Have you ever been offended by a friend? David was. He thought King Saul was his friend. He had done nothing to hurt Saul and yet Saul was seeking to kill him. Listen to David’s lament: “For it was not an enemy that reproached me; then I could have borne it: neither was it he that hated me that did magnify himself against me; then I would have hid myself from him. But it was thou, a man mine equal, my guide, and mine acquaintance. We took sweet counsel together, and walked unto the house of God in company.” (Ps. 55:12-14)
Jesus said that offenses must come. (Luke 17:1) What a strange statement. What did He mean? He understands our fallen human nature and He knows that we will sin against one another. But He uses our failings and the failings of those around us to refine us; to make us and mold us into His image as the potter does to clay.
Offenses are part of a trap that the devil uses to put people in bondage. Offense is the bait. If you consume the bait (feed on it in our hearts), you become caught in a trap that leads to bad results: bitterness, unforgiveness, betrayal and even revenge. Hurt people erect walls, their love grows cold, and often they betray friends. Harboring an offense blinds you to your own sin because you’re always blaming others. It is the heat of trials which separates the impurities such as bitterness from our character. God created us to reflect who He is. Unless we’re pure, we can’t do that.
Some offended people have been treated unfairly. David and Joseph are two examples from scripture. Joseph was betrayed by his brothers because they were offended over his dreams. So, they sold him into slavery in Egypt. But, unfair treatment is no excuse to become bitter or hang on to an offense. David was betrayed by Saul. Jesus was betrayed by Judas. They forgave and refused to become bitter. Unconditional love allows others to hurt us. The more we are dead to our selfish interests, the less it hurts when people treat us wrongly. David didn’t take revenge when given the opportunity to kill Saul. Jesus trusted His Father to judge those who persecuted Him. (1Pt 2:21-23)
Escape the trap: forgive! God won’t forgive us if we don’t forgive others (Mt. 6:14-15). We’ve offended God more than anyone has offended us and He forgives ( Eph 4:32).
How do we forgive? Joseph demonstrated it (Gen 50: 15-21). He forgave his brothers. He said, “You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good.” He recognized that God had a plan for his life and that he would redeem his own suffering in order to help others. What great faith! Offenses hurt, but God has a plan to use it for good; to refine you.
Sometimes you need to put words to it in faith. You have to say that you forgive even when you may not feel it. You must ask God to change your heart. He tells us to overcome evil with good; reach out in loving action.
How many times do you forgive someone? Jesus said, “seventy times seven.” In other words, forgiveness should be granted without limits. If you’re counting, then you have missed the point. Reap the benefits of freedom; restored fellowship.