Love keeps no record of wrongs. – 1 Corinthians 13:5
One of the most difficult things that I deal with as a follower of Jesus Christ is the memory of past offenses. I can be living my life, not a care in the world, and out of nowhere a person’s name or face will come to mind and I am overwhelmed with the memory of their disloyalty, ignorance, or outright cruelty towards me.
Even the momentary perception of an offense can derail our whole day. One occasion that stands out to me and helped me learn how to withstand these moments and not be overcome with resentment, actually involves my offense against someone else.
I once had someone accuse me of saying that their property being flooded was an expression of God’s judgment against them. Months earlier, they had started attending our church, and they had come in to discuss an idea they had to enhance our community service. In the course of our conversation, they told me about their basement flooding during a recent storm that had swept through their town.
Months later, while working a community event sponsored by the church, they informed me that they were writing a book and I was in it. I replied, “Cool.”, and went about my business. Later, a mutual acquaintance informed me that this man thought I was looking down on him. He was holding a grudge against me for an offense that I did not commit. I had offended him and had no idea I had offended him.
People who know me know that I don’t tend to think of weather events as specific acts of God’s personal or communal judgment. So I know that I never said that God was judging him or anything implying that God was judging him. Yet, this person perceived that I thought their basement flooding was an expression of God’s judgment against them.
His perception of my offense was motivating a specific response to me. From his perspective, I had offended him. There was no convincing him otherwise. So to him, my offense was real. He had allowed it to become a part of the story of his life.
This whole episode taught me that the power I give to the words and actions of others to affect my outlook on life has less to do with them and more to do with me. A loving person is too busy loving God and honoring God’s love for others to hold grudges. In fact, when someone offends them, personally or accidentally, they use the opportunity to exercise God’s grace in relationship with other people. Because the experience of personal insult or injury does not have the power within itself to stop them from following God wholeheartedly and forgiving those who offend them. When Jesus was dying on the cross he cried out, “Father, forgive them. They do not know what they are doing.“
The power to stand with God or give in to self interest lies within our own power to cultivate. “Will I exchange the privilege of glorifying God with my whole life for the self serving opportunity to exalt myself?” “Will I spend my God given time and energy to honor God, or to honor myself?” Ironically, seeking honor for ourselves and our families is an empty pursuit, while seeking the honor of God fulfills our lives and the lives of our friends and families.
When I do not hold what you do against me I am saying that you do not have power over me. In essence I deny you the power to hurt, overwhelm, or define my life and value in a way that dishonors the depth and value of God’s love for me. Only God has the power, wisdom, and authority to properly define my life. Every time I encounter someone who treats me with disrespect or dishonor, I have the opportunity to exercise my reliance upon God rather than reliance upon myself. In this way, God’s love becomes a more integrated and defining aspect of my character. This helps me become a more free, forgiving, and faithful person.
Written by Pastor Isam Itson III