“A person’s wisdom yields patience; it is to one’s glory to overlook an offense.” -Proverbs 19:11
“I’m offended!” How many times have we heard this statement? My guess is too many times to count. We live in a culture of offense. American culture celebrates the offended party and demands that the offenders change themselves to become acceptable to the offended. From removing Christmas trees in the workplace to unfriending people on social media, it’s clear that the spirit of offense is running rampant. Is this response biblical though? Does this type of thinking lead to the abundant life Jesus calls us to? Let’s take a closer look. It’s time to expose the ugly face of offense.
I am no stranger to the spirit of offense. Few people are more easily offended than I was. Just a hairstyle or a tattoo was enough to offend my sensibilities, just because I didn’t care for the style. This led me down a path of judgment. When you are standing in judgment over someone, it becomes impossible to love them. Jesus calls us to love others as we love ourselves (Mark 12:31). How can we accomplish this if we hold an offense against someone? The offense becomes a stumbling block in our hearts for love. The longer an offense goes undealt with, the more it begins to harden into a stronghold; Our hearts turning from soft, moldable clay into solid rock. God wants us to have soft hearts toward people!
Now a typical offense can be something quite petty, like someone cutting you off in traffic or having a differing viewpoint, but what about major offenses, like physical abuse? Certainly, petty offenses can be trivial, but how can you let go of real offenses? Surely these are justified? After all, offenses are painful. Offenses shed light on our own broken souls and reveal our own marred hearts, which are in need of healing. Instead of lashing out at someone for causing or exposing our wounds, we can bring our hurting hearts to Jesus. Only he has the power to mend what’s been broken. While healing is what we all need, there is also a desire most of us have for justice. We want to see the offender get what they deserve: punishment.
I have good news for you! Every offense has been punished! Jesus took the punishment for every sin and offense upon himself at the cross. He alone is the perfect sacrifice because he is sinless. The price has been paid for each one of us. In light of this, can we still hold tightly to our offenses or those who have offended us? What does Jesus have to say about it? He challenges us to forgive, and not just once or twice, but an unlimited number of times! When Peter asked Jesus how many times he should forgive his brother, I imagine he believed seven times was quite a generous number. Jesus answered, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven” (Matthew 18:21-22). Peter had to be very surprised! Forgiveness is no easy task though. It can literally feel like you’re dying inside. It’s one of the hardest things you will ever be asked to do by God.
I never had a huge problem with unforgiveness, until there was a divorce in our family. The family fell apart. Coming from a divorced home myself, this was all too familiar for me. It was the first time I really struggled to forgive. I realized I didn’t even really understand how to forgive. I fought to keep my heart open to forgiveness while I sought Jesus continually in prayer, asking how. This struggle drug on for over a year. The rage I was experiencing toward those I had felt hurt by was becoming out of control. Just the mention of a name could send me into an emotional tailspin. I knew I needed Jesus’ help desperately to set me free from unforgiveness, but I was at a loss as to how to proceed. None of the typical “church” answers satisfied me. “You just need to forgive” and “God will not forgive you unless you forgive others” just didn’t seem to cut it. Finally, the day arrived that God spoke to me about forgiveness. He said, “Sometimes, you will feel like forgiving someone, but other times you will never feel like forgiving and you must make a choice to forgive them.” This answer satisfied my soul.
In all other situations, my heart would begin to feel sorry for someone. I would have compassion on them and forgive them. In this situation though, it did not matter how much time passed… the feelings never came. That day God spoke to me, I made a powerful choice to forgive and I was set free! All the bitterness and rage were gone immediately. Over the course of that week, I felt lighter and more joyful. It began the real healing process in my soul, which took time, but the barrier to my healing was removed with a simple prayer. “Jesus, I choose to forgive…” was all it took. Forgiveness is a powerful liberator.
Just as you can choose to forgive, you can choose to not be offended. Did you even know you have a choice? Proverbs 19:11 says that, “A person’s wisdom yields patience; it is to one’s glory to overlook an offense.” When someone cusses at you or flips you off on the road, you can choose to NOT take up an offense! What about political or ideological differences? Even though you might feel very passionate about your position, you can choose to NOT take something personally! You don’t have to agree with other people on everything to show them love and kindness. No one we ever meet will like all the things we do or agree with everything we think, and that’s actually a good thing! How boring would life be without the beauty and diversity of God’s creation? When we choose to overlook an offense, it grows our character and the glory of God is put on display in our lives. We can offer others the same grace that God has given us on the cross. This will demonstrate a life of wisdom and patience instead of pride. Now isn’t that attractive? Definitely!
Let’s step into a new level of freedom this week! I challenge you to ask God if there are any offenses you can choose to release or people you need to forgive. Let the Holy Spirit show you where there is pain in your heart that needs healing. Sit with Jesus and let him take these burdens and begin a new day with more joy than you have ever experienced before. He will help you. All you have to do is make the decision. I believe fresh dreams and visions will be released when you step into this new place of freedom. What are you waiting for? The mask is off! The prison door is open! I’ll see you on the other side!