“Moreover, if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother.” Matthew 18:15
“Therefore, if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” Matthew 5:23-24
How can we prevent the hurt we experience from turning into the sin of offense?
When you’re hurting, you need to talk about it with the person who hurt you. Most importantly, the intent of the conversation must be reconciliation. As we see in Matthew 5, God cares more about the state of our hearts than the sacrifices we bring to the altar. He cares less about my faithful church attendance and more about what’s in my heart while I’m in the pew.
It’s not enough to do all the “Christian” things. If it were, the Pharisees and Sadducees would have been pleasing to Jesus because they literally did everything “right.” Jesus chunked a grenade in the middle of their theology when He started calling attention to the condition of their hearts.
Instead of withdrawing when we are hurt, we must go to the person who hurt us and do everything we can to reconcile. It takes a lot of humility to admit you’re hurting. Pride will keep you from “going to your brother,” and that same pride will keep you in sin and outside the presence of God.
“God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” James 4:6.
But… what happens if you go to your brother, and he refuses to reconcile with you? What if your brother does not see how he has hurt you, and instead inflicts more pain with his prideful resistance of your humble attempt to reconcile? What if you leave the attempt at reconciliation more wounded than when you came in? (Been there, done that, got the t-shirt).
You forgive. (notice the period)
Forgiveness is a God-created concept, which means you do not have the power to do it on your own without God’s empowering grace. So, rest in knowing He doesn’t expect you to do this by yourself.
Your emotions will never desire to forgive, but that’s ok, because forgiveness doesn’t begin in your emotions anyway. Forgiveness begins with obedience. Forgiveness is required of every believer, because as we have received unmerited forgiveness from God, so we must give the same undeserved forgiveness to others.
Forgiveness does not mean that what they did wasn’t wrong. Forgiveness doesn’t mean that you swing wide the doors of your heart and life to them again. Forgiveness simply means that you release someone of the debt they owe you, and you bless them even when they don’t deserve it.
“But I say to you who hear: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you.” Luke 6:27-28
The key to forgiveness is blessing your enemy. If you find yourself on the same hamster wheel of trying to forgive but not feeling like you’re getting anywhere, begin to bless your enemy. Pray God would bless their hearts, their minds, and their bodies. Pray God would heal them and give them favor with Him and man. Pray over them what you would want someone to pray over you.
As you begin to obey the Word, you’ll find your heart will begin to release the hurt… the wounds will begin to heal… and your heart will be kept pure.
This “honeymoon” period at my new church may end and one day I might find myself knee deep in the messiness of life with people and new opportunities for hurt and offense. I’ll find out the Ark of the Covenant is not in the basement after all, and the reality that I am part of a family of imperfect believers will set in.
However, I have come to the place in my life where the most valuable thing I possess is access to the presence of God. I don’t want to go one moment without feeling Him near me and hearing Him speak.
There’s no wound or offense worth keeping compared to fellowship with the Holy Spirit.
I pray you will allow Him to begin softening your heart to His voice, and allow Him to heal the wounds you’ve been protecting. I pray in this place of healing, you’ll experience Him like you never have before.