Viewing your offender through the lens of the Gospel
There hasn’t existed a person who has never had a conflict, at least to my knowledge, either general misunderstandings or deep tumultuous conflicts. It almost seems like it’s what makes us human. It could be with someone close or even strangers but either way there is an offence. How we handle the offence that we have caused or have been offended says a lot of what we believe and our commitment to Christ.
Misunderstandings and conflicts in a way remind us that sin is in existence, that sinfulness hurts and we are still sinners. Every conflict should make us more aware of our sinfulness and need for a Savior, help us exercise patience and forgiveness with each other, and point us to the cross as we seek to grow more in Christlikeness, even as we eagerly await His return.
Whereas we have a new status in the new birth, we are of a fallen nature, living in a fallen world, and while we live on this earth, our indwelling sin seeks its way out in prideful and irritating ways that are an offense to those around us, and even more sadly, to our holy God. The cunning, age old devil is ever in the business of creating dissensions and disagreements among believers and many times we set the stage for him to seamlessly carry out his agenda.
The difference between believers and unbelievers is repentance. Both groups are sinful in nature. The difference is that the Christians grieves over his sin, runs to Christ in repentance, makes amend for his sins where necessary, and turns away from sinful ways. God’s grace is enough to cure us from all our sin.
The Bible alludes to the fact that sometimes we shall disagree and offend one another. We have been given commands such as; if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you (Mathew 6:14), And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive your trespasses (Mark 11:25), bearing with one another, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. (Colossians 3:13) and I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love… (Ephesians 4:1-2)
Often times (read a lot of times) our pride gets in the way of forgiveness and in its place, we harbor bitterness and resentment, all because we miss the point of the gospel. We are slow to forgive or even appreciate the grace of God in other believers’ lives, that they are in the process of sanctification and the Lord is at work in them. We go ahead to punish them with silent treatment and sometimes even sharing our hurt with others, with a secret motive of exposing our offenders’ sinfulness and weakness. As Shai Linne says in his song Lord of Patience, our self-righteousness causes us to be hostile with our brothers and sisters in Christ.
The good news of the gospel is that sinners who deserved wrath and judgement from God have been forgiven. Christ took upon Himself our sinfulness and imputed in us His righteousness. Now we stand before God as though we never sinned. For every believer, our sins have been forgiven, the righteousness we are of Christ given to us and God’s wrath is satisfied by the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross.
The knowledge of the realities of the saving grace of Jesus Christ, the imperfection of the believers while on earth and the hope for perfection upon glorification when Christ shall return are, the lens through which we should view our offenders. That they are co-heirs of the eternal inheritance together with Christ because they have believed in Him. Though they stumble and fall, the work that Christ began in them will be brought to completion on the day of His return. Together, we shall meet our Savior and spend an eternity forever. I’m sure no one will say they don’t want heaven because their offender is present!
I’m in no way saying people should be excused from doing what is right just because they are imperfect. No! But we would make much of Christ and bring glory to God if we treated our believing offenders in light of the gospel. I write this more to myself than people ‘out there’, for I need this constant reminder. The more I get offended by people and have to offer forgiveness, the more I realize how much I offend and have to be forgiven by others. This reality is often clouded by my pride.
May God, through His Spirit, humble us to the point the gospel shapes our worldview – even during conflicts. Amen!