A brother offended is more unyielding than a strong city, and quarreling is like the bars of a castle. ~~Proverbs 18:19 (ESV)
We offend each other. Sometimes we even do it in pubic forums, telling ourselves that we merely want to get to the truth. And I’ll admit that some situations actually do necessitate stepping on toes in order to reprove sin or confront false teaching.Even in those instances, however, we should do our best to be as gentle and winsome as possible.
Regardless of our motives or intentions, the fact remains that we will do stupid stuff to offend our brothers and sisters in Christ. When that happens (as it inevitability will), we shouldn’t be surprised if the person withdraws from us. Haven’t we withdrawn from people who have offended us? Of course we have!
Proverbs 18:19 brilliantly describes the defensive posture of someone who has suffered an offense. He understandably barricades his heart against further hurt, usually feeling betrayed and vulnerable. The thought of forgiveness seems far too overwhelming! So he fortifies himself against further perceived abuse.
Although we understand such self-protective instincts, the Bible commands forgiveness.
12 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. ~~Colossians 3:12-13 (ESV)
I know, all too well (I assure you), that forgiveness doesn’t come naturally when someone offends us. We build our self-protective fortresses on foundations of pride, indignant that anyone dared to cross our path. Forgiveness takes an enormous amount of humility, especially as we seek to show compassion to the very people who offend us by doing stupid stuff.
How often do we offend the Lord with our stupid stuff? Actually, we usually offend Him with deliberate sin, and we can’t fool Him into thinking that we do so out of pure motives or intentions. Yet He graciously forgives us. Repeatedly.
Colossians 3:12-13 commands us to forgive the people who do stupid stuff to us just as Christ has forgiven us. Our self-protective walls must go, and we must take a jackhammer to our foundation of pride. Just as it cost Christ everything to forgive us, it costs us momentary humility to forgive others.
People will do stupid stuff. Their stupid stuff will hurt us deeply. But it’s just as stupid for us to erect walls of unforgiveness, knowing how completely Christ forgives us.