In this four-part article, I’d like to focus on our attitude towards our offenders and the steps we can take to overcome our own sinful desires to “take offense.”
Read part one, Defining the offense, here. Read part two, Discovering Forgiveness, here.
#3. Deciding on Forgiveness:
Forgiveness is a choice, just like love is a choice. If we are going to decide on forgiveness, we must first assess whether our attitude is one of love and humility. Ask yourself…
Am I willing to forgive?
Do I deny or admit to having a part in an unforgiving spirit?
Do I excuse it or deflect it upon my offender?
Am I willing to deal with my own heart and not with the offending individual’s heart?
I’m not sure why we would rather wallow in our unforgiving spirit or the offenses of life rather than deal with them but that’s where many of us choose to live our lives. Just remember, even if your offender doesn’t see their own error, or is unwilling to change, it doesn’t mean you both have to be wrong in your response! Decide to forgive. Respond with forgiveness because that’s the right thing to do and not because the individual is deserving or undeserving of your forgiveness. That’s practicing 1 Peter 4:8.
A personal story:
I thought it very interesting how just a few weeks ago I saw this truth of “deciding on forgiveness” play out in my own life – except in this story, I was the offender!
I offended another sister in the church – my usual take-charge attitude left her feeling unappreciated and useless. I wasn’t working together. I wasn’t valuing her heart of service. Sure, I can easily excuse my actions… “I was put in charge… I’ll just take care of this so she doesn’t have to…” etc. I had no idea at the time I was offending her.
Now get this… this offense happened over 5 years ago! About two months ago, the Lord brought this lady to my mind… perhaps it was through preparing for this article series that He brought to memory some actions of mine that could have been offensive. When I asked my sister in Christ if I had offended her those many years ago, she looked at me with kindness and said yes. WOW! I had no idea at the time! She’s always been so kind to me… never once through the years did I sense her offense! She never spoke harsh to me or ignored me. I can think of many times she gave me hugs at church and extended her friendship. I am touched by her fervent charity toward me. She could have made an issue out of it, but instead she chose to overlook my shortcomings and not take offense.
A great way to view offenses would be to see them as opportunity to grow spiritually. Just think, if we didn’t have troubles in our life, would we need God? If we didn’t have to deal with “prickly people” would we know how to walk in the Spirit… or even get a glimpse of understanding the greatest demonstration of forgiveness – the forgiveness of Christ? We have great opportunity to know Christ more fervently through the offenses of life. This is why the Bible tells us to rejoice in affliction! We don’t know peace until we’ve known tribulation; we don’t know joy until we’ve known heartache; we don’t know love until we’ve known rejection.
Forgiveness is a choice… sometimes a daily choice. It isn’t always easy but through Christ it is possible no matter what situation you may find yourself in.