Please note: the aim of this article is meant to address minor offenses within the body of Christ and is not meant to include abuse or serious wrongdoing.
I sat with my counselor and rattled off the list of unkind comments and hurtful gestures that had been directed my way. Vivid in my own memory, I had been keeping a record of all the wrongs done AGAINST me. Expecting empathy and validation, the counselor surprised me by responding, “You know, he isn’t out to get you; he is just acting out of the compulsive nature of his own sin.” Wow, I hadn’t thought of it that way before. Learning to see hurtful comments and actions from other people through that lens changed everything. I suddenly understood that most people are not trying to hurt you. Rather, their unkind responses are merely the result of the sin in them.
I’m sure we have all been offended before. Whether by a comment that was meant to hurt us or something corrective said in good faith—ouch! It still hurts. We often replay in our minds the hurtful comments or actions the person did to us over and over again. As believers, we ought to be better at taking notice of the words we speak, but do we also take inventory of the way we perceive others’ comments toward us? Sometimes our perceptions can be rooted in sin. And sometimes it’s simply a matter of being easily offended. Becoming aware of and owning how we perceive others’ comments and actions will help us realize that sometimes our perceptions are faulty or we are unnecessarily keeping a tally of wrongs done against us.
When You’ve Offended God
“Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God.”Romans 8:8 NIV
The rise of “cancel culture” and “call-out culture” in the age of social media is a barometer which indicates a steadily growing cancer: offense. Offense is what happens when someone hurts us. I am certain that, like me, you have been offended before. Yet, how we choose to respond when we are offended can sometimes be more harmful to the one offended than it is for the perpetrator of the offense. For those of us who are offended, bitterness can hold us hostage, and we can begin to believe that others are accountable to us rather than to God. However, don’t forget: the person sinning against you is sinning first against God.
What if we focused more on the way we’ve offended God than the way others offend us? This takes some reflection, but when we begin to fully grasp our own offenses against God and how Jesus died for those sins, we can truly rejoice in the gift of his forgiveness. When we understand the enormity of what God did for us on the cross, we are more likely to extend grace and overlook small offenses. Pastor Kevin DeYoung, a Reformed Evangelical theologian and author said:
“What about Jesus? ‘And you shall call his name Jesus,’ the angel told Joseph, ‘for he will save his people from their sins’ (Matthew 1:21). More than a great teacher, more than an enlightened man, more than a worker of miracles, more than a source of meaning in life, more than a self-help guru, more than a self-esteem builder, more than a political liberator, more than a caring friend, more than a transformer of cultures, more than a purpose for the purposeless, Jesus is the Savior of sinners.” 1
Accepting our humanity and weaknesses brings us into a deeper reliance on him. As Tim Keller puts it, “The gospel is always more compelling to people who know their own inadequacy.”2
I prefer to let his never-ending grace wash over my weak attempts to “be good.” I must PRAY for God’s way, not mine. With grace in mind, we can see beyond the natural realm to love people in the good and the bad. So, fellow Christian, we must—we must—understand that true grace is not grace if the person who offended you deserved it, just like you and I did not deserve what Jesus did on the cross.
As recipients of grace, we must extend the SAME grace to everyone. Admitting our own sin and acknowledging how we personally fall short of the glory of God, we are just like the person who offended us, but our offense is against God. Maybe, just maybe, today is the day to overlook an offense. Or maybe, just maybe, today is the day to be quick to forgive.
When Offense Happens
“A person’s wisdom yields patience; it is to one’s glory to overlook an offense.”Proverbs 19:11 NIV
Has a post on social media ever made you immediately frustrated? Maybe you even started to think ill of the author of the post. You feel your chest tighten and wonder, how could they have said that? You are so mad you want to click the unfollow button.
An offense can happen when someone sins against us, or even if someone just rubs us the wrong way! Often, it comes out of a “right versus wrong” mentality. We get offended and harbor bitterness. Wounds and resentment create rifts and divisions and we find ourselves clutching our anger tightly in our fists to prove we are right.
It’s okay to feel upset when you are offended or sad, but we can’t let bitterness take root. Instead, we must be quick to forgive. As believers, holding a grudge inhibits our ability to reconcile. And when we avoid reconciliation, we miss out on what God wants to do in and through us.
Typically for me, offense stems from pride or self-righteousness. I have received some pretty offensive comments over time, and my feelings do get hurt. But as Christians, we need to be able to “overlook an offense” just like it says in Proverbs. This passage says it is “one’s glory to overlook an offense.”
The journey to overlooking offenses is very personal to me. I lived so much of my life being offended or holding onto bitterness. I was self-righteous and didn’t even know it. I had standards for my husband, friends, and family members from my own pride and lack of humility. As I began to grow in this area, I realized it was easier to “overlook” an offense than invest time and energy in feeling bitter, frustrated, or annoyed. I’m not saying we should ignore hurts, but for the minor offenses, why waste a lot of unnecessary emotion?
When You Are Offended and Need to Confront Someone
“Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.”Ephesians 4:15 NIV
There are two types of people in the world: the people who will tell you that you have spinach in your teeth and those who won’t. As we pray about whether it is time to overlook an offense or confront someone, let us remember that it is not always kind to let someone walk around with spinach in their teeth. It is humiliating to go home and realize that the person that was talking to you for the last two hours never told you about the spinach in your teeth but walked around telling everyone else. I was the latter person. For so long, I touted grace because I felt it benefited the body more than speaking truthfully, but I have come to realize that there is a time and place to whisper in the ear of the person who has the huge piece of spinach between their teeth.
Now, some of us would tell the person in front of a big group of people that they have something lodged between their teeth and cause them to feel embarrassed. In the case of confronting others, I would point out that in Matthew 18:15, it says, “If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you.” (Matthew 18:15 NIV, italics mine) First off, it does not say if they sin to point it out to others or to point it out in a crowd. It says to point it out to them in private.
I think Ephesians 4:15 gives us a lot of insight in how to confront someone, “…speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ” (Ephesians 4:15 NKJV). When we are feeling called to confront someone about our offense it is pertinent that we do so with truth in love.
Some believers need to grow in speaking truthfully when they confront someone, others need to grow in grace when they confront someone. There will be times that we are called to confront other believers when we are offended or have been sinned against. (see Matthew 18:15-17 on how to do this) We need to seek to grow in the ways that we are not naturally inclined so we can be knit together as one body that grows towards the head Christ.
Overlooking an offense is hard. It is easier to ruminate on what that person said or did. But confronting someone about an offense is hard, too, and sometimes it’s easier not to. Instead, we must prayerfully commit every choice to God and follow his lead in whether it is time to overlook an offense or it is time to help a girl out with the spinach in her teeth.
- Pray about your perceptions of what others are saying to you: are you easily offended?
- Pray about whether God would have you overlook the offense or bring the offense to the person in love.
- If you are going to bring the offense to your brother and sister in Christ, read: Matthew 18:15-17 and Galatians 6:1-2 to see how to do that.
- Pray about being someone who is quick to forgive, read: Colossians 3:13
If you have repeatedly gone before your brother with an offense and they do not listen.
- Follow the steps listed in Matthew 18.
“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.”
Matthew 18:15-17If the person continues to create division and say unkind words, read Titus 3:10: “Warn a divisive person once, and then warn them a second time. After that, have nothing to do with them.”
1Kevin DeYoung, “The Name of Jesus.” The Gospel Coalition, December 16, 2011, https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/kevin-deyoung/5932/. Accessed July 28, 2021.
2Timothy Keller (@timkellerynyc), Twitter, January 6, 2019, 12:30 p.m., https://twitter.com/timkellernyc/status/1081966210776993794. Accessed July 28, 2021.
Image Credit: Emilee Carpenter