21 Then Peter came up and said to him, "Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?"
22 Jesus said to him, "I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times. - Matthew 18:21-22
As believers, we need to get comfortable in the role of forgiving. We’re bound to be offended living in this world, both intentionally and unintentionally, big offenses and small, and if we’re not to hold on to any of them, we need to learn how to let them go. What do we do when we've been offended?
I received excellent teaching years ago on forgiveness that I remind myself of frequently - it helps me to prioritize how to respond when I’ve been offended. It’s also taught me to be less easily offended because it has shifted my perspective. Here's what I learned - out of 100 times we are offended, we should let about 90 of them just roll off our back. Let them go as unintentional and not important. I’ve found that the majority of the time, the other person is completely unaware their words or actions have even offended you. People operate from their own world of experience, and we just don’t view the same thing as offensive. Some people are sarcastic, some are sensitive - I’ve seen great offenses result from the interaction of those two personalities. Perhaps the other person is managing something in their lives that is challenging and it’s impacting their tone - they may seem more harsh or insensitive because they’re struggling with difficult emotions, trying to cover the anxiety from their own trial. We also tend to get offended when people don’t respond in line with our expectations - we all have an idea for how certain conversations or situations are going to play out, and when those expectations are not met, we can easily become offended. When people don’t respond with the same emotion to a situation as we do - the same excitement or the same sadness - we can suddenly feel devalued or offended. There are just countless reasons why we get offended, and for the majority of them, the other person is completely unaware they have offended us. Even if they are aware, the offense isn’t worth a conversation because it would likely lead to a greater conflict as you try to validate your claim to the other person, who most likely meant nothing by their actions or comments. They will discount your feelings, claiming you misinterpreted, and you will most likely walk away feeling even more offended. The most humble course of action is to let these offenses just roll off our backs as unimportant.
There are those offenses that are too challenging to just let roll off our back - those we need to roll up to God. Of those 10 offenses left, about 8 of them should be handed over to God. These hurts are deeper than those momentary offenses. They aren’t just a harsh word spoken at a sensitive time, but perhaps a pattern of hurtful comments over time. The offender may be aware of the way they hurt, but generally seem to be more wrapped up in their own selves to notice or care. Oftentimes, these people are hurting deeply themselves, and will lash out to people because their pain is too difficult to bear alone. For these offenses, we need to spend time in prayer releasing the offense to God, not the other person. Far too often, these are the times we hastily bring our offenses before the other person, arguing and demanding an apology for an injustice. Before you considering bringing the offense to the other person, ask yourself the purpose of that conversation - why are you bringing it up to them? What do you hope to gain? If your intention is to make them realize they hurt you and to get a heartfelt apology, tread cautiously. The other person may not be capable of that sincerity at this time, especially if it’s a deeply rooted pattern of behavior or if they are not a believer. These are the offenses that should be rolled up to God - ask God to reveal their perspective to you, and you will find forgiveness for them right around the corner.
That leaves only 2 out of 100 times that we’ve been offended that we should even be bringing it up to the other person. When the offense is such that clarity is needed, when the goal is to restore peace and unity and you believe a conversation would be beneficial to that end, bring it to the other person. A couple of words of caution before doing that, though - first, never bring it to a different person. Only, always, bring it directly to the person who has offended you. More damage and conflict has been caused in this world by the gossip of people bringing offenses to people other than the offender. It’s evil and scripture reminds us frequently that gossip is sin. I’m just as guilty as the next person of gossip, but I continually try to repent when the world drags me into that trap. Go directly to the person. Secondly, do not go in anger or with any expectations. Roll your anger up to God before you approach the person, or that sin will enter your conversation and it won’t go anywhere good. Wait until you can approach the person calmly, without expectation. You cannot go to another person with the expectation they will apologize. Remember, our forgiveness is not contingent upon their apology, our forgiveness is unconditional and should have happened before we even bring it to the other person. If we go seeking the apology, we could be sadly disappointed. Our approach should be to restore peace and unity. If the other person does not care to see things from your perspective, you leave the conversation in peace, trusting the God of justice to resolve the conflict in His time, knowing you have done what you can to be at peace with all.
We are only 9 days from celebrating the birth of our King. Our hearts need to be rid of any traces of unforgiveness before we can welcome Him. I have been spending much time this week searching my heart for places I am still holding on to offenses, and working to roll them off to God. I am so thankful that this diagnosis has given me the time and quiet reflection to be able to do just that.
Press on ~ you are loved 💗
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