This is supposed to be a season of blessing (God knows we spend enough money to make it picture perfect). Yet from the end of November to the end of December so many families experience incredible stress,offense and ultimately disappointment. How can this be?
Jesus was no stranger to offense. He didn’t offend people on purpose, but he also did not shy away from speaking unpopular truths. I think most casual admirers of Jesus would be surprised to learn how often he offended and alienated people. On at least one occasion he said, “Blessed is he who is not offended by me”. According to Jesus, offense is an obstacle to blessing.
So why is it so easy to get offended during the holidays? The 2 reasons that first come to mind are expectations and traditions. Even my opening statement about what this season is supposed to be betrayed the fact that I have expectations. Our expectations may be healthy and reasonable, but that doesn’t mean they will be met. Whenever you have expectations of people you are setting yourself up for disappointment. You are setting up a scenario where you feel entitled to your expected outcome. If people don’t meet that expectation, they owe you a debt.
Traditions are actually expectations that are shared over time, often across generations and sometimes entire cultures. People eat, dress,worship, and celebrate holidays in certain ways largely because of what is expected of them. The tradition itself isn’t evil or dangerous, but ask yourself “What happens if someone doesn’t embrace my tradition?” and you can easily see how traditions become a source of conflict (of course, this isn’t just true during the holidays). It’s especially true with newlyweds, in-laws, blended families, and other settings where people with different sets of traditions and expectations come together. We assume other people have similar values. These priorities often go unspoken, until someone doesn’t “play by the rules”.
It’s important to remember that Jesus didn’t say “Blessed is he who is right”. Often, we would rather enjoy the satisfaction of believing we’re right, holding a grudge against the person who offended us. Blessing comes when we yield those rights, when we release people from the debt that they owe us, when we choose to forgive rather than cherish an offense. The person who offended us is in fact made in the image of the one who said “Blessed is he who is not offended by me”.
Who can you release from the debts of your unmet expectations? Who can you forgive so that you can experience greater blessing?