I tend to believe that I have offended most people. Part of it is because I know that, as a verbal processor and a “blunt” Australian, I can say things in a non-refined and culturally inappropriate way. And part of it is because, in the culture of this part of America, people seem to be nice to your face even if they are upset in their hearts. Many Americans tell me they’ve always wanted to go to Australia. I always encourage them to go but I wonder, how do Americans cope with the brutally honest Australian culture?! I mean, I barely survived the brutally honest Australian culture and I was born and raised in it! Ha.
There are a quite a few bold Americans who have confronted me directly about situations or conversations. Unfortunately, the American version of “direct” and “blunt” is still full of subtext and so I still miss a lot of what is really being said. I’m not sure if subtext is not a part of Australian communication or not a part of Australian childhood communication. But either way, subtext is not in my communication tool box. I am at a loss when people use words with many layers of meanings and subtext. Sometimes I get a sense there is emotional content but I have no ability to work it out! The phrase “lost in translation” comes to mind. But we’re all speaking English.
Anyway, that’s a big part of why I worry that I’ve offended people. I’m offensive + I can’t tell if you’re offended = Assume I’ve offended everyone.
“You have heard that the ancients were told, ‘YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT MURDER ‘ and ‘Whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court.’ “But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court ; and whoever says to his brother, ‘You good-for-nothing,’ shall be guilty before the supreme court ; and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell. “Therefore if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar and go ; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering. Matthew 5:21-24 (NASB)
This verse has always raised questions for me. What does this look like practically in our context? How can I know if someone has something against me? I feel like every person I talk to every day could have something against me. Where do I even begin to work on reconciliation?
We talked about this passage at a Bible Study group today and it really stirred my heart again to find a way to practically apply it in my life.
Here’s what jumped out at me today: the phrase, “remember that your brother has something against you,” uses the word “remember.” Not “guess,” not “sense,” not “wonder if.”
“Remember” (Greek: Mimnesko) means to remind, recall, return to one’s mind.
As I read the passage today I saw something new. There’s a tone to the wording that makes me think this is referring to unresolved conflict, an impasse of unforgiveness, or an ongoing issue of anger that both parties are aware of. It makes me see a joint-ownership in the problem. Like, the issue had been discussed (or yelled about) but it had not been resolved.
I have been so worried about all the people I *think* I could have offended every day, that I’ve not focused on the deeper issue here. All of us have old burnt bridges and unresolved issues that have been put aside at some point. Maybe it’s because it’s too painful to continue discussing. Maybe it’s because the conflict had been too raw and time was needed before reconciliation could happen. In Matthew 5, Jesus is inspiring us to allow the altar of God to be a place where His Spirit will remind us of things that now need to be resolved. I cannot pursue reconciliation with every person I *guess* could be offended. What a fruitless, fearful life that is. But I can be a tender, responsive listener to the Holy Spirit and ask Him daily for the names of people I need to connect or reconnect with.
This “remember” challenge feels way more fruitful than trying to deal with my fears of offending every human every day. When I bring my offering to the altar… my heart, my time, my prayer, my literal offering, my proverbial offering… will I allow myself to be reminded by God’s Spirit? And will I be courageous to go after the reconciliation?
Praying in a new way tonight. Praying to hear God’s reminders and pursue His timing.