Whole Counsel Theology

Friday, March 19, 2010

Overlooking Offenses

We should make all reasonable efforts to be reconciled to those who have taken offense at our words or actions. I say all reasonable efforts because not every offense people take is warranted. Jesus would have done nothing else with His life if He had to seek out every individual Scribe and Pharisee personally who was angry with Him.

- John Piper, What Jesus Demands from the World, page 231

That particular quote may well have been a good thing to include in my previous post that I wrote about the Christian character we ought to have when corresponding with each other. Piper is of course correct; we ought to make every effort to be reconciled to those we offend, should that offense be warranted. After all, Paul indicated as much himself.

However, it is the issue of reasonableness that Piper mentioned in his book that I want to address here. He goes on in that chapter to mention that people are far too ready to take offense at many a thing nowadays, and I couldn't agree more. The reasons for this are many I am sure, not the least of which are the realities of our post-modern age that balk at the idea of certainty about anything, especially truth.

My aim here in this post is to admonish my brothers and sisters in our Lord Jesus Christ to hesitate to take offense. I mean that universally; that is, hesitate to take offense from things that unbelievers say or do to/about you, but even more so, greatly hesitate to take offense from something a believer says or does. I think such a priority is warranted, as is the principle of overlooking offenses. Proverbs greatly helped us in the last post I wrote, and I pray that God will use that wonderful book of wisdom once again to bring conviction, correction, and/or instruction to us in this matter:

Proverbs 19:11
Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense. (ESV)

A man's discretion makes him slow to anger, And it is his glory to overlook a transgression. (NASB)

A person's wisdom makes him slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense. (NET Bible)

First we shall begin with the last part of the book. It is the glory of a person to overlook an offense, or as the NASB puts it, "a transgression." The word means more than just offending someone with one's attitude, personality, or demeanor. It communicates the idea of "rebellion" or a "breach of trust" or "rebellious acts." So, given that meaning of the Hebrew word pesha, it seems clear that it is good for a person to overlook it when people sin against him.

We should always be ready to forgive, my brothers and sisters, and not to take offense when others wrong us. Proverbs tells us that it is our "glory" when we do such things![1] The word translated "glory" is the Hebrew tipharah which means "beauty." It is a beautiful thing when we let such things pass! Furthermore, since this is true for things that are indeed rebellious and sinful, how much more ought we be willing to overlook things that bother us, things that people say and do, that are NOT sin but are rather peculiarities we just don't like very much? I think the answer is obvious.

Now to the beginning. What kind of a person is it that does this, that doesn't take offense but rather overlooks them? Such a person has "discretion;" he has "good sense" and "wisdom." All are great ways to express the Hebrew word sekel which means "prudence" or "insight."

May God make us into that kind of a person, and not allow us to continue in the sin of failing to overlook offenses.


EDIT (3/20/2010):
P.S. -- I think it also beneficial to note that the person described in Proverbs 19:11 who is wise, has good sense, and overlooks offenses is one who is "slow to anger." Indeed, if we are slow to anger, it surely makes it easier to overlook offenses, and since good sense/wisdom is what leads to one being slow to anger, if we are not slow to become angry, it follows that we lack the good sense and discretion spoken of in this verse. Let us all remember what James said about this as well.

May God grant us such wisdom!


1. This of course is not to say that we shouldn't call such a person to repentance for a sin or think of sin as something other than a heinous crime against our Holy and Awesome God. That is not the writer's point here; the writer of this Proverb is extolling the wisdom and prudence of a person who beautifully rich in forgiveness.

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