Article: Issues of Forgiveness – How To Handle Offenses

the-prodigal-son (1)In a previous article, we discussed the importance of repentance in regards to reconciliation and forgiveness. In this post, we are going to discuss how the Christian can scripturally handle offenses when they come. And they will come. Jesus told us so:

Luke 17:1 Then said he unto the disciples, It is impossible but that offences will come: but woe unto him, through whom they come!

In a world full of sinners (including ourselves), all sorts of issues and stumbling blocks will be cast in our way. Some stumble over those offenses and end up out of church, out of the ministry, out of God’s will. Others stumble into a bitterness that poisons their lives. Some stumble into the dungeon of unforgiveness (see Mt. 18:34).

When we are offended, what scriptural options do we have?

I. We can PASS OVER IT. 

Proverbs 19:11 The discretion of a man deferreth his anger; and it is his glory to pass over a transgression.

Some people live with a chip on their shoulder. And if no one knocks it off, they will do it themselves, and blame whoever happens to be nearby at the time. They are the stars of their own soap operas; drama queens who are constantly stirring up arguments, strife, division, and quarrels. Their lives are marked by failed relationships, grudges, bitterness, and… loneliness.

Every transgression does not need a response. Every transgression does not require a confrontation or argument. There are a thousand things a day that simply ought to be “passed over” because they are not worth being upset about. No one is perfect. We all have our issues (some more than others). This requires forbearance, longsuffering, and kindness.

II. We can TALK ABOUT IT.

Luke 17:3-4 Take heed to yourselves: If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him. (4) 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.

Matthew’s Gospel tells us that this was in response to Peter’s question:

Matthew 18:21-22 Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times? (22) Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven.

Something tells me that Peter’s brother, Andrew, was up to seven times on something, and Peter had had enough. It surely illustrates how we behave sometimes. We have our notebook and a list of offenses. When someone gets up to seven times, our patience fails. But Jesus told us – “No, 490 times.”

If it’s something that can’t be passed over, it can be talked about. In person. To that person. So often, we would rather stew about it instead. Talking about it might make us feel stupid but it also might clear up a misunderstanding (that happens a lot) or stop the problem (the other person might not even be aware of it). At least, resolution is possible. Most of us are too afraid to talk to someone about it. Here’s a rule of thumb: if it’s not important enough to talk about, it’s not important enough to stay upset about.

III. We can SEND IT AHEAD.

Many girls like to wear “Mizpah” necklaces – a heart cut in two with each wearing one half on a chain. I hate the ruin the sentimentality of the thought but Mizpah had nothing to do with the parting of friends.

Genesis 31:48-53 And Laban said, This heap is a witness between me and thee this day. Therefore was the name of it called Galeed; (49) And Mizpah; for he said, The LORD watch between me and thee, when we are absent one from another. (50) If thou shalt afflict my daughters, or if thou shalt take other wives beside my daughters, no man is with us; see, God is witness betwixt me and thee. (51) And Laban said to Jacob, Behold this heap, and behold this pillar, which I have cast betwixt me and thee; (52) This heap be witness, and this pillar be witness, that I will not pass over this heap to thee, and that thou shalt not pass over this heap and this pillar unto me, for harm. (53) The God of Abraham, and the God of Nahor, the God of their father, judge betwixt us. And Jacob sware by the fear of his father Isaac.

Laban was not happy about Jacob leaving unannounced, without even letting him say goodbye to his daughters and grandchildren. Jacob was not happy about the dishonest way that Laban had treated him over the years. Mizpah – the pile of stones – was a reminder of their disagreement, not friendship. It was evidence of two men who could only come to an agreement that God ought to judge the matter between them. It was a line that neither would cross again. “The God of Abraham, and the God of Nahor, the God of their father, judge betwixt us.”

Laban was not sorry for his deceit or dishonesty, swapping out the wrong bride on the wedding day and changing Jacob’s wages ten times. In fact, only a divine intervention kept him from doing Jacob more evil. Jacob was not willing to return. Neither was willing to give an inch.

Some issues aren’t settled in this life. Neither side will budge. Sometimes, people are not repentant. They will die before they say, “I repent.” In criminal activities, they might even be condemned in court, but refuse to show any remorse for heinous crimes. Sometimes, they commit crimes for which they are never punished. And some actions aren’t criminal, but they are hurtful and hateful – but the offenders are not sorry.

However, this is no reason to hold bitterness or hatred or unforgiveness in your heart. Put it in the hands of God. Send it ahead to judgment. Separation may be necessary. It might be better that there are lines never crossed again. But send it ahead to judgement. Don’t carry it around in your heart, poisoning yourself and everyone close to you.

1 Timothy 5:24 Some men’s sins are open beforehand, going before to judgment; and some men they follow after.

One day, everything will be brought to light. All accounts will be settled.

IV. We can BURY IT AND FORGET IT.

Sometimes, you just need to forgive for your sake whether they are sorry or not. It’s not worth carrying around; it will just rot like a dead animal and stink up your life. So you bury it and go on.

Ephesians 4:32 And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.

V. We can GET OUT OF A BAD SITUATION.

Forgiveness is not always the best option – when abuse is continuing. I won’t elaborate much on this point, but there are some things that aren’t minor infractions – they are either criminal or abusive and should be left behind.

When it became obvious that Saul intended to kill David, David didn’t hang around to forgive his own murder. He left town.

THE MOST IMPORTANT THING IS TO HOLD FORGIVENESS IN YOUR HEART.

God only forgives when we repent but He is always ready to forgive when we repent.

Psalms 86:5 For thou, Lord, art good, and ready to forgive; and plenteous in mercy unto all them that call upon thee.

God also withholds judgment until we die. Why? Because He wants us to repent so that he can forgive us (see 2 Peter 3:9).

If that person that offended or hurt you DID repent, how would you respond? If you are harboring unforgiveness, you will probably respond with bitterness, denunciations, and a generally spiteful unwillingness to forgive. If you have forgiveness in your heart, forgiveness will quickly be given and reconciliation (as much as possible in some situations) can occur.

Consider Joseph. He had his brothers in his hands, but he refused to harm them. He did not trust their character (and you are not required to trust someone’s character when they are not repentant about their deeds). Instead, when their repentance became obvious, he forgave them freely. It was a display of his own Christlike attitude. Ready to forgive.

When an offense comes, we can pass over it, talk about it, send it ahead, or get out – but the most important thing is to have godliness in your heart. We ready to forgive. Withhold judgment to the end, and hope for repentance.

Thank you for reading. God bless.

About James Rasbeary

I am the pastor of the Lighthouse Baptist Church in Wylie, Texas. Check out my blog at www.broraz.com.
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