At some point in our lives, someone has done something in which we felt we were hurt or betrayed. We felt that our “rights” were trampled upon. We may have actually been wronged, suffering loss in some way whether by a damaged reputation, loss of finances, or by damaging relationships with those closest to us.
We were offended.
Conversely, at some point in our lives, we have been the one that caused hurt feelings or betrayed someone. We disrespected another making them to feel as if their “rights” were trampled upon. We did damage another’s reputation, caused an individual to suffer financial loss, or created a rift not only in the relationship between the two but also between that individual and others.
We were the offender.
Matthew 5:23-24, Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; 24 Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift.
In Matthew 5:23-24, we see that it is the responsibility of the offender to go make it right with the one offended. Notice, it says that if “thy brother hath ought against thee.” This would include offenses that may only be a perceived offense, a miscommunication, or misunderstanding. If we did sin against another individual or if we simply know that someone is upset with us, it is OUR responsibility to go to the person to make it right.
Those of us who were offended agree wholeheartedly with these verses. The offender should take responsibility because they are the one who sinned. After all, I didn’t do anything wrong. I was wronged. They hurt my feelings. However,…
Matthew 18:15, Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother.
As the one who was offended, we bear an equal responsibility in restoring the relationship. If someone offends us in some manner, it is OUR responsibility to go to that individual to restore the relationship.
So, what you are saying is that no matter if I was offended or if I were the offender, if there is a rift in a relationship I am responsible for trying to restore it?
But, what if they don’t want to listen? What if they don’t want to make it right?
Matthew 18:16-17, But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. 17 And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican.
Matthew 18:16-17 are the verses that most people will jump to for an offense, regardless of the severity of the offense. However, we need to examine if the offense truly rises to that level, the level of church discipline. Often, it does not. We make mountains out of molehills. We blow up a minor disagreement into world war.
1 Corinthians 13:4-8a, Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, 5 Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; 6 Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; 7 Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. 8 Charity never faileth:
We must rely on charity (love) in these situations. Some offenses are so minor that we should simply let them go. Be the bigger person.
1 John 4:11, Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another.
Nineteen times in the New Testament we are told to love one another usually, in context, reminding us that we are to love one another as Christ loved us. How can we possibly hold an offense over someone when God has forgiven us of so much more?
Proverbs 18:19, A brother offended is harder to be won than a strong city: and their contentions are like the bars of a castle.
But, I’ve gone to them. They don’t want to make it right. They don’t want to restore the relationship.
Romans 12:18, If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.
If we have done all we can to restore a relationship, whether it is to let pass the least offense or gone to the person in order to reconcile the relationship, then our final responsibility is to live as peaceably as possible with the individual. In some cases, it may mean simply staying away from the individual as much as possible. But if you must interact with the person, follow the principle found in the final verses of Romans 12.
Romans 12:19-21, Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. 20 Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. 21 Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.
We are imperfect beings. We are going to be hurt and we are going to offend others. It is our responsibility, regardless of which side of the situation we find ourselves, to shore up relationships. Why? Because we are brothers and sisters in the Lord. We must be an example to a lost and dying world of the love of Christ. We cannot accomplish that if we are bickering and fighting amongst ourselves, or are holding grudges and being unforgiving.
Ephesians 4:1-3, I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, 2 With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; 3 Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
Psalm 133:1, Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!
photo credit: photopin.com