…If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him.
— Luke 17:3
I was once offended by a missionary who lied to me and led me into a web of deceit that hurt me deeply. What really hurt was that I had trusted this man and had such a high regard for him. But when I discovered what he had done — and that he had done it deliberately — it was like a knife had been plunged into the depth of my soul. Every time I saw that brother and how casually and unrepentant he behaved about what he had done, the devil twisted that knife in my back another turn and caused that deeply intense pain to be inflicted all over again.
I really didn’t know what to do to resolve the situation. I felt the missionary should be held accountable for what he had done to Denise and me and to our ministry — but there was no way to hold him accountable that we could find. So he just drifted away freely, facing no consequences for the deep wound he had caused in my heart.
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One day as I lay in my bed, pondering this situation, the Holy Spirit spoke to my heart and said, “Rick, your only option is to let it go. If you hold on to this pain and hurt, it will imprison you to your emotions and hinder you from making the forward progress I want you to make in life.”
Was the Holy Spirit really telling me to just let it go and act like what this minister had done never happened — while I continued to rub shoulders with him from time to time at meetings that we were both required to attend? This seemed like a most difficult thing that the Lord was asking me to do!
Meanwhile, the offender felt no guilt for what he’d done. He suffered no pain for the suffering he had inflicted on us. He was free in his mind from the entire matter! He didn’t wrestle with a single thought about his betrayal of a fellow minister and brother in the Lord. Instead, I was the one who was bound, consumed with negative thoughts and feelings of hurt, pain, and offense. It was like this man had no conscience — and that ate away at me too.
Have you ever held on to an inward offense instead of dealing with it quickly? If so, you know that it has a way of eating away at your soul — spoiling your outlook on life, adversely affecting your view of others, and, of course, negatively impacting your spiritual life. Furthermore, when you allow offense to fester in your soul, you become less and less guarded with your own words about your offender. It’s not long until you start talking about the other person who offended you rather than praying for him or her, because as the Bible teaches, out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks.
Have you ever been guilty of telling others about a negative thing that another person said or did to you? If you did, were you aware that you were defiling your listeners? You were staining their thoughts with a negative opinion that could change how they see and respond to the person who offended you. Every time those who heard your words encounter your offender in the future, they will likely remember that report you gave them.
This is precisely how gossip-fueled scandals are created, many of which cause irrevocable damage. No one wins when bitterness is allowed to take root and then spring up to defile many.
Instead of being free in my own situation, I found that my mouth had become a vehicle to say ugly things about this man every chance I got. Maybe my words were not so direct and caustic, but they left an impression for any listener to understand that I had serious doubts about the integrity of this leader. Without directly accusing him, I was purposefully casting a shadow on his integrity.
Finally, a day came when I sat down with this man — one of the most difficult things I had ever done — and expressed my feelings to him. To make sure there was a witness, I brought along another ministry leader to listen to both of us and judge the situation. After hours of conversation, rehashing the story over and over again, it was obvious that my offender was not repentant or even slightly sorry for what he had done. This led me to a choice: I could stay hurt and in bondage to my pain forever, or I could choose to let it go and walk away free. “Letting it go” is exactly what the Holy Spirit had already told me to do!
That night, I was reminded of Jesus’ words in both Luke 17:3 and in Mark 11:25. In Luke 17:3, He provided a solution: “…If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him, and if he repent, forgive him.” Then in Mark 11:25, Jesus gave the full solution: “And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any…”
I had rebuked this missionary in the presence of another leader, yet it made no difference. But even though he had not repented, my options were still the same! I could remain in emotional bondage to the pain he had inflicted — or I could forgive him and walk away from that table free, even if he never, ever recognized the extent of the damage he had done to us.
Jesus expects us to take the mature role and to forgive others, regardless of how they behave. The word “forgive” is the Greek word aphiemi, which means in modern terms to let it go. Rather than be held hostage by what someone has done to you, or by what you may think that person has done to you, Jesus says, “Aphiemi — let it go.”
But often the only way you can truly dismiss, release, and let go of an offense is to get into the presence of the Lord and let Him help you. Just go to Him and say, “Father, I’m not willing to be bound by this offense. I refuse to be imprisoned by these feelings of hurt, rejection, or humiliation. Right now before You, I choose to let it go in the name of Jesus.”
You are the only one who has the authority to rip the root of bitterness and offense out of your own heart. If you’re ever going to be free, move forward, and live fully in the power of God, you’re going to have to release the offenses that you’ve allowed to build a stronghold in your heart.
Also, please be aware that bitterness doesn’t just hinder your walk with God. It will also impede your fellowship with others. The fact is, if you’re bound by offense against one person, that bondage will affect your other relationships as well, because the poisonous attitudes you carry in your heart against one person will affect how you respond to everyone else.
You may have suffered a hurt or offense in the past that harmed you terribly. In fact, it may have robbed you of something that can never be returned or restored. But if you refuse to forgive — to let go of anger, animosity, and bitterness — that offense will continue to work its destruction in your life. A past-tense problem will become a present-tense issue when you refuse to let go of your bitterness. If you don’t get over that past offense, you will give it the power to damage and even destroy your future as you drag it along like a bag of garbage or toxic waste. At some point, you have to just let it go and get over it for your own benefit and for the benefit of those around you.
I don’t know what may have happened to you in the past or what offense you may be holding against someone else right now. But I want you to know that you can walk free of those negative, unhealthy attitudes and emotions if you’ll make the decision to exercise your authority over your own heart and mind. Someone may commit an offense against you by speaking or acting inappropriately toward you without your provocation. But you cannot be offended unless you take the offense to yourself. You always have a choice.
It is a difficult lesson to learn, but learn it you must. There is no other way to move forward in God. When an offense is hurled at you, you are to deal with it scripturally the best way you can. But if you cannot bring it to a peaceful resolution, you are called to let it go. As you do, you will walk away free — free to be all God intended for you to be as you pursue the destiny He ordained for you.
So make the choice today regarding every past offense, hurt, or disappointment: “This day I let it go, and I walk away free!”
MY PRAYER FOR TODAY
Father God, I repent for the offense I have harbored in my heart toward people. I see now that offense has held me in a prison of my own making. I have been tormented by it, and it has kept me from making spiritual progress as I should. Rather than allow offense room to continue festering in my heart and soul, today I make the choice to let it go. I forgive my offenders, and I extend the same grace to them that I want others to give me. Right now I receive freedom as I choose to walk away from the offenses that have held me in bondage for so long!
I pray this in Jesus’ name!
MY CONFESSION FOR TODAY
I declare by faith that I am an offense-free person! Others’ actions, or lack of actions, do not have the power to put me into a state of bitterness and offense. To be offended requires my agreement, and I will no longer agree to stay in a state of unforgiveness and offense. I release those who have violated me in the past, and I will never bring it up again to them, to others, or to myself. I completely and freely forgive them. As a result, I am a free person with no oppressive, parasitic appendages hanging on me any longer!
I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!
QUESTIONS FOR YOU TO CONSIDER
- Have you ever held on to an offense that sabotaged your present or future? How long did you allow that offense to adversely affect you before you finally decided to let it go and be free of it?
- Do you know any individuals right now who are held in a spiritual prison because they won’t forgive people that they perceive have done something wrong to them? After reading today’s Sparkling Gem, how should you minister to them to help set them on a path of freedom?
- Is it possible that those who have offended you didn’t even know they offended you? Has the devil perhaps conjured up a bogus issue in your mind to steal your peace and rob your joy? And even if the offense is real, don’t you think it’s time to obey Jesus and let it go?