This is the last in a series of posts on a book I am not recommending you read, but will provide the link so you can read the first couple of chapters for yourself, if you would like, or purchase if, in spite of my review, you are thinking there might be something in it for you.
The Love of God, So Rich and Pure
“We’re displeased with others because we’re convinced God is displeased with us. We ‘believe’ God loves us, but we suspect it’s provisional, based on whether we ever get our act straightened out. That’s a lot to carry.”Brant Hansen, “Unoffendable,” p.122
This motive rings hollow to me. If you resonate with this, then I am glad I pulled it out as a quote, Chapter 16 might be helpful for you.
Still, we become displeased with others for a host of reasons.
- Our own comfort or happiness or way is being impinged upon.
- We are concerned for the other person.
- Standards, ethics, and values we subscribe to are being transgressed.
- Expectations have been disappointed—in fact, our displeasure may signal we had an expectation we did not realize we had until it was disappointed.
- We have run out of our own supply of patience, confidence, sense of security or safety, enjoyment.
- Our own level of anxiety, stress, weariness, depression, is already high.
The seeming presumption of “Unoffendable” is that we cannot hold being offended and a having proclivity for grace in the same heart at the same time, that love and hurt or anger cannot occupy the same space. But that presumption would deny our bond with Jesus, our abiding in the vine. And we know that within God’s heart, and therefore ours, “mercy triumphs over judgment.”
Thankfully, the rich love of God the Spirit of Christ “poured into our hearts” enables us to have such great capacity we can be hurt and we can recover all at the same time. This is at least partly what Peter meant when he wrote,
Above all, maintain constant love (agape) for one another, for love (agape) covers a multitude of sins. Be hospitable to one another without complaining.1 Peter 4:8-9 (NRSV)
It is actually for the other person’s good to see our offense, hurt, anger, even aggravation and annoyance, reflected back to them. These are relational issues that touch on our weaknesses and flaws, and allow us opportunities to restore each other.
All of us have blind spots. We cannot see those things on our own (that is why they are called “blind” spots).
Sometimes a blind spot can be a habit of judgmentalism. It is certainly easy to come by in a culture that puts great stock in outward appearance and competition. Children are taught early—often by each other—about the “rules of the game,” and children can be quite brutal in pegging down those who do not quite make it. It soon becomes clear that those who do the pegging down can rise on the backs of their victims. The other children around them seem to approve of their mocking, sarcasm, and shaming. Sitcoms, comics, novels, popular songs, all seem to endorse the humor of snarkism.
The truth is, we have all grown up in this atmosphere, shame is the very air we breathe.
And there are three ways in which people usually deal with all the shame that saturates our environment.
We take all the shame around us and internalize it, feeling a sort of blanket guilt for everything. We find ourselves constantly saying, “I am sorry,” regardless of who is involved, or what has happened. We feel ourselves to be shameful and awful, unworthy of any love or good.
Conversely, we dish shame out on a regular basis, critical, judgmental, complaining about others to others, we cut people with satirical contempt, we believe the worst in others. We find humor in sarcasm, roasting, public shaming, and mocking. We enjoy taking others down a notch, or watching them taken down.
Breathe In and Out
Just as often, we do both. We take in shame and we dish out shame.
Breath of God
This is a big part of what makes the Kingdom of God so breathtakingly (ahem) amazing.
Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.Romans 8:1-2 (NRSV)
We have been set free of the Shame Blame Game.
God is so powerful, God’s love so rich and pure, that you and I can simply be free of the whole thing. We can breathe the pure heavenly air that God breathes.
We can be set free from mocking—simply let it go, never mock or enjoy the mocking of another person ever again. There is no need. God loves them as they are, and God is at work in their lives whether they realize it or not. Whatever it is that seems mock-worthy is either precious in the eyes of God, or is a place where God has potential to be at work in that person’s life.
We can be set free of sarcasm—simply let it go, never cut down another person again, or enjoy watching them be cut down. There is no need. There is no pecking order in the Kingdom of God. There is room for every person to be equally (infinitely, eternally) loved and equally (infinitely, eternally) valued.
And if that person—the target of such things—has not placed their faith in God, then mocking and sarcasm will not bring them any closer.
Cost of Forgiveness
If I try to tell myself I am “unoffendable,” then there will never be forgiveness, because I am pretending there is no offense. To be this way means I choose never to be a forgiver.
However, usually, people know when they have delivered an offense of some kind. Sometimes, the offender feels they were justified in what they said or did. Often, we all try to minimize or rationalize the offenses we commit.
This is exactly why it is good for us, important for us, sometimes crucial for us to see just how costly our offense was.
Because we will then appreciate the very steep price the one who forgives us is willing to pay for our own transgression.
Chapter 18 does give something of this sense.
The author explains he is given to argumentativeness because he enjoys the fray, and he enjoys the feeling of winning. He acknowledges, at least to some degree, that his winning is not really winning. I will add that enjoyment of winning means acknowledging the enjoyment of taking something from the other. For every winner there is at least one loser. That is the nature and spirit of competition.
Thankfully, God is not argumentative, nor does God pit God’s righteousness against the unrighteousness of others. God would certainly win each time. But God wants so very much more. God wants relationship with human beings, harmony with and within all creation. God wants shalom.
So God absorbs the incalculable cost of forgiveness.
And every time we absorb the cost of forgiving another, or at the very least, choosing not to seek their losing so we can be the winner, we enter into the profound and supernatural realm of heaven. We lean deeper into the life and ministry of our Lord.
The last few chapters, apart from reiterating principles I have already addressed in previous posts, have some good things to say about forgiveness, generosity of love, and a willingness to practice the proverb that states, “a soft answer turns away wrath.”
My main issues with this book have to do with what (in my view) are
- the mishandling of scripture,
- the lack of sensitivity for those who have been traumatized or need therapy,
- how the principles outlined in this book can be easily weaponized by someone who does not want to take responsibility for the offenses they make,
- and a few false premises having to do with anger and offense.