He who covers and forgives an offense seeks love, but he who repeats or harps on a matter separates even close friends. Proverbs 17:9 (AMP)
This verse, Proverbs 17:9, has been a life verse for me. The Lord has given me many opportunities to put this into practice. Let me share my story with you.
My children are involved in a local children's theatre in our town. They love doing plays and participating with this theatre. We have met a lot of families and developed wonderful friendships there.
The times that I've spent at the theatre have been teachable moments for me. I noticed that I was being offended a lot. I started to question if I was just being touchy. I didn't understand what was happening at first, but now I understand that the Lord was teaching me a life lesson.
One day I was helping out behind the scenes and one of the other moms said a very inappropriate comment to me. The day after that I felt another woman was accusing me of something I didn't do. A short time later, a man got irate with me because of a misunderstanding. He showed his anger toward me in front of a room full of people. I was insulted by this. I started noticing a pattern here. I rationalized that there are a lot of people who participate in this theatre and when you have that many people in one place, these things will occur. But as it continued I started to ask the Lord if He was trying to teach me something (I'm not sure why it took me so long to ask).
During this time I came across a book review on John Bevere's book, The Bait of Satan. In this review it said, "One of the most deceptive snares Satan uses to get you out of God's will is offense. Many Christians don't even realize it is happening. Do you?" I immediately knew this was what was happening to me. In his book, John Bevere writes, "Offense is a tool used by the devil to bring people into captivity." (page 7). I believe it. When I look back over my life I can see how that has happened to me multiple times. I have felt captive to my emotions that was related to being offended.
I was determined to do everything possible to see that I responded the way God wanted me to. The next time I went to the theatre, I purposely tried to start up conversations with the women who offended me. I admit that I felt like running in the other direction, but I forced myself to do it. It was just small talk at first. What I discovered was, as time passed on, I actually was able to have longer and pleasant conversations with them. I found out that one of the women was going through a difficult time. That helped me to see things from a different point of view.
The man who was angry with me starting talking very friendly to me one evening. When the conversation was over I was genuinely able to say, "It was so nice talking with you." This was a process and it did not happen overnight, but I believe that if I would have been stubborn with these offenses and refused to press past my feelings, my heart would have grown hard. The Lord wants our hearts soft and teachable.
Blessed (happy, fortunate, and to be envied) is the man who reverently and worshipfully fears [the Lord] at all times [regardless of circumstances], but he who hardens his heart will fall into calamity. Proverbs 28:14 (AMP)
I realize that it is not always easy to overlook people's rudeness and disrespect. There are some offenses that are deep and hurtful. Sometimes the friendship may even have to end. We can't control how other people behave. Some people are just difficult to get along with no matter what you do. All we can do is our part in the situation. We can't change people and we can't change our own hearts, only God can. Let's ask the Lord for help.
Offenses are going to happen, but recognizing that they are the bait of Satan should make us determined not to dwell on things that really aren't that important. Remember the words of the apostle Paul: "If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone." (Romans 12:18).
Lord, thank you for loving us and the lessons you teach us. Thank you how practical Your Word is. Help us to not to dwell on offenses any longer. Give us teachable hearts, Lord. Please help us to let things go and live in peace with everyone. In Jesus' name I pray. Amen.