We excuse all sorts of misbehavior, but a personal offense against another person is promptly condemned and recompense demanded. We adopt this stance when it comes to our own predilections as well. When someone does something that we consider a personal affront, we are quick to seek restitution.
While this may be natural, it is certainly not biblical. Contrary to our viewpoint, Scripture is quick to command us to look past personal offenses. In fact Proverbs 19:11 says that it is to a person’s own glory to overlook a wrong committed against them. When we are offended we are quick to demand an apology, or to talk about the injustice with our friends, but Scripture indicates that instead we should be quick to forget it; our focus should be on reconciliation not retribution.
It’s a theme that is prevalent throughout Scripture. We see echoes of it in Jesus’ response to Peter regarding how many times we should forgive. Essentially Jesus tells Peter to keep on forgiving, regardless of the personal cost or the miscarriage of justice. In I Corinthians 6 we see this concern again when Paul rebukes the church at Corinth for bringing lawsuits against one another. As Paul rightly questions them “Why not rather suffer wrong? Why not rather be defrauded?” Paul knows that there are worse things than being at the losing end of a business deal could bad. If my focus is heavenward, my concern won’t be on the personal cost to me, but on how my actions could compromise others’ perceptions of my Savior. With that end in mind, we would be quick to look past our personal offense.
Think of it this way – if you have ever been to England, you have probably stopped by Buckingham Palace and seen the guards. These individuals are famous for not flinching regardless of what others do to them. They look past all sorts of slights and offenses because they have a higher calling – they represent the queen. Christians represent the King of Kings – how much more so should we look past ills committed against us for the sake of our Savior’s reputation?
It’s tempting to respond to such a directive with all the examples of instances when we can’t look past an offense. And it’s wise to acknowledge that there are times, and Matthew 18 tells us how these situations should be addressed. But instead of looking for when we can’t put this in practice, we would be prudent to focus on all the times when we can – and get busy at doing it. After all, our Lord withstood the greatest offense of all times for our sake; we can certainly endure being wronged for His.