• Rebecca Hoverd

Offence and goodness

Rebecca reflects on how sometimes we just get real offended through communication, but actually this can have larger consequences. In this piece, she uses King Neb and his gold image to illustrate this.

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? What about when someone from work messages you on your day off? Or when someone makes a public comment, directly or indirectly calling you out? What about when people just don’t realise the power of their words they use?

To me, the power of communication is a big deal. When communication is not done well, or even just not respected, I find it rather annoying.

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. I may not have any insight to their position either.

Where the offence lies

By taking offence 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; we doubt His goodness because we judge Him by man’s flawed and limited standards. When we hold onto past hurts, we turn ourselves a tiny bit away from God.

I never notice when my words are the ones that affect someone else or, when my messages interrupt someone else’s day, or when I message my workmates on their days off.

See, this is one of the things that I think 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.’ I find that I start to give the person less time and attention and view everything they do through this negative lens.

The problem with offence

By holding onto the hurt that we could get from the way someone has communicated to us, we can start falling into the offence trap. We continually let ourselves live in a state of being offended by particular people. And when we are offended, this can prevent us from seeing people’s goodness.

Really that just isn’t fair - not fair by a even worldly standard, and definitely not fair as followers of Christ. We aren’t called hold onto hurt and let it shape the way we think of and treat others. We’re called to love freely and let go of everything.

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego

Awhile ago, I frequently saw the phrase ‘and if not He is still good’, referring to Daniel 3:18. 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.

King Neb did not like this and ordered Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego to be thrown into a blazing furnace. However, these three 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.’

The thing is God IS good - He wouldn’t be God if He wasn’t.

Firstly, don’t you just love their faithfulness. They are bold and they really know God is good.

They also don’t get defensive or shift the blame onto Nebuchadnezzar or try call 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 offence.

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 18:19, 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 really how destructive offence can be but how easy it is to fall into the offence trap. Because of this, we fail to see that when we are offended through people’s communication, 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 nicely into our hectic lives.

Rebecca Hoverd studies law and geography at The University of Auckland and loves writing as a way to communicate with God and to unpack her thoughts. She loves coffee, conversations, and would love to hear your feedback at rebeccahoverd@gmail.com. // Photo credit: Tim Pavis

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