Because Jesus paid the supreme price to wash away our every sin, He expects us to forgive those who offend us as well. We are to be like Him and forgive others, no matter how deeply they hurt us.
Jesus said to His disciples, “It is impossible but that offenses will come ….” (Luke 17:1) Offenses are a reality for all of us. Sometimes we are on the receiving end, but it’s hard to avoid sometimes being the perpetrator, no matter how carefully we tread.
What should we do when we experience offense? When we have truly been sinned against, it must be taken care of according to the process in Matthew 18:15-17 — going to the person and clearing the air over what has happened, so that forgiveness can be requested and duly given.
There are times when what offends us is not really sin on the other person’s part, so much as an oversensitivity in us. Because we all tick differently, what bothers one person may not be a problem at all for another. For this reason, an offender may not even be aware of causing harm, and therefore doesn’t know there is a need to ask forgiveness. Even the kindest people can at times be unwitting tools in the enemy’s hands to create a festering wound inside of us.
We can graciously talk these things through: “You said something to me the other day that bothered me. I was wondering if we could talk about it.”
By talking it out, you may find that the other person did not mean what you thought he said. He may have been preoccupied with something else, and did not intend to be impatient with you. You may find out the person realized he had said the wrong thing, but was too embarrassed to know how to deal with it. He may be truly sorry to have caused you pain, and forgiveness can easily flow.
I am of the opinion that we don’t need to be confronting people over every little hurt that comes along, however. Some of us are just too self-oriented, and we need to develop tougher skin! Save the confrontations for things that really matter, and just forgive the little stuff on your own. When we feel ignored, or someone is abrupt with us, most often the other person is simply preoccupied with other matters. No offense is meant, and no offense should be taken. We need to quietly forgive these small matters in our own hearts and let them go.
What should we do when someone has truly sinned against us and we have handled the matter according to Matthew 18, but the offender refuses to be sorry for what he has done? It happens, and our response still must be to forgive and let it go. This type of offense is much harder to forgive, but with God’s grace it can be done — and for our own sakes, it must be done. Jesus said, “Whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive your trespasses. But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses.” (Mark 11:25, 26) This goes for little, medium, and even Goliath-size hurts!
Offenses that are not dealt with hinder the flow of healing, answered prayer, fulfilled promises, and completed destinies. On the other hand, when we forgive an offense, freedom is released into us and into the life of the offender as well.