Opinions are funny things. They are so easily formed but not so easily changed. They are unique to the individual but can form camps of like-mindedness. They can lead to strong convictions and the dismissal of dissent. Opinions are also the least valuable thing I bring to the Church.
My opinion of others can be a strong filter through which I interact with them. But from where do those opinion originate?
Have I ever formed an opinion of a person based upon someone else’s experience with them?
I’ve been there. I’ve let a friend’s offense at someone else filter my perception of them. Without knowing the truth, I took on the offense as if it had happened to me. Only later, I discovered that things had not happened quite like I had been told by my friend. My friend was wrong but in his pride and insecurity he had attempted to control my perception of the other person. It was painful to see his unrepentant heart seek to control everyone around him so that they saw him as the victim and the other person as the villain. It was even more painful to see many of the people he had told his lies to take on his offense and watch the bitterness grow in their hearts. I learned a valuable lesson through it all.
Never let my opinion of others come from someone else’s perspective.
Let my opinion of others come from the heart of the Father towards them.
Don’t take on someone else’s offense as if it were my own.
Situations like this are not new. Acts 19 tells of a time when Paul and Barnabus started a riot in Ephesus. The whole thing started because one guy named Demetrius got upset that people weren’t buying his handmade gods anymore because of Paul and Barnabus’ proclamation of the Gospel. Threatened by his loss of status and income, he started lying to people about Paul and Barnabus and even threw god into the equation! Only his god was manmade — Artemis. Demetrius stirred up a riot against Paul and Barnabus with people who had believed his lies and taken on the offense for themselves. But verse 19 says about the crowd,
The assembly was in confusion: Some were shouting one thing, some another. Most of the people did not even know why they were there. (Acts 19:32)
That’s what happens when we take on the offense of someone else without knowing the truth. And that’s exactly what happened with my friend. Some of the most ridiculous untrue things were said about him by people who were not witnesses to the situation, but had only heard my other friend’s prideful version of the story. They formed pockets of like-mindedness against the other person just like in Ephesus without even realizing their opinions were based upon the perspective of my friend’s brokenness. There is a solution to this…
Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. John 8:32
Knowing the truth will set us free from the trap of offense-based opinions of others. I don’t mean knowing the facts of the case. I mean knowing The Truth — Jesus. Jesus is the way, and the truth, and the life (John 14:6). The word “know” in the Greek refers to experiential knowledge. “Knowing the truth” means experiencing Jesus in an intimate relationship. As we walk with Him we begin to see things (and people) from His perspective and this changes everything. We now view ourselves and others from heaven’s perspective and heaven only sees sons and daughters in need of grace. Our experiential knowledge of Jesus is what empowers us to fulfill the greatest two commandments; to love God and love each other.
Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Matthew 7:1-2
We have a choice as to how to respond to potential offense: judgement or grace. The choice is ours but the consequences are not. If we take on the offense of others we choose judgement and judgement is what we will receive in return. But I have found grace to be the measure I most prefer for me, so grace is what I will choose to extend — especially to my offended friend.