forgiveness

What to Do When You Have Suffered an Offense...Or Been the Offender

 Recently, I unintentionally offended someone by a post I shared on Facebook that I would not have thought would have incited another Christian. The person’s venomous response to me pierced my heart and caused me to ponder about how easily people are offended in today’s increasingly polarized and self-focused culture; how offenses are used to separate the Body of Christ; and what our response should be when offenses do arise. Have you ever caused an offense that was totally unintentional? Or has someone ever offended you-- whether they intended to offend you or not? If you’re alive on planet earth, I’m sure the answer to the above questions is a resounding, “Yes!”

 It’s important to keep in mind that even Jesus, who is perfect Love, offended many while He walked on the earth-- and He is still an offense to many today (Matthew 13:57). If we follow after Him, as we have been called and commanded to do, we can be assured that we too will be an offense (John 15:18-20), especially in a culture that has forsaken and turned its back upon Him. When we align ourselves with Jesus, we will either be a sweet fragrance or a stench to others (2 Corinthians 2:14-17). No matter how hard you may try, you cannot live a life in which you won’t offend someone else. You just have to make sure that your offense is not caused by your ‘walking in your flesh’-- in other words due to your own sinful nature-- but is because you are following Jesus and ‘walking by His Spirit’. At all costs we must make sure that we are not an offense to God, even if others we love are offended by our standing with Him.

 The great news is that God’s Word gives us the answers for what to do when we have offended others, and what to do when others have offended us. When offenses come, we often want to ‘pick up arms and go to war’, but we must remember that our fight is not against ‘flesh and blood’—the other person---but it is against the powers and principalities of darkness that always are at work to separate us from God and from one another ((Ephesians 6:10-18).  Satan delights in stirring up offenses because they are the cause of division among people. Once an initial offense has occurred, Satan seeks to create a chasm in the relationship by having the one offended respond in such a way as to inflame the situation and cause the offending party to then retaliate in anger, hostility, or separation from the relationship rather than by responding in a way that will bring about the reconciliation and harmony God longs to see.

 God has called us to respond in a way that is totally contrary to the way Satan, our flesh, and the world would lead us to respond when an offense occurs. He has given us His greatest weapon to defeat the enemy’s scheme to create division when offenses arise, and that is demonstrating Christ like love.

 This is My command to you: Love one another. John 15:17 NIV

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 The kind of love Jesus calls us to have is summed up in this well-known passage:

 Love endures with patience and serenity, love is kind and thoughtful, and is not jealous or envious; love does not brag and is not proud or arrogant.  It is not rude; it is not self-seeking, it is not provoked [nor overly sensitive and easily angered]; it does not take into account a wrong endured.  It does not rejoice at injustice, but rejoices with the truth [when right and truth prevail]. 7Love bears all things [regardless of what comes], believes all things [looking for the best in each one], hopes all things [remaining steadfast during difficult times], endures all things [without weakening]. 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 AMP

 So how do we put this kind of love into practice when we have been offended, or when we know that we have offended someone else?

1) First and foremost, go to God for His comfort and most of all His counsel. Only God knows your heart and the heart of the other person. And keep in mind that He created and loves you both. Feel free to ‘pour your heart out’ before the Lord as He desires to hear your innermost thoughts (Psalm 62:8; Psalm 142:2; Psalm 51:6). I assure you that He can handle whatever it is you are feeling! Due to our sin nature we are prone to justify and rationalize our actions; to deny any part we may have had in the situation; and to cast blame on others. Often after being offended we need to first ‘pour out our feelings’ before we are ready to be ‘filled up with truth’ that can only be obtained from God’s view. After receiving my friend’s response, I was hurt. In my pain I felt an offense against her welling up inside of me. I considered her response to me to be very divisive and unfair, and I wanted to defend myself. I knew I had to get before the Lord immediately to share with Him what I was feeling, or else I knew my feelings would take over and I would respond in a way I knew would not please the Lord nor help to heal the relationship with her. I shared my sorrow with Him and my disappointment that she would respond with such unkind words and in a way that presumed many things that were not true. I knew that I could not respond to her until I had first gone to God and bared my heart before Him, and received His heart of love for her. By His grace, I did not respond to her based upon my initial feelings, but I allowed God to hear and to heal my broken heart so that my response could represent His heart of love toward her. It is so important when we are offended that we not respond out of our pain but go to God so He can bind up our wounds and we respond with His Spirit of love.

2)  Ask God to give you a humble heart and to open your eyes to see the situation from God’s perspective, as well as from the other person’s. Consider and meditate upon the cross and how Jesus responded to offenses against Him. Do your best to put yourself in the other person’s position so you can better understand where they might be coming from. Ask God to convict you of any pride, arrogance, or other sin on your part that might have led you—even unintentionally-- to be an offence to the other person. Be willing to humble yourself and go to the other person and apologize, even if your offense was due to ignorance.

3)  After stating your ‘case’ before the Lord, wait and listen to the Holy Spirit who will speak to your heart and lead you if you seek His wisdom and guidance. Then do as He directs you. (Proverbs 2:6; 3:6; James 1:5; John 14:17, 26; 16:13) The Lord initially led me to respond to my friend by asking her to forgive me for offending her, and I addressed some of her assumptions in what I felt was a spirit of love. She responded in a way that indicated she was more interested in ‘winning a fight and being right’ than in mending the relationship. I sensed the Lord lead me to say nothing more at that time. Sometimes the best response is no response, especially if you have done what you know God called you to do and the person still is offended. Consider that Jesus said nothing during his ‘trial’ before Herod. He was doing what His Heavenly Father led Him to do, and sometimes God will lead you to remain silent if He knows that by responding you may ‘add more fuel to the fire’ or for another reason He may lead you to say nothing. If, however, He leads you to speak, do not be afraid to speak the truth even if the truth offends the other person, but never speak the truth in an offensive way. For example, if someone is offended because of a stand you have taken based upon God’s clear commands in scripture —for example, being pro-life or pro- traditional marriage or against any form of racial prejudice —do not compromise the truth of God’s Word, but speak the truth in a way that is loving and winsome rather than defensive and accusatory.  

A soft and gentle and thoughtful answer turns away wrath, But harsh and painful and careless words stir up anger. Proverbs 15:1 AMP

4)  Forgive those who offend you as God has forgiven you for all of your offenses against Him (Matthew 6:14; Colossians 3:12). Do not allow the sun to go down on your anger if someone has offended you, and do not allow bitterness and resentment to take root in your heart (Ephesians 4:26, 31; Hebrews 12:15; Proverbs 4:23). When we are offended, our natural tendency is to want to get back at the other person, ‘to repay evil for evil’. That’s the problem…our natural tendency is our sin nature that must die if we desire God’s nature to be alive and at work in us. God’s perfect will and our sinful will cannot co-exist. You likely are thinking, “But you don’t know what they did to me! How could I possibly forgive what they’ve done?” On your own you can’t… you must be born again and have God’s nature at work in you to forgive as He has forgiven you. His Spirit in you will empower you to forgive the person, no matter the offense. I’m not saying it’s easy; it requires death to our own will that loves ‘nursing’ our offenses and taking vengeance, and it requires full surrender to God’s will. When we consider all of our offenses against a holy God, how can we not forgive someone else for his or her much smaller offense against us? Ask God to reveal to you the depth of the mercy He demonstrated when He died for you--and that He daily shows to you-- and ask Him to fill  you with His mercy for you to extend to the one who has offended you (Luke 7:41-47).

 5)  Bless and do good to those who have offended you, and seek to be reconciled with them and to live in harmony, if at all possible.

 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them….  Live in harmony with one another… Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all.  If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Romans 12:14, 16-18 ESV

But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. Luke 6:27-28 ESV

 6)  Pray! A tremendous blessing that we can give to others is to pray for them. Pray that your heart will remain pure before God and before the other person so that Satan will not gain a foothold by your dwelling on the offense, which could hinder your relationship with God and cause you to withhold forgiveness from the other person. Pray for those who have offended you. Pray that God will give them a spirit of wisdom and revelation in their knowledge of God and open the eyes of their hearts so that they will come to know Him if they do not already, and that they will walk worthy of the high calling He has set before them if they are a fellow believer (Ephesians 1:17; Colossians 1:10) Pray for the person whom you may have offended, and if you have sought their forgiveness and they have withheld it, pray that they will choose to obey God and love and forgive you as He has commanded them to do, so that they will not sin against God and miss out on blessings from God. Above all, pray that the love of God would be manifested and abound in and through you, and manifested and abound in and through the other person involved in the offense. For love covers a multitude of sins, and love never fails! (1 Peter 4:8; 1 Corinthians 1213:8)

 Written by Julie Van Gorp

 

 

 

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After the Affair: Striving and Thriving in Jesus by Telie Sumner


“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing!”
Isaiah 43:18
 
Many months after learning of my husband’s affair, the day I had feared for so long finally arrived. I rounded a corner at my workplace and ran right smack-dab into the other woman. It was a huge surprise to us both! I don’t remember either of us saying anything. All I could think about was getting back to my desk and picking up my Bible to see what God had to say. The Scripture above is exactly what He gave me, and I cannot tell you how many times I have repeated it to myself since that day!
            When I look back, it is so clear that for years God had been preparing me for the day I asked my husband about his affair. We were high school sweethearts, and on the eve of our 29th wedding anniversary I confronted him about it. Though we had spent most of our lives together, in that moment, with his cold, unremorseful response, he seemed like a total stranger. He said that he had been unhappy for a long time and was determined to leave our marriage. I was shattered and numb. But rather than dwell on what I could not change, God immediately spoke to my heart about what I needed to take ownership of in the demise of our marriage.
For example, God led me to address with a counselor a significant event from my childhood that I had stuffed deep down in my soul. Many of us are in bondage in ways that we are not even aware of. My husband was the only other person with whom I’d shared about this, but it was early in our marriage, at a time when people rarely addressed past woundedness. After so many years, God was bringing it up to the surface and opening the door to set me free!!! I also began to realize that in many ways I had prioritized parenting and busyness over my husband and our relationship. 😊
In the days and weeks that followed, I spent hours each day on my face seeking God, reading His Word, and allowing Him to breathe truth over me. Never in my life have I felt His presence so vividly as during this season. God became not just my Lord, but my husband, my counselor, my healer, and my precious Heavenly Father. He gave me unexplainable JOY in the midst of complete uncertainty. Whether or not my husband returned, I knew that God would take care of me.
Early on, God gave me Psalm 32:10, “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you.” Each time I had a conversation with my husband I would leave knowing that it was God, not I, who had done the talking. God gave me the confidence to know that in spite of what Satan was trying to tell my husband, I knew him better than anyone on this earth! And even though he said he was “happy” with his new life, I knew he was headed to a place of deep misery. God was able to use me as His instrument, equipping me to act more as a friend and less as a wounded wife during this time. I was able to extend forgiveness and show him that no matter what happened, I was not going to live my life with bitterness towards him. As I began to pray on behalf of our marriage, God directed my attitude and demeanor in every conversation we had. Only through God’s grace was I able to communicate with him solely as someone who cared about helping him understand why he was in this situation. True surrender is not being a doormat and submitting in the wrong way but giving of ourselves in a way that allows others to know our true intent is for their good, no matter the outcome for us.
In God’s perfect timing, He worked in my husband’s heart and gave him the courage to end the other relationship. We spent the next year examining our marriage with a fine-tooth comb to expose many things that needed to be worked on. We changed the way we communicated, knowing that we were not each other’s enemy, but the ENEMY was our enemy. Instead of holding things in and allowing bitterness to grow, we learned how to feel safe sharing our deepest thoughts and concerns about our relationship. We changed our demeanor and tone of voice in ways that brought bonding rather than conflict. More than anything, God used physical intimacy, the very thing that Satan had used to try to destroy our marriage, to begin to heal our marriage. I completely surrendered to God this aspect of our relationship, though it meant stepping out of my comfort zone and learning how to love my husband better through sex. Through that surrender, God gave us a joy and completeness that far outweighs anything my husband could find in someone who was not his wife. What we have discovered exceeds all that we had in the first 29 years of our marriage.
            Even though I thought I was doing all the right things to make my husband feel loved and respected, I have learned that one important thing he needs from me is to love him behind closed doors with total freedom, just as God directs us in Song of Solomon. It has now been 13 years, and we can truly say that we would go through it all again to have what we have today. God continues to give us “a brand new thing” as we lean on Him through every stage of life, striving toward obedience to Christ and thriving in God’s love toward us. Our marriage is safe in His arms.

Written by Telie Sumner

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A “Fit of Flesh” at the USPS

Yeah, so the Bible tells us that we have 3 enemies: the world system, the flesh and the devil.  I like to blame the devil for most of my shortcomings, although when I really think about it, many of my shortcomings are from the enemy called “my flesh”.  That’s the “enemy” that arrives with us when we are born into this world that desires things that are opposite of what God wants for us.  God says it like this:

For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. Galatians 5:17 ESV

Well yesterday I went into the post office to drop-off a prepaid package for delivery.  When I noticed tape sitting on the “preparation” counter, I used it to more firmly secure the entry points of the package I was mailing and set it back down on the counter where I found it.  Upon leaving one of the workers comes storming out into the parking lot shouting “ma’am, ma’am, you didn’t pay for the tape!”  in front of other patrons that were walking into the post office.

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“I thought the tape was free to use” I explain calmly (I had not taken the tape with me) “like when I go to the UPS store and they have it out as a ‘thank you for doing business here’ sort of gesture.”   I’m speaking as I walk briskly to keep up with this woman.   Once inside the building, I’m still talking calmly when she suddenly blurts out to the only other person standing in line in the post office and says:

“I can take you right here” and begins helping this other woman as if I wasn’t talking and was not even there.  So now I find myself flagged down in the parking lot, accused of stealing tape, ignored, embarrassed, in line and my blood is beginning to boil!  So what does yours truly do?  Well, I’m sorry to have to admit the “fleshly” thing … I kept talking, only louder now!  (My flesh had been quite easily offended and desired to be right about all things pertaining to this situation.  It was not about the money, I felt it was about the “principle.”  I believed they were being intentionally deceptive to patrons, NOTE: I was putting intention into a situation that I have no proof was ever there!).

“I think this is false advertising that you set out tape, and then expect me to buy it.  You guys put this 1 role of tape over here on this counter with the other preparation material.  This is about a principle, you set this up in a deceptive way…..(and I wish I could say I stopped, but

No-oooo, I continued on until she was finished with the woman in front of me.  Yes, I continued to spew my opinion loudly, and I’m sure make everyone feel uncomfortable.  I was THAT person!)

Then it was my turn and since I hadn’t stopped to take a breath I now stepped up to the counter and continued my “fit of flesh,”  now in interrogation mode:

“This is wrong, you are being deceptive and now you are making me buy tape I don’t need because I thought that it was free for anyone to use.  How did that tape even get there?”

“When I was re-stocking the shelves I must have accidentally left it there” she said.

“Did you accidentally rip off the 1/4”, perforated, huge cardboard price tag too?  There is no price tag on this.” I pointed out.

Silence…

“Well give me a Sharpie so I can write ‘Free to Use’ on both sides of this tape so the next person doesn’t get ripped off like I did.”  I demanded.  She handed me the Sharpie and I wrote that phrase on both sides of the tape’s plastic dispenser it was being held in.  Before leaving I put the tape back where I found it on the “preparation” counter and quickly left the building, in fact so quickly that I never even stopped to get my change.  

About 30 seconds after leaving, when I had finally stopped talking, I heard in my heart the familiar voice of the Holy Spirit say “was that really necessary to behave that way?  You know you bear my name right?”

I was crushed.  What felt necessary in the moment to defend myself and my integrity, now felt horrible.  I knew what I had to do.  I had to get my heart right with God, by asking for His forgiveness and then go back into that post office and ask for their forgiveness too.

Today I did just that.  It was humbling to say the least, as I walked back in and saw the scared look on the woman’s face.  Yeah, she was probably wondering why “angry lady” was back!  However, the freedom that came and the peace that engulfed my Spirit when I asked for both workers’ forgiveness and admitted that I had acted in a rude manner yesterday was priceless!  I pray now that whenever those workers see that tape with “free to use” written on the sides that it no longer reminds them of the “angry lady” but instead reminds them of a repentant heart.

Is there any person/people you need to ask for forgiveness in your life right now?  Do it quickly!  

“for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.” Philippians 2:13 NIV

Written by: Jamie Shaver

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What To Pray After You've Been Hurt

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Recognizing that the greatest challenge you will face after being wounded by someone is keeping yourself free from anger, bitterness, and resentment, I suggest that your first prayer should be for yourself.  Our role is to be pure vessels through which the Holy Spirit can freely flow.  We must not harbor anything that will block the flowing of His Spirit within and through us.

Example of a prayer for yourself:

  •  If you are unable to love and forgive the person, confess that as sin to God.  “Lord, forgive me that I have not loved  ___ (name of person) as you have loved me (John 13:34-35); that I have not forgiven _______ as you have forgiven me (Ephesians 4:32). Give me Your heart of love and forgiveness for________(the person who wounded you). Please give me ‘a heart of flesh rather than a heart of stone’ (Ezekiel 36:26), and ‘create in me a clean heart and renew a right spirit within me’ (Psalm 51:10).  Give me eyes to see ________ as your child whom you love and with whom you long for me to be in unity by the power of the Holy Spirit.  Empty me of all that stands in the way of you having full reign in my life, and fill me with Your Holy Spirit! Help me to love you with all of my heart, soul, mind and strength, and to love others as you have loved me. (Matthew 22:36-40 )

If you are tempted to harbor anger, bitterness, and resentment against the person who wounded you, immediately take the thought captive (2ndCorinthians 10:5). Instead of focusing on the sin against you, look to Jesus who bore both your sins and the sins of the person who wounded you.  We’ve been commanded to love and pray for others, even our enemies (Matthew 5:44). “God is rich in mercy, full of compassion, not desiring that any should perish but that all should come to know Him and have eternal life. The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you,not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reachrepentance.”(2nd Peter 3:9).  Do for the other person what Jesus does for you: intercede!

Example of a prayer for the person who wounded you:

  •  “Lord, break his/her heart over that which breaks Yours!  Give him/her a revelation of how deep your love is for them; draw them to Yourself where they alone can find forgiveness, peace, joy and true and everlasting love.  Give them a vision of eternity that they might humble themselves, confess their sin, and turn from it to You. Give him/her the gift of faith so that they might comprehend how deep, wide, long and high is Your love for them so that they might be filled to the full measure of You (Ephesians 3:14-19). May they have “love that abounds more and more in knowledge and depth of insight,so that they may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ,filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.’ (Philippians 1:9-11)

You cannot pray for someone with love for them and at the same time hold bitterness toward them.  Which are you going to allow to grow in your heart….seeds of bitterness that lead to death, or seeds of intercession that spring forth new life? What you choose to do will not only affect the person who wounded you, but even more importantly, it will determine the intimacy of your relationship with Jesus, the most important thing in your life.

Written by Julie Van Gorp

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