What is the godly response when someone really hurts you, offends you, or just gets on your nerves? Well, it depends.
Matthew 18:15 Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother.
“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault.” This is not an option but an obligation.
I think the key word is “sin,” as distinct from simply personal offense.
Proverbs 19:11 (NIV) A man’s wisdom gives him patience; it is to his glory to overlook an offense.
When a brother (or sister) has offended me, it is to my glory to overlook that offense. That’s my first and best option. My wisdom, shaped by God’s Word, allows me to put the offense in godly perspective; to refuse to receive it to myself, even if it is offered with a deliberate intent to offend. But in fact, a wisdom perspective shows me that usually the offense isn’t even intended as such; it is often an inadvertent consequence of the person failing to be as considerate as I would like them to be as they pursue other aims.
My best, most godly response to that type of offense is simply patience. I don’t have to protest every perceived slight. I don’t have to think that every action that gets on my nerves was the result of a deliberate intent to disregard, ignore or trample over me. Secure in who I am in Christ, I don’t have to try to defend myself every time someone seems to not give me my due. I can give the brother or sister some grace, and just overlook the offense.
There are, however, two instances in which I don’t think I should overlook offenses. First, if the offense is a continuing activity that is hurtful or harmful, or even just continually annoying, I should move to correct it. There is no sense and no need in repeatedly suffering pain or injury from someone’s insensitive actions, especially since they may not even be aware of how they are affecting me. I need to alert the person to the negative impact their behavior is having on me, and work with them to correct the situation.
The second circumstance in which I should not overlook an offense is when a brother has actually “sinned” against me. The sin may be an offense to me, but more importantly, all sin is primarily an offense against God. So, I cannot deal with actual sin just in terms of its impact on me. I have an obligation to my brother to help him deal with the offense toward God.
Galatians 6:1 Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted.
I am to go to him and tell him his fault, so that he can be restored from his sin. As a brother in Christ, I cannot pass over such sins without giving the person the opportunity for correction, forgiveness and restoration.
The emphasis of Proverbs 19:11 is on not letting the offense stir up my anger. When the issue is simply personal offense to me, it is my discretion and my glory if, instead of being moved by anger, I decide to overlook the offense.
But when there is actual sin involved, or when continuing or repeated damage is being done, the offense needs to be corrected. I need to go to my brother and privately explain the effect of his actions on me (speaking the truth in love), in the hope that he will repent and correct his behavior.
What I cannot do is nothing. Either I must make the deliberate decision to overlook the offense, which implies that I truly forgive and forget, or I must go to my brother to work it out. Either way, I have to deal with it. Otherwise, offenses go underground in my heart, and eventually a root of bitterness begins to grow.
And that’s one thing I must not allow to happen.