As we reflect upon the sacrifice Jesus made for us on the original good Friday, we are reminded of the many sufferings He endured for our sakes and why it was necessary (John 3:13-21). Yet, despite all He was put through, the last thing He asked for before He died was for God to forgive those that killed Him (Luke 23:34). Jesus suffered great offences at the hands of those He came to save and He modelled for us a level of forgiveness we, as His followers, strive to attain.
Forgiveness is a vital aspect of the Christian walk for as we forgive others, so shall we be forgiven (Matthew 6:14-15). Guidance on how we Christians should deal with offence with fellow believers has been revealed to us in the Bible, both for when we offend others, and when others offend us:
When you offend another: We are told in Matthew 5:22-24 “that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, ‘Raca!’ shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be in danger of hell fire. 23 Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.”
Jesus is basically telling us that repenting and seeking reconciliation takes precedence over you seeking God further and demonstrates the speed in which He would like reconciliation to be sought, ie not delayed!
When someone has offended you: We are told to “rebuke that person; then if there is repentance, forgive” (Luke 17:3-4; Matthew 18:15-17 ). Furthermore, if that person sins against us 7 times in a day but turns to us and asks for forgiveness, we must forgive. Jesus set us the example of calling others to repentance (Luke 5:32; Revelation 3:19) but rebuking others that go astray was also endorsed throughout the old testament (Psalms 141:5, Proverbs 9:7-9, 19:25).
Likewise, the New Testament is littered with confirmations of the need for us to correct others, though we should remember that this should be done from love (2 Timothy 2:22-25; 4:2; Titus 1:13; 2:14-15).
If the one that has caused offence refuses to hear you, Matthew 18:16-17 tells us “But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that ‘by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.’ 17 And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector“.
Although being corrected can feel uncomfortable, to say the least, correcting each other is a necessary tool God encourages us to carry out. Below are some of the benefits that can arise from dealing with issues of offence in ways ordained by God:
- Following the example of Jesus (Luke 5:32)
- We are Ambassadors for Christ and He carries out His works through us (2 Corinthians 5:20)
- For Truth and light to replace darkness and evil (John 3:19-21)
- Learning and healing (Proverbs 9:7-9; 19:25)
- It demonstrates love for others (1 Corinthians 4:14)
- It is the way to life (James 5:19-20; Proverbs 6:23; Proverbs 10:17)
It is important to remember to deal with offences from a place of love, seeking restoration and healing, rather than revenge (2 Timothy 2:22-25). We are instructed to forgive others when we pray (Mark 11:25-26) if we follow this, then the act of rebuking one who wrongs you is for their benefit so they may turn aside from ways which do not honour God and know that they have been forgiven. For when a person is open to correction and they are made aware that they have caused harm, they can benefit from the opportunity by repenting and being forgiven.
Repentance and forgiveness are the core message of the gospel which Jesus came to share. That if you repent, your Heavenly Father will forgive you and you will be saved (Acts 3:18-19; Luke 13:1-3 2 Timothy 2:24-26). Thus, repentance and forgiveness are not enemies but friends and where we see that they may be necessary, let us not hesitate to answer the calling of our Lord.
Further discussions on Christianity, offence and apologies can be seen in The Mountain Retreat forum.
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