Overlooking An Offense

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When was the last time someone offended you? What was your knee-jerk reaction in response to what was done? I remember one evening playing board games with my family and in the heat of the moment, everything was moving in my favor as I was poised to win. Now I need to add that a $5 gift card was at stake in this particular game with family, and so immediately my mind began to gravitate toward ways I would be enjoying what would soon be my prize for winning the game.

Then it happened. As luck would have it, the tables turned and I was knocked back to a guaranteed loser’s position and my opponent was hoisted to victory. Now if the story had ended there perhaps there would be no need to write this blog.

However, after I had lost this particular board game (which I have committed to never playing again), my opponent dangled the gift card in my face, teased and mocked me for thinking that I even had a chance at winning. Unfortunately, this teasing persisted throughout the evening; and deep behind my cool exterior (at least I think I was cool), I was fuming with frustration and anger, and was desirous of revenge!

I think that revenge is generally something that crosses our minds in the midst of being offended, whether the offense is lighthearted or not. I’ll be the first to admit that it is extremely difficult to hold back from striking back the moment I am offended.
But have you ever considered the discipline and maturity that can result by not responding to an offense? Today I want to present a couple of ideas that Christians can think about when it comes to communicating our faith in the midst of being offended.

There’s a verse in Proverbs that I’d like to share with you today:

Good sense makes one slow to anger,
and it is his glory to overlook an offense.

– Proverbs 19:11

Where is the glory in overlooking an offense? Here are three thoughts I’d like to pose for Christians desiring to react to a situation in which they may have been offended.

  • Suffering (in any degree) is a means of our sanctification (James 1:2-4)

Let’s not forget that when we are offended, even as our desire may be to settle the wrong with the offender, what could God be teaching us in the midst of this hardship?

James reminds us of this silver lining in the midst of our trials… God is producing steadfastness in our lives, which will ultimately lead to our eventual perfection and completeness.

Sometimes we can become so fixated on the person that has offended us that we forget to consider what God could be teaching us in the midst of our frustrations.

My mind automatically jumps to the imagery of an Olympic athlete who trains for years on end, going through the pain of blistering and exhausting their bodies with the ultimate perspective that their training is producing for them a means to reach an end goal.

We can hyper-fixate on the stresses and challenges that burden us, or we can adjust perspective and concentrate on the results.

  • Overlooking an offense maintains bridges in relationships 

One of the bigger values that I see in overlooking an offense comes not only from the character that God will produce through our trials, but also in the added preservation of the relationship I can have with the offender.

Some of my greatest friendships are those where my friends have overlooked snarky remarks I’ve made when I’m cranky or meltdowns I’ve had in very difficult moments. And through my friends’ overlooking of my offense (towards them) I find myself humbled and appreciative of their love for me, and many times I am thankful for their graciousness in not treating me in a way I may have deserved.

But why should any believer seek to overlook an offense? Think deeply about this final point…

  • Remember that Christ suffered so that those who offended Him may have salvation (Isaiah 53:7; Matthew 26:63; 27:12)

Perhaps the greatest thought to consider is that Jesus was offended greatly. Jesus was betrayed by one of His disciples, sentenced to death, beaten and broken, and yet he did not react to offenders even though He could have made a compelling and righteous case for His innocence.

Isaiah 53:7 prophesied the Messiah’s reaction to suffering as it is written, “He was oppressed, and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so He opened not His mouth.”

And in New Testament texts, Jesus’ humility in the midst of oppression is evident.

Matthew 26:63 records that as Jesus was on trial “… Jesus remained silent.”

In moments of offense, I take some time to reflect on the sacrifice that Jesus took on for my sins. I think about the great offense I have committed against a righteous God and despite my utter and deliberate rebelliousness towards God, He still has chosen to offer up His Son in place of my sins.

When it comes right down to it, I suppose we can say that ultimately God didn’t overlook the offensive nature of our sinfulness, but think about the way He responded to it. He responded to the offense of our sinfulness by sending His Son to die on the cross. And it’s in this final illustration of grace where I’d like to challenge us with some motivation for why we should overlook an offense dealt to us.

Grace has a means of communicating the love that Christ has shown for us to those who receive and witness it. Grace helps us maintain bridges into the lives of others who we can continue to have opportunities to share life with and invest in. Finally, grace helps us to recognize that our suffering is producing in us something of eternal value.

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