23 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.
25 Agree with thine adversary quickly, whiles thou art in the way with him; lest at any time the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison.
26 Verily I say unto thee, Thou shalt by no means come out thence, till thou hast paid the uttermost farthing.
Here is the heart of the matter, and I think one of the biggest problems in our churches today. We do not handle offenses well. Many times we do not handle them at all. We keep them inside and let them fester, like an infected wound. If some of us could see what these offenses held have done to our soul, we would be terrified. They would look putrid, oozing with infectious puss, swollen beyond recognition, almost to the point of gangrene. They invoke stress into our lives and cause us to alter our daily course many times. They are deadly beyond our ability to recognize the enemy at work within us.
Why do we hold on to offenses so easily? Pride mostly. We are either too proud to admit we were offended or we are too proud to ask for forgiveness. We feel like we can handle it on our own and that the other person should be the one coming to us. We deserve an apology, don’t we? After all, they offended us! Why should we have to take any steps toward reconciliation with them? We are not going to admit they hurt us by what they said or did. That would play right into their hands. Nope, we are going to just hold onto it and eventually we will forget it and leave it in the past.
This is how we often handle offenses. There is nothing in the Bible that sanctions this type of neglect. There is a verse that many use to justify holding onto an offense, and it is found in Proverbs 19:11 (KJV)
The discretion of a man deferreth his anger; and it is his glory to pass over a transgression.
The NIV translates this verse quite different:
A person’s wisdom yields patience;
it is to one’s glory to overlook an offense.
Looking at these verses closely, the word “overlook” is the Hebrew word abar, which is a primary root and is used many times in the bible. It almost always refers to passing over, crossing over, or going through. It is used to describe the people passing through both the Red Sea and Jordan River. Many internet searches will tell us that this word means we can overlook an offense made towards us. But personally I see it different. I believe this passages says we must go through that offense and get to the other side of it. It does not sanction just outing it in my back pocket. I wanted to bring that to your attention before going on in case you take the viewpoint that you can just forget an offense because this verse says so. Study it out and see what you think.
We should be in a position in Christ where we do not get offended. Did Jesus get offended in any way? Do we read anywhere that He was offended by something said or done to Him?. No! You will not see Jesus getting offended, and we are supposed to be like Him. Jesus did not get offended because He walked in humility and meekness while on this earth. We walk in pride most of the time, and it is our pride that gets offended. If we can learn to put that aside we will also learn to not be offended. This flesh is what gets offended, and our task is to put away the flesh.
I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.
And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.
Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry:
These three verses all tell us that we are to die to the fleshly desires and sins we once had. We are now supposed to live in the Spirit and not fulfill the lust of the flesh (Galatians 5:16). Being offended is one of those things that our flesh just revels in. Our flesh loves to be able to take sides and judge and demean other people. It loves to hold a grudge and complain and murmur against someone else. These are fleshly qualities, not Spir1tual qualities. When you get offended, you should ask yourself this question;
“When I am offended, what miserable piece of flesh is still alive in me that can get offended?”
The problem is that we do get offended, and Jesus addresses this issue several times during the Sermon on the Mount. In this instance, He is talking about the fact that we know of an offense we did to someone else that has not been cleared up yet. He says “if your brother has ought against thee”, not that you have anything against your brother. Maybe you have heard through someone else that a certain person is angry with you. Or maybe you know all about it and just decided to let it slide. Maybe it’s an old friend that lately has been ignoring you and you are not sure why. Whatever the case, you have been made aware that they have something against you – that they have been offended.
Many of us would say that it is up to them to come to us if they have a problem with us. Why should we go to them? It’s their problem, not mine! They are the ones holding the grudge, and it will hurt their soul, not mine. But Jesus says it is up to us to do something about it. In fact, He says it is more important for us to take care of this than it is to be in church and offer our praise, or our offering, or anything else. We are to take care of it quickly and not let it fester any longer. He says to go and first be reconciled to our brother and then come and offer our gift. This is Jesus talking, the one we worship! He is basically saying that we should not worship if we know our brother is offended by something we did and we do nothing about it. Those are powerful words that are way too often ignored by the church.
The clear truth here is that any offense hurts both parties. Offenses cause division in the church, and God hates anyone who sows discord among the brethren (Proverbs 6:16-19). Offenses cause people to move from one church to another, or even worse, they cause churches to split. Offenses become gossip and spread to the secular world as well, giving Christians a bad name and making us look like hypocrites. Offenses linger until they are cleared up, get bigger as time goes on, and eventually are forgotten but the hurt remains. Have you ever been mad at someone for a long time and eventually forgotten what you were originally mad about but you still decided to stay mad? That is an offense that has gotten out of hand.
The second thing that happens is that bitterness sets in. Bitterness will eat away at your soul. It’s like an infection in the body, as we described earlier. Once bitterness sets in, it is very hard to get rid of and it shows up everywhere we turn. Our attitude is affected, our health is affected and those around us are affected. It’s like a cancer that spreads to anything it touches. Hebrews 12:14-15 says”:
Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord:
15 Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled;
Just a root of bitterness will trouble many. This verse says it is a failure of grace in our lives! It will bring a lack of peace and joy, quenching these fruit of the Spirit. Offenses not taken care of will lead to stress in every area of our lives. Why don’t we just take care of them as soon as we are aware of them? Why can’t we follow this teaching of Christ like we do others? The truth is, we must. We must do everything we can to take care of offenses. We will be talking more in a future lesson about those who have offended us, but for now it is time to take stock for each of us. Have you offended someone and just let it lie? Have you decided to just forget about it and not make it right? I urge you today to go to that person and be reconciled. Christ taught us to do so, and we should follow what He has said, especially when it comes to interpersonal relationships. Why?
In another portion of scripture, Jesus says He was naked and we clothed Him, sick and we visited Him, hungry and we fed Him, thirsty and we gave Him to drink. He also says that those who did so would be welcome into the Kingdom of Heaven. But those who did not do these things would not be welcome. Why? Because, Jesus said, when we do it to the least of His brethren, we do it to Him. An offense is the same thing. If we do not seek reconciliation from our brother, it’s the same as telling Jesus “Hey, your friendship is not worth it to me. I’m not going to try to make it right!” I’m sure none of us would say this to Jesus, but aren’t we in affect doing that?
Blessed are the peacemakers is the next to last of the beatitudes. This admonition in verses 23-26 is to be peacemakers. It is up to each one of us to do this, one step at a time. We have no excuse except our silly pride. When will you finally humble yourself and approach that brother or sister who is offended with meekness and love? When will we decide it’s finally time to listen to what Jesus is telling us here? There are hurting people out there, just waiting for each of us to make things right. Will you do so today?