Lingering offenses strain relationships between brothers and sisters in God’s family. Remember, we are members one of another, and that connection is damaged by offenses. Satan is out to destroy your Christian walk, divide believers, and weaken the body of Christ. He is an opportunist, and he will capitalize on any of our failures to widen any cracks that may appear in our walls.
It saddens my heart to witness the loss of friendships evidenced by quiet avoidance and surface greetings when there was once a true bond in the Spirit. A church may not be split in two, but it may be riddled with subtle fractures throughout, weakening its integrity and purpose. God provides real solutions that will heal wounds and bring back His strength, but you must determine to listen to Him. You must seek the Holy Spirit’s power in your heart and surrender to Him and all that He leads you to do.
It is easy to understand how offenses happen. An imperfect world, imperfect people, imperfect words are a recipe for offense. But knowing how it happens doesn’t make the offense much easier to deal with. Here are three possible ways to respond to offenses.
Do Nothing and Let it Rot Inside You
I have observed this to be the most popular choice among independent Baptists. We like to have “pity parties.” We rehearse the details over and over again, each time adding a little more negative thinking. It is not long before we have what the Bible calls a “root of bitterness” (Hebrews 12:14–15). This root will defile many—not just you. That little piece of flesh, the tongue, loves to share just how wronged we have been. We mope around until someone asks, “What is the matter?”
Letting that offense simmer unchallenged will destroy your relationship with individual who wronged you. It will color every future action or word said by that offending person. You will interpret every action, every word with suspicion, every minute detail will be scrutinized in a negative light as your case against them grows with every contact. Some of you reading this have been offended by someone, and no matter what that person says or does, you internally question their intentions. You are cynical and harsh. You cannot look them in the eye; you cannot kneel with them in prayer; Satan has won the victory.
This one comes in a close second—setting out to even the score. You decide to deliver hurt for hurt. Isn’t that biblical? “Eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot” (Exodus 21:24). But let us also remember Romans 12:17 which says, “Recompense to no man evil for evil.”
God knows we will be offended, and He knows what will work for us in these difficult situations. “It is impossible but that offences will come” (Luke 17:1). He did not look at the first offense and say, “Oh great, now what am I going to do?” Might God have something to say about how to resolve offenses? Let’s examine two passages:
Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican. Matthew 18:15–17
Take heed to yourselves: If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him. And if he trespass against thee seven times in a day, and seven times in a day turn again to thee, saying, I repent; thou shalt forgive him. And the apostles said unto the Lord, Increase our faith. Luke 17:3–5
These passages are plain to understand, but they are very difficult to practice. This reconciliation requires making yourself vulnerable by saying, “I have been hurt by you.” Our pride, however, does not want to admit that to anyone. Face it—some of us love the role of the martyr. We get a sense of gratification out of self-pity, so we nurture the “pain.”
We are funny creatures. We claim to love the truth, but when there is a real issue to be dealt with we prefer, “keeping things quiet” to “truth telling.” Yet we have no real peace by letting the wound fester. Some of us like to think that we are spiritual and we can just forget the hurt or offense. When will we stop lying to ourselves? Your offended spirit will not disappear until you take steps to biblically resolve the offense and you are willing to face that individual with the problem.
I know what you're thinking. “What if they blow up, or don’t respond at all?” It will still be better than trying to live life with a false peace. I hate confrontation with a deep-seated passion. I push things down, hoping they will go away, but eventually the misery is so great that I am left with two options: 1) running away (I am too old for that) or, 2) forcing myself to deal with the unpleasantness of the offense. I have found that once I follow through on God’s plan, I can breathe easy again, even if it doesn’t turn out the way I would like. It is a great feeling!
Take care of offenses regardless of what you think the cost may be. Re-read Matt 18:15. It may be the offending person has no idea he has offended and hurt you. Do not always think people are malicious and evil. They may have information to share with you about the situation which you did not know and which may shed great light on things. They may even say, “I’m sorry, you are right, will you forgive me?” They hopefully will at least learn to be a little more sensitive. And best of all, you will have the peace of God because you have obeyed His Word.
One last thought: as you ready yourself for “truth telling,” be sure you are ready for “truth hearing.” They may have some truth that you need to hear as well. I know we are so quick to throw up those defenses, “Hey, you have the wrong guy! I didn’t do it!” You must learn to accept their perception as valid and genuine from their viewpoint. Just because they are not you, nor do they see things as you do, does not mean they are wrong. And if someone comes to you with fear and trembling, why not ask the Lord to help you listen to their words with compassion and openness.
Read part two of this article, Why Be Offended?