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A man’s wisdom gives him patience; it is to his glory to overlook an offense. (Proverbs 19:11)
If there were ever a verse that has been my unintentional life verse, it is Proverbs 19:11. I have forever been the “that’s okay” guy, shrugging it off as people do everything short of taking a baseball bat to my car. “Stole my wallet? That’s okay.” “Punched me in the face? No big deal.” “Burned my house down? That’s alright – I’ll get another.” Overlooking offenses is what I do.
Case in point: when I was a youth pastor, I was blessed to have some very large high school kids as part of the youth group which met at my house. One kid in particular, my good friend Carl, went about 6 foot 7, 330 in high school, and during his youth group years proceeded to break 12 folding chairs, a couch, one closet door (dunking on a nerf basketball hoop), a spatula (over someone else’s knee), the struts on my car (when I added a couple of other 250 pounders to my back seat and went a little too fast over a speed bump), and 2 windows in my house (technically it was my back that broke one of them as Carl backed me into the window). And after every disaster, my answer was always the same.
Now, there is something noble, as Proverbs 19:11 says, about being able to overlook offenses. It does take a great deal of patience and longsuffering to be able to let things go without seeking retribution. However, I have found that it also takes wisdom and discernment to know when not to overlook but instead to hold someone accountable for what he or she has done. Where do you draw the line between punishing someone for every little thing they do wrong, and overlooking even the worst offenses? Consider asking the following two questions as you discern whether or not to overlook an offense:
(1) What is my motivation, whether in demanding accountability or in overlooking the offense? When I say “that’s okay” to those who have offended me, is it out of genuine forgiveness and charity, or am I just avoiding confrontation? When I overlook, do I find that there is there a spirit of bitterness growing in me to which I need to pay attention? Conversely, if I am demanding accountability, is it because I want the person to grow in maturity, or because I desire retribution and want to see the other person suffer for what they have done to me?
(2) What is the loving thing to do for the offender – to overlook their offense, or hold to account? If someone is acting in a destructive way and I say “that’s okay,” I may think that I am being charitable and forgiving, but in reality I may be giving that person permission to act destructively with other people as well. On the other hand, if I punish someone for even the smallest of offenses, I may be displaying a lack of grace and punishing others for things that I don’t even hold myself accountable.
This Sunday, we’ll be continuing our series on peacemaking by looking at the issue of confronting in love, including when and how to confront, and when to overlook offenses. If you have any thoughts or insights to share on confronting and overlooking, please post a comment.
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