Forgiveness Versus Offense
Last updated 6/10/2020 at 10:29am
Each week, this segment will offer a word of encouragement from pastors who lead churches in Bartow. This week's message is from the Rev. Matt McCraw, pastor of First Baptist Church of Bartow.
James, the leader of the early Jerusalem church, taught his hearers this powerful truth: "My dear brothers and sisters, understand this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger," (James 1:9). Perhaps a modern-day adaptation of this would be beneficial for us today. My dear brothers and sisters, understand this: Everyone should be quick to forgive and slow to be offended. The purpose of this weekly column is to encourage us. Surely, this adaptation of James' famous charge would give us more sanity and make us more like Jesus, which should also greatly encourage us.
The evidence of the proclivity of most people to be quick to be offended is probably displayed more abundantly on social media than anywhere else. If you take away the recipes, funny cat videos, and pictures of grandkids on Facebook a huge piece of the pie that's leftover is a vivid display of people being easily offended with someone else. Imagine this for a moment: how would social media, and our world, look if we made it very difficult for people to offend us? Do you know what it would take in order to make this happen? It would take a big dose of humility and selflessness.
Ironically, humility and selflessness and supposed to be two of the defining characteristics of a follower of Jesus. The apostle Paul tells us in Philippians 2:5-8, "Adopt the same attitude as that of Christ Jesus, who, existing in the form of God, did not consider equality with God as something to be exploited. Instead he emptied himself by assuming the form of a servant, taking on the likeness of humanity. And when he had come as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death-even to death on a cross." Jesus Himself said in Matthew 20:25-28, "You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those in high positions act as tyrants over them. It must not be like that among you. On the contrary, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must be your slave; just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." Despite this call from Jesus to humility and selflessness, so many of us, even those who profess to be followers of Jesus, are very easily offended. Instead of being so easily offended, perhaps we should fight to be like Jesus has called us to be. Perhaps we should strive to be those who bring love into the equation. Perhaps we should make it hard for others to offend us.
The perfect partner to an attitude of making it hard to be offended is a commitment to making it easy for us to forgive others. Jesus spoke directly about forgiveness when the apostle Peter asked Him how many times we ought to forgive others. Matthew 18:21-22 records the conversation: "Then Peter approached him and asked, 'Lord, how many times must I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? As many as seven times?' 'I tell you, not as many as seven,' Jesus replied, 'but seventy times seven.'" Jesus wasn't simply speaking about forgiving someone a certain number of times. He was speaking about extravagant forgiveness of an uncountable sum. Generous forgiveness is one of the trademarks of a true Christian. When we forgive, we are like Jesus. When we refuse to forgive, we are demonstrating a hardness of heart that is not in accord with a child of God.
Imagine a household, a church, a community, or even a world where it was hard to offend people and easy to forgive people. That would be a world of deeper relationships, less stress, and more love. We all know that everyone could use a little more love. So, let's do our part! Let's encourage others and be encouraged! Let's be people who are slow to be offended and quick to forgive. Let's see what God will do through us when we take on an attitude like Jesus and an attitude that Jesus intends for us.
If you don't have Jesus, He can give you the power to overlook an offense and quickly forgive others. What's more, Jesus can give you everlasting peace with God. Do you know Him? If not, seek Jesus. Seek a Jesus-loving church and set out on a path to have your life changed for