 2:5-8)
We've been talking about being non-defensive with people, but have you ever been defensive with God? Have you
ever felt that He was against you, and that you needed to tell Him off? Jesus, on the cross, models for us the apex of
non-defensiveness with the Father.
Being Non-Defensive with the Father
About the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, 'Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani' - which means. 'My God, my God,
why have you forsaken me?' (Matthew 27:46)
Have you ever noticed that the Father never speaks (out loud) during the arrest, trials, or execution of Jesus? After
all, He spoke at His Baptism and on the Mount of Transfiguration affirming the identity and ministry of Jesus. But
what kind of "Fair Weather Friend" is He, not to speak to His Son in His darkest hour? In Jesus' moment of greatest
need the Father is silent. Even in the Garden, He says nothing (at least that we have in the record). Jesus asked a
very pointed question here (Matt. 27:46). No reply! Of all times to withhold information! Have you ever had God be
silent on you in a crisis? It's horrible!
The Father refuses to reply, but Jesus didn't waver. His later, and final, prayer was: 'Father, into your hands I commit
my spirit.' What an incredible statement to make. This is what Peter meant when he said that 'He entrusted Himself
to Him who judges justly.' (The Living Bible translates it: "He left his case in the hands of God.") This last prayer of
His from the cross shows He never gave in to defensiveness. He was still "trusting" His Father with His life. He didn't
get an answer to His question "Why?” But still He trusted.
I'm so glad that Jesus asked the Father the question. I believe it's a legitimate question. In fact, I think we need to
ask this question at times for our own good. But remember, you may or may not get an answer. He didn't.
We usually interpret silence as rejection, remembering that when He spoke last it was so affirming. Maybe silence
means He's changed His mind about me and rejected me! How could He be silent now? Is He mad at me now?
Look at all I've done! I'm here dying (as Jesus was on the cross) and He leaves me. Satan loves this kind of
reasoning. He loves to make us feel forsaken. But Jesus didn't give in to this deception, nor do we have to.
In Jesus' moment of greatest need the Father is silent.
A friend of mine says, “I’ve had lots of opportunities to be offended, but I just refuse to take any of them!" Everyone
reading this will be offended one time or another – probably more like hundreds of times, really. We can't choose
what happens TO us, but we certainly do have something to say about what goes on IN us. In this section, we’re
going to talk about offenses and overcoming them.
Being offended is a horrible feeling. The Greek term most often translated “offense” in the Bible is "skandalon,"
which means the trigger on a trap, or even the trap itself. While Satan has many traps set for us, one of his main
triggers is the offense.
"An offended brother is more unyielding than a fortified city, and disputes are like the barred gates of a citadel."
This says something terrifying about offenses. Apparently there's a bondage that goes along with being offended
and holding onto it - complete with its own prison and barred cells!
I’ve had lots of
to be offended,
but I just refuse
to take any of them!
Jesus gave His disciples an intriguing teaching about overcoming offenses in Luke 17:1-10
Jesus said to his disciples: "Things that cause people to sin are bound to come, but woe to that person through
whom they come. It would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around his neck than for
him to cause one of these little ones to sin. So watch yourselves.
"If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him. If he sins against you seven times in a day, and
seven times comes back to you and says, 'I repent,' forgive him."
The apostles said to the Lord, "Increase our faith!"
He replied, "If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, 'Be uprooted and
planted in the sea,' and it will obey you.
"Suppose one of you had a servant plowing or looking after the sheep. Would he say to the servant when he
comes in from the field, 'Come along now and sit down to eat'? Would he not rather say, 'Prepare my supper, get
yourself ready and wait on me while I eat and drink; after that you may eat and drink'? Would he thank the servant
because he did what he was told to do? So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should
say, 'We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.' "
In this passage, the Lord tells us of three keys to overcoming offenses.
The first and most important thing Jesus tells us to do with our offenses is to forgive our offenders.
“…forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”
Forgiveness is the sure-fire cure for offense… You can’t stay offended very long while you’re in a state of forgiving
those who’ve offended you.
Forgiving is the foundation of all relationships with imperfect people… That’s how God has chosen to relate to us, as
flawed as we are. He then turns around and requires it of us with one another.
Forgiveness is the antiseptic for our emotional wounds… It cleans out the infection of bitterness and resentment.
(The word, “resentment” means to feel it over and over.) If it still hurts it’s because it’s still infected. Forgiveness
clears the slate and cleans the wound.
Unforgiveness, on the other hand, protects the infection from the healing touch of Jesus. It harbors the grudge,
instead of loosing it to the sea of forgetfulness. Someone said, “When you throw dirt at others, you lose ground!”
“If he repents forgive him” doesn’t mean that we don’t forgive unless he repents. If he chooses not to repent, then our
forgiveness is a unilateral thing. It won’t bring total reconciliation between you, but if you forgive, you will have done
what was right before God, and what is healthiest for you. Eventually, if your forgiveness is genuine, it will most likely
convict the heart of the offender. And if he does eventually repent, then your forgiveness, already in place, will almost
certainly lead to complete restoration and reconciliation.
“Giving someone all your love is never an assurance that they’ll love you back. Don’t expect love in return; just wait
for it to grow in their heart, but if it doesn’t, be content it grew in yours.”
Forgiveness clears the slate and cleans the wound.
The apostles said to the Lord, "Increase our faith!" He replied, "If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can
say to this mulberry tree, 'Be uprooted and planted in the sea,' and it will obey you.
Does their question seem a little strange to you? He’d just told them to forgive an offender of seven offenses in one
day. The disciples are overwhelmed with the challenge of such a prospect, and instead of asking for more love or
more grace or more mercy, they want more faith. “Give us more faith… No way we can do this with the faith we’ve
got…! We don’t have the aptitude for this forgiving thing!”
I suggest to you that faith in God is a huge factor in our relationships with each other. Are you having a hard time
forgiving? Do you feel like you just can’t trust those who’ve hurt you? You can forgive them by trusting God to take
care of the outcome. If you take the risk to forgive them, though you may not be able to trust them, you can trust God
to do what He sees best with them!
“You don’t need more faith. There is no ‘more’ or ‘less’ in faith. If you have a bare kernel of faith, say the size of a
poppy seed, you could say to this sycamore tree, ‘Go jump in the lake,’ and it would do it.” The Message Bible
How much faith in God do you need to be able to forgive people? The question isn’t really HOW MUCH faith, but
HOW REAL IS IT? Real faith in God can uproot the most deeply rooted tree of resentment.
He talks about uprooting a tree and planting it in the sea. What does that have to do with the topic of forgiveness,
defensiveness, and overcoming offenses? Something Hebrews says might help us answer that:
See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.
Jesus uses the 'tree' metaphor to depict a bitterness that has grown up into a fruit-bearing bitterness tree. He's
telling us how to get rid of it, how to deal with the bitter tree. Faith is the key. Trusting Him can help you avoid
bitterness to begin with, but it can also "uproot" any tree of resentment developed from unforgiveness and throw it
into the sea! Going to God and trusting Him is not only preventative medicine. It can also help perform any life-saving
surgery once a bitterness has taken root in our being.
Don’t say, 'I'll pay you back for this wrong.’ Wait for the Lord and He will deliver you Proverbs 20:22
Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you. So we may say with confidence. The Lord is my helper; I will not be
afraid. What can man do to me? Hebrews 13:5-6
Relationships are the most daring, potentially dangerous, and most wonderful thing in the world! If you’re in an
offended state now (or given to being offended), could it be a faith issue? Do you need to trust God more with your
protection? If you try to protect yourself by building walls around you to keep the bad people out, be warned that this
wall also keeps the good people out, and worse than that, tends to keep God out!
To illustrate His point, Jesus then told the disciples a parable. The main point of the story, in my opinion, is the 3rd
key to overcoming offenses – the power of humility.
Relationships are the most
daring, potentially dangerous,
and most wonderful
thing in the world
"Suppose one of you had a servant plowing or looking after the sheep. Would he say to the servant when he comes
in from the field, 'Come along now and sit down to eat'? Would he not rather say, 'Prepare my supper, get yourself
ready and wait on me while I eat and drink; after that you may eat and drink'? Would he thank the servant because
he did what he was told to do? So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, 'We are
unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.' "
The lesson of the Parable is not how servants in this world should be treated. You might read this and say, “Yea, he
should invite him to eat with him!” But this isn’t a teaching on how to treat your slave. It’s a teaching on how to forgive,
how to overcome offenses. And how does Jesus propose we do it? Take on the servant’s attitude – be humble.
Remember, you’re a servant of God. Nothing more - nothing less. A servant has no rights, just responsibilities.
When your focus is on what you believe you deserve, you’re probably not operating in the servant’s attitude.
Servants don’t expect the world to revolve around them, so when it doesn’t, they’re not surprised!
What do you do when people don’t like you, when they’re offensive toward you? If your identity is as a “Servant of
God,” it won’t get to you as much. If you know your servant’s place before God and rejoice in it, you’ll be less apt to
be given to offenses.
Servants of God prioritize people because God prioritizes people. Because people are important to God,
relationships with people will be important to us. He gave His best to fix all of our relationships (with Him, with one
another, with ourselves). In so far as we serve God, we’ll prioritize those relationships, and be careful not to hold on
to offenses against those God loves!
When you’re a servant, the focus is not on you (the servant), but on Him (the One served). A servant’s life is not
usually an easy one. You’ll have to endure a lot and resist self-pity. Someone pointed out (Jesus, I think) that the
Christian life is supposed to kill you! Your only chance of being a successful servant of God is to die to what you tend
to want. When you’re willing to do that, you can experience resurrection power to live in what God wants. This is
antidote for self pity – death!
Servants don’t expect the world to revolve around them, so when it doesn’t, they’re not surprised!
“We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.” WE say “we are unworthy” servants, so that someday HE
may say, “well done thou GOOD and FAITHFUL servant!”
I’m giving You my heart and all that is within
I lay it all down for the sake of You my King
I’m giving You my dreams, I’m laying down my rights
I’m giving up my pride for the promise of new life
And I surrender all to You, all to You
And I surrender all to You, all to You
I’m singing You this song, I’m waiting at the cross
And all the world holds dear, I count it all but loss
For the sake of knowing You, the glory of your Name
To know this lasting joy, even sharing in your pain
In addition to these three keys to overcoming offenses: forgiveness, faith, and humility; the Bible gives us some
practical steps in dealing with them.
• Recognize the offense as an offense.
Discern the “Accuser of the Brethren” behind it. See your part in sinfully reacting to it. Stop justifying it, and begin
dealing with it as something that will harm you and others if you don't.
• Confess your offense to God.
Someone said, "Don't nurse it, disperse it!" Go to God with it. Discuss it with Him. Share your feelings with Him,
share your heart with Him. Share your sin with Him. He'll listen. If you've been sinned against He'll listen. If you've
sinned He'll listen.
But you, O God, do see trouble and grief; you consider it to take it in hand. The victim commits
himself to you; you are the helper of the fatherless. Psalm 10:14
Commit it to Him, don't harbor it in your heart! Commit it to Him, not to everyone else in the church!
• Confront the offender.
'If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you. you have
won your brother over.
The first action is to just drop it. Chalk it up to the imperfect world we live in. Don't "trip on" every little thing there is
to trip on!
If you can't just drop it, pray about it. Ask God to help you get it our of your heart and mind. If you still can't get it out of
your craw, then pray about humbly going to the person to discuss it. Notice I said to pray about even going! If you feel
it’s best to confront, then ask God how you should do the confronting. Remember, you're not trying to win an
argument, you're trying to win your brother and save a relationship!
When you do the confronting, you're not merely trying to change them, you're also trying to change yourself. Even
your confronting is a confession. You're confessing your offense.
• Forgive the offender.
For if you forgive men when they sin against you. your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But
If you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. Matthew 6:14
… forgive your brother from your heart.' Matthew 18:35
'Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be
forgiven. Luke 6:37
Jesus said, 'Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.' And they divided up his clothes by
casting lots. Luke 23:34
Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord
forgave you. Colossians 3:13
To forgive doesn't mean that you're justifying their actions, but that you're not holding it against them anymore.
Don't "trip on" every
little thing there
is to trip on!
• Pray for the perpetrator of the offense.
But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. Matthew 5:44
After Job had prayed for his friends, the LORD made him prosperous again and gave him twice as much as he had
before. Job 42:10
Job's friends judged him and offended him. But his fortune wasn't restored until he prayed for them! Things turned
around for him only after he prayed for those who deeply hurt him. Praying for enemies gets you to see them more
from God's perspective.
Are you a “defensive” person? Do you tend to get “offended” easily or stay offended indefinitely? My sincerest hope
is that you’ll take these brief and cursory thoughts which I consider to be based in Scripture to change those self-
destructive traits as soon as possible.
- May the Father love you into a change of heart.
- May Jesus be your example.
- May the Holy Spirit empower you to love people unconditionally, forgive them readily, and make every effort to
guard the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace!