I have been reviewing some of the community service bible studies available on the market right now. This is all part of my journey to publishing the bible study I wrote last year on community service. What I’ve noticed is that I seem to have written more of an academic study than a simple bible study. I purposely didn’t look at what was available on the American market, as I felt the audience who would be using the study was likely more international anyway. The American consumer is definitely quite different from the international one, for sure.
But this morning I was reviewing a study geared toward teaching youth about living in community. I was very glad to see one of the chapters devoted to forgiveness. One of the themes the author hit on was working to see the situation from the other’s perspective. Instead of taking offense, ask yourself, “what was my role in this and do I need to say I’m sorry?” I thought this was great, to be honest, because not enough people in this world understand how important and difficult walking in an attitude of forgiveness can be.
Whoever would foster love covers over an offense, but whoever repeats the matter separates close friends.
This scripture was in my devotional reading this morning and it caught my attention, probably due to my coincidental review of the same topic in that aforementioned bible study. But this is a very difficult scripture to walk out in daily life. How do you really love enough to cover over an offense? Steve and I have agreed to not be offended – at each other or at other people. It takes a lot to hurt us or offend us, you can ask anyone who knows us well. Here are the keys that I use in my own life to do this:
- Decide ahead of time to not be offended. Some people walk through life looking for opportunities to be mad, it seems. If we just get up every morning and make a conscious decision that today I will not be mad or offended, it is amazing how well the day goes. But this involves surrendering our view of what the world should look like or how others should treat us. This is the first foundation for the concept of “turning the other cheek.”
- When an opportunity to be offended arises, pray first then speak. What often gets me in trouble is my mouth talking ahead of the editor upstairs (God). If I take a moment to pray first, before responding, when the temptation to get angry presents itself, then I will be more likely to respond with love. When I pray in this circumstance, I ask God to show me his heart for that person and what my role is in the conflict that is unfolding. Often, he shows me they are simply having a bad day or they need prayer themselves. Or maybe they just need a hug or a shoulder to cry on. When I started praying like this, I found that people who were hurting inside tended to be the ones who would be hurtful to others. In our natural mind, we often think those who have been hurt would be more sensitive, but I think they really cannot help it.
- Be the first to forgive and to apologize. Make it a race to see who can apologize first or be the first to extend forgiveness. Forgiving someone else doesn’t make them right (or give them the victory in the argument, no matter how many times they claim it did). No, rather forgiveness makes you free because by forgiving, you remove yourself from the judge’s seat and Jesus sits down in it. He is the only righteous judge I know of, and the best one too. Combine this with the knowledge that those who are already hurting tend to be the ones most likely to hurt you and you have a powerful key. By extending forgiveness and showing love to the person who most needs it, you begin bringing the healing of God to their wounded heart and emotions.
Do I always do this? I wish. But as soon as I realize that I have taken offense at someone else, I do my best to quickly forgive them in my heart and release them from responsibility to me. Then, I pray for them and look for opportunities to minister love to their area of emotional wounding.
Question: Is there anyone to whom you need to extend forgiveness today? Is there anyone from whom you need to seek forgiveness today?