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.” You can read part one, Defining the offense, here.
#2. Discovering Forgiveness:
In order for us to further understand this issue of forgiveness, let’s take a close look at 1 Peter 4:8 – “And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins.”
“Above all things” – it comes first; superior in respect
“Fervent” – ardent, earnest, excited, glowing, zealous
“Charity” – self-sacrificing, God-like love. How does God love us? Christ died for us…the ultimate self-sacrifice. Likewise, we are to die daily to self, to mortify the deeds of the flesh, and esteem others better than ourselves. But it’s not just sacrificing for those we love and value… it’s toward the unlovely; the ones who have a personality that does not mesh with yours. It’s love toward someone who may frustrate or annoy you.
“Among yourselves” – this was not written to unbelievers or even apostates, but to Christians! Christians should be known for having more love for one another than those outside of Christ have for others.
“Shall cover” – to hide or conceal. Have you ever felt tempted to reveal the
shortcomings of your offender? If we want to experience forgiveness, we’re going to have to learn how to hide and conceal the offense.
“Multitude” – a great number; indefinitely. Just like what Jesus was saying to Peter.
“Sins” – shortcomings… differences, personality quirks.
Forgiveness is rooted in love.
We know offenses will come… so we must make the choice to either cover the offense in love or not. It really has nothing to do with our offenders.
Unforgiveness is rooted in pride.
Proverbs 13:10 says, “Only by pride cometh contention…” Even when we know we should forgive, our efforts at forgiveness are often ineffective because we haven’t dealt first with our pride. You will never get the Lord’s help in dealing with offenses when you are proud. God resists the proud but He gives wonderful, amazing grace to the humble! Grace to forgive and overlook differences… It’s a willingness to lower our expectations of that individual and repay an offense with grace.
If you battle with taking offense easily, you need to know that there are serious consequences for doing so.
One of the things people will eventually do if they succumb to taking offense (and refuse forgiveness) is turn away from following after Jesus. This can be illustrated in the home and evidences itself in both children and parents alike – The parents are not walking in the Spirit (i.e. living the fruits of the Spirit) in the home so that the children take offense and leave the faith of their parents. Or the parents leave their own faith because they’re kids were mistreated, or they were even offended (and thereby embarrassed) by their own child’s sin.
Oh, may we be vigilant to not allow an unforgiving spirit to bring about such destruction! People are sinners. People will offend one another. For the sake of the Lord and for the sake of others, choose love, choose humility, choose forgiveness!
We have an enemy that loves to use offenses to destroy Christians.
It’s important to know our enemy and equally important to know our Savior. John 10:10 says, “The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.”
WHO IS THE “THIEF?” It is Satan! He wants to steal from you, kill you, and destroy you!
HE WANT TO STEAL AWAY your joy, your peace, and your faith! The opposite of faith is doubt. Satan wants to make you doubt God and he will use an offense to accomplish that.
HE WANTS TO KILL you by allowing sin to take root in your life… sins like bitterness and anger. Oh, how these sins kill the Spirit and ultimately bring YOU down… spiritually, emotionally, and even physically.
HE WANTS TO DESTROY your relationships, your home, your opportunities to serve the Lord, your testimony… all through unforgiveness.
WHO IS THE “I” IN THIS VERSE? It is Jesus! He wants us to have an abundant life! He wants us to experience joy and peace in every relationship. He wants our faith to grow. He wants us to live a life that’s constant and grounded no matter the circumstances or sins of others.
Our enemy wants us to carry burdens of hurt but Jesus wants us to release those feelings and have a deeper understanding of Him. We can have this when we choose forgiveness. I don’t fully understand it but I’ve learned it’s the trials of life and the offenses of others that humble us and cause self-reflection, resulting in personal repentance and a closer walk with the Lord.