Offenses Must Come
Avoid The Ones You Can
Use The Ones You Can’t
God isn’t isolated to one area or one time slot each week, like church.
He’s in church, yes, but no more so than the office or the kitchen or the wee hours of the morning when we can’t sleep. God is a little bigger than a few small segments of your life.
He’s everywhere all the time and He’s never idle.
He’s listening and responding even when He isn’t doing any apparent thing in your behalf.
He tags along everywhere we go, in church and out, and that means He is aware of it when we feel like people are throwing stones at us. He feels the impact of every stone but rather than protect us, He uses those “stone throwing” moments to help us learn.
Church is His classroom. Life is His internship.
Sometimes, however, we miss opportunities to gain valuable experience because we respond to life’s difficulties the wrong way. We feel cheated, insulted, unfairly passed over, misrepresented, falsely accused or manipulated – Offensive, all of it! – and we call on God to make it go away as if He is our personal judge, prosecutor and jury.
We cry and moan and writhe in pain and we usually do this because revenge isn’t really an option. Unfortunately, there is only one thing that helps and it is the last option on the list . . . if it’s on the list at all.
Forgive all the stone throwers!
Offenses Are Inevitable
Now, before I say more about forgiveness please understand that offenses are inevitable and Jesus is the one who made the point.
For offenses must come. (Matthew 18:7 – NKJV)
The proof of that statement is the reality we live everyday. Offenses occur more regularly than the sun rises and they come from every direction:
Wives and husbands offend each other. Parents and children offend each other. Brothers and sisters offend each other.
Offenses occur between employers and employees and teachers and students. Even friends, neighbors and fellow Jaguars fans will offend us from time to time. Familiarity breeds contempt because the closer we get to one another the more our faults emerge. And those faults offend.
But you don’t need to be close to offend. Even strangers will abraise occasionally. The idea that offenses must come is not in question, but how shall we respond?
Responding personally to what might be considered an avalanche of offenses turns one into a perpetual victim; not a useful response. It eventually produces bitterness and everyone around you absorbs the misery also. It’s a downward spiral.
Forgiveness is the answer and there are good reasons we should learn this special art? The first reason is:
Jesus Taught Us To Forgive
And He did this two ways: by instruction and by example. The preponderance of evidence here is compelling and suggests no person has any excuse for not forgiving others.
- He taught us to be merciful and at the heart of mercy is forgiveness (Matthew 5:7). Mercy and forgiveness are mutually generating. One breeds the other.
- He taught us to be peacemakers (Matthew 5:9) and the foundation of peacemaking is understanding. Offenders want to be understood. Their actions are a means of getting attention and being heard. Making an effort to understand opens the door to reconciliation but it requires a calm, receptive attitude. Understanding helps the offended also. It makes it easier to forgive.
- He taught us to rejoice when persecuted rather than retaliate (Matthew 5:10-12). Rejoicing in the face of insult and false accusation is an act of forgiveness. Again, it keeps the door open for reconciliation.
- He taught us not to name-call others (Matthew 5:21-26). Name calling is a type of vengeance, murdering a person’s reputation, and can sometimes end if homicide. It is evidence of a grudge and Jesus made the point that it is hypocritical for a grudge holder to ask God for forgiveness.
- He taught us to turn the other cheek (Matthew 5:38-42), a clear unequivocal indication that justice is best served on a individual level by giving up personal rights rather than defending them.
- He taught us that our prayers for forgiveness must be preceded by forgiving those who offend us (Matthew 6:12, 14-15).
- He taught us not to judge (Matthew 7:1). Judgmental, fault finding people never display a spirit of forgiveness and the forgiveness they offer usually demands a long list of requisite actions and attitudes. Under those circumstances forgiveness is earned not given.
- He taught that forgiveness has no end (Matthew 18:21-35). Peter, like most humans, thought forgiveness has limits. Roughly speaking, he extended those limits to 7 cycles, i.e., a person could be forgiven seven times. I’m not sure what he thought would happen after that but Jesus threw a bomb in the middle of that conversation. He said we must be prepared to forgive 7 times multiplied by 70, the equivalent of endlessly. We should be characterized by an attitude of forgiveness.
Everything Jesus taught He also modeled, so it is no surprise that we see Him extending forgiveness to so many people under very extreme circumstances.
- Jesus plainly said His intent was to forgive: Jesus speaking, “God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world but that the world through Him might be saved” (John 3:17). That statement defines His intent. His over riding purpose was to forgive. That was the focus of everything He said and did. He was living a forgiving lifestyle.
- Jesus promised to follow through on forgiveness: “He that hears my word and believes on Him that sent me has (present tense) everlasting life and shall not (ever) come into condemnation but it past from death unto life,” (John 5:24). This statement is a promise and it describes just how accessible and enduring His forgiveness is.
- Jesus forgave a paraplegic before the cripple even asked for forgiveness (Mark 2:3-5). In fact, the cripple and the friends that brought him said nothing at all but the first thing Jesus did was forgive his sins.
- Jesus freely ate with sinners (Matthew 9:9-13) demonstrating the posture of forgiveness. When questioned why He did this He responded: “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.” He was actively looking for opportunities to forgive.
- Of all the offenses Jesus experienced, He verbally forgave the worst: His executioners. After being beaten, mocked, humiliated and nailed on the cross, before He died Jesus said, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do, (Luke 23:34).
Anyone following the example of Jesus must be found on the side of forgiveness. Any other position pulls against Jesus not with Him.
Another reason we should develop an attitude of forgiveness is:
None Of Us Inhabit The Box of Righteousness
There are two realms we need to understand. One is the realm of all humanity and the other is the realm of the righteous – box inside the circle. One is full of only faulty humans, R of H, and the other has no human inhabitants at all, R of R. Every human is in the one. No human is completely in the other.
That means that the only type of human who can retaliate against an offense is an offensive human! Does that make sense?
I’m not suggesting that all humans are equally offensive or offensive in the same ways. We’re all different. Some live closer to the box than others. Some may have a foot in the box or lean up against it – I’m thinking of Mother Theresa types here – but no person lives only in the box, except Jesus and He chose to forgo judgment for the present.
Picking up the stones others throw at us and throwing them back, not only perpetuates the stone throwing cycle it also encourages others to do the same. Before long everyone is so busy throwing stones it becomes a competition to see who will be the last man standing.
The only way to win is for everyone else to die.
So, think about it long and hard before you react lemming-like to the vermin around you. Your reaction could start a war.
Several more quick reasons to learn forgiveness:
It Is The Only Way To Be God-like
The Pharisees excused their unforgiving attitudes by teaching that only God could forgive sins. In the eternal sense that is true but there is a bigger observation to make. We have no right to judge sins.
Jesus spent His time teaching about forgiveness and showing us how to forgive. The only thing He said about judgment is “don’t do it!”
We Can’t Change The Past
And the only way to change the future is to not become fixated on what shouldn’t have been or what could have been.
You can only learn from the past if you don’t try to change it and the lessons we learn can only be applied to the future. Change your perspective.
Forgiveness Relieves Us of Revenge, Resentment And Obsession
We can’t change the past but it can definitely change us if we entertain the malice of revenge, resentment and obsession. The longer we hold onto to vengeful attitudes the more toxic they become.
If bitterness is the poison we drink while wishing someone else would die then forgiveness is the only antidote. Don’t drink the poison!
Forgiveness Must Be Given Not Offered
Offering forgiveness is a very condescending, self righteous, arrogant way of expressing a very thinly veiled attitude of judgment. Nothing forgiving about it.
Be forgiving, adopt the attitude and you’ll open the door to better relationships.