Then some Pharisees and teachers of the law came to Jesus from Jerusalem and asked, “Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? They don’t wash their hands before they eat!” Matthew 15:1-2 (NIV)
Please read Matthew 15:1-12 (NIV) for full context.
It's a comment that hurts my heart, raises my blood pressure and causes me to twitch. Simultaneously. The worst part is, I often hear it after I've shared something personal about an emotional or financial hardship. I suppose without thinking, someone will blurt out, "Well, your husband's a doctor, so fixing it ought to be easy. You have tons of money!"
It's the age old game of second guessing someone based on an outside characteristic and we all do it. The Pharisees did it to Jesus and he squelched them. He answered them with words that sounded less than loving, but were seasoned with grace and patience. I, however, have a hard time finding that balance between being searingly angry and offended and needing to pour out grace on someone who has just wounded me with their words. If I want to have a Jesus heart, I must learn to walk in the world of the wounded but not let others’ words affect my spirit.
Jesus' people skills were like no other. He had a way of diffusing, disarming and deflecting statements that were aimed straight at His heart. When I feel like my heart has been used as a punching bag, it helps me to remember Matthew 15:1-12.
The Pharisees were so focused on how people appeared on the outside, but Jesus quickly drew them back to the real issue. He reminded them it's not about how clean our hands are or how well we follow tradition, but we should be concerned about the condition of our hearts.
I'm finding it much easier to pray for those who misunderstand me, offend me and gently give them guidance. Maybe my own ignorance about others has caused me to hurt people. I need to continually draw near to my Savior to know His heart so He can minister to my words.
A hurting world needs that.
I like that just before the verse in Matthew 15, Jesus reminds us in Matthew 5 to pray for those who persecute us (Matthew 5:43-44). Maybe being offended isn't quite as severe as persecution, but it certainly isn't a lot of fun emotionally. I am learning, ever so slowly, to act (pray) and not react (lash out, say something ugly in return) when I am offended. Jesus is still in the business of changing hearts, lives and emotions. Today is the day He can change yours.
Father God, I am so emotionally immature sometimes. I want to act like an unbeliever when someone hurts me. But I am so thankful for the example of mature believers in my life who exemplify how to act when an offense happens. It's their witness to me of Your love, grace and patience with those who offend that has helped me. May I not offend with my words or actions, but may I be an example of healthy ways to deal with people so the world sees You in me. Amen.