People offend in so many ways. They address us in insulting, derogatory manners. They try to put the blame on us, when it's obvious who's really at fault. They
ask a question, then reject the answer. They're moody today, so that definitely gives us the right to become moody in return. Well, doesn't it?
A Multitude of Offenses
There are more than a billion and one ways to be offended. Yes, some people even go out of their way to offend others. They love to hurt people and cause
trouble. For others, they try and tread carefully but alas, nobody's perfect and they still manage to offend. Most offenses probably occur from simple
misunderstandings. Admit it. We will offend others, and we will be offended.
What are we to do about all these offenses? As Christians, we're called to a higher standard of living. The offense WILL come, but we don't have to take offense.
Are we going to be filled with love or self-love?
With self-love, if we look at ourselves and the insults we receive, we'll be hurt and take offense. We look at ourselves instead of considering the other, reaching
out to help them. We draw back and nurse our hurt, thinking we won't risk ourselves again. This is both self-pity and selfishness. In this we find a lot of selfs. In
fact, we find nothing but self.
On the other hand, with love for others, we look at them as a patient in need of the Great Physician's help. We see the symptoms of sickness and want to help.
They see their leprosy as dry, flaky skin, while we recognize what it is. Do we hate them because of their blindness? No, we seek to minister love.
Now, I'm not saying that offenses don't hurt. At the moment of infliction they hurt, but where do we go from there? Christians are addressed quite strongly in
the scriptures on this. If we choose to accept the hurt and sink in self-pity, we're defeated. Not only are we defeated, we allow the root that'll break us up.
Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be
We must quench this deadly evil at the start. It's fire that'll burn out of control like gossip. In fact, it's the root of much gossip. Being hurt, we want to hurt
back, so delight in spreading about how evil so and so was to us. Satisfying the partial quench for vengeance releases some of the hurt. This is an evil, devilish
way to remove the hurt. God said:
...Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. Romans 12:19b
How to Remove the Hurt
The scriptures tell how to remove this hurt in God's way:
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,
And the Lord make you to increase and abound in love one toward another, and toward all men, even as we do toward you: 1
Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one
another with a pure heart fervently: 1 Peter 1:22
Strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power, unto all patience and longsuffer-ing with joyfulness; Colossians 1:11
This hurt is handled by the Holy Spirit. The Lord pours forth His increasing love that forgives the offenses. It won't just happen on its own, though. We
choose to obey and surrender the hurts, then the love and forgiveness will be there.
If we won't forgive, neither will we be forgiven. We're told to love fervently. No Spirit led love has room for holding onto hurt. In true love and forgiveness is
joy. We don't become a martyr that bears suffering by wearing a long face, making sure everyones aware of offenses against us. This power to remove our hurt is
mighty. It glorifies God when it's manifested in us. It gives us the patience and ability to endure that we need. Longsuffering means precisely that, to suffer
long. It means to be able to face those who offend us repeatedly. Like I said, even in the midst of continued offenses, there'll be joyfulness, not the martyr's
face. These scriptures tell us how to remove the hurt and lust for paybacks, or self-pity, in God's way.
Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering;
Here we find the call to walk in God's love and forgiveness. These qualities hit the point of our received offenses. In looking at this verse you can't stop here,
Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.
And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the
which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful. Colossians 3:13-15
I find these verses exciting. In God's order of things, we have no hidden hatred of each other. As a body of believers, we're in harmony together and filled with
God's peace. If there's peace, there can be no strife. Being hurt and taking offense is strife and hence, lacks God's peace. God calls us to this and will enable this
to be, if we let our anger go and let Him enable us to forgive our offenders.
We've looked at God's provision and His command. Finally, let's look at the scriptures outlining this behavior and what we're to aim for:
Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another; Romans 12:10
With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; Ephesians 4:2
No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us. 1 John 4:12
Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, 1 Corinthians 13:4
And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins. 1 Peter 4:8
Let's take a look at these verses one by one, starting with affection for the other person. If we're hurt, our affection's the first thing to go. Not only is affection
called for, but also preferring the other person over ourselves.
Longsuffering and forbearing means enduring the unloving or careless actions of another. Lowliness and meekness show us we musn't think we're above being
offensive to others. Others offend us, but remember, we fail too and must forgive just as we need to be forgiven.
John always goes back to the core of the matter. If we abide in the Spirit, His love will automatically flow out of us.
The love chapter, 1 Corinthians 13, naturally hits this. We have to suffer other's callousness or blunders. We are called to show kindness to the unkind.
Our love's to be fervent. We're told it will cover the multitude of sins. What does this mean? It refers to offenses and hurts we've received. We'll forgive and
have a tender heart toward the blunders of offending brothers and sisters.
Destruction in the Body
Churches are divided again and again because of taking offenses so easily. The call for longsuffering in I Corinthians 13 nails this problem but good. If only
we would be as quick to have patience as we are to see insults. We see insults in the ugly look on a brother's face when all he had was a migraine headache. We
see snubbery when a phone call isn't returned when what happened was simple forgetfulness.
Hey, I can personally testify to doing STUPID things because a few neurons must have jumped track. Some things just never dawn on some people. We need to
bear longsuffering by giving the benefit of the doubt. If you find intentional insults, like they purposely spit on you, then take them to task. Don't just get hurt
and walk away, never giving them a chance. Find out the real motive if it appears to be more than just a little carelessness.
What about Oppressors?
There's one more point to consider. Does this apply to oppressors as well? I say "oppressors" instead of "non-Christians" because many oppressors call
themselves Christians. Jesus cleared up our confusion saying, "Ye shall know them by their fruits." - Matthew 7:16a (Luke 12:42-48; I John 2:19,20).
What does the scripture say about the oppressors?
See that none render evil for evil unto any man; but ever follow that which is good, both among yourselves, and to all men. 1
But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which
despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise
on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. For if ye love them which love you, what reward have
ye? do not even the publicans the same? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans
so? Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect. Matthew 5:44-48
If you hold bitterness in your heart, it harms no one but you. You can't know God's peace and joy. They simply will not abide together.
To balance such passages out we must also weigh in Paul's advice to Timothy:
Alexander the coppersmith did me much evil, the Lord reward him according to his works, of whom be thou ware also, for he hath greatly withstood our words.
II Timothy 4:14,15
Even if our situation calls for this kind of caution, bitterness will destroy. There are occasions for caution and even discipline, but even the officer who
performs capital punishment can't be filled with glee in the execution of his job. Can a godly parent take pleasure in disciplining a child? Different situations
call for different responses, but the issue of holding onto pain, nursing it, and holding onto offences, never helps.
Our 'right to be hurt' is the strength and power of the Adversary, seeking to capitalize on offense. The glory of God comes in the manifestation of His love and
forgiveness towards offense. Hence, do we glorify God or Satan? We choose one way or the other. Take a look inside, you know, is there bitterness and offense,
or peace, joy and love?
For some further study on the subject of love and forgiveness please see these other articles available from Based In The Word:
Dealing With Sin
Divorce, Remarriage & Options
Love - A Christian Perspective
Ugliness - Unrighteous Judgement