Shake It Off

Reprinted from Blogedonia

The coach kneeled over me.  “Come on, shake it off.”  Shake it off?  I’d just been speared in the gut by a running back who had 10 yards to build up steam.  It could only be  harder to breathe if I were floating in outer space.  Worse than my physical injury, the opposing team was laughing while I flopped around on the ground like a fish.

Helped off the field, I sat out a couple of plays and got back into the game, determined to get that running back (whom I’d been warned before the game was dirty).  And I did.  To quote P.G. Wodehouse, “I knocked him here. I knocked him there. I committed mayhem upon his person.”

This happened years before my conversion.  Had I been a professing Christian, I would have failed to live a Godly witness that night. And yet, it’s difficult during a football game, for numerous reasons, to go up to an opponent and say, “Look, buddy, your dirty play offends me. What are we going to do to resolve this?”

If I had known then what I know now, I’d have known there was another option to deal with my righteous anger.

Scripture lays out the standard (Matthew 18:15-20) for being reconciled when you’ve been offended:

  1. Go to your brother and just you two talk. If he listens, sweet.
  2. If he doesn’t, bring someone else, someone who doesn’t have a dog in the fight. If he listens, sweet.
  3. If he doesn’t, tell it to the church. It’s now solely the church’s problem.  Or is it?

What if things get to step 3 and your brother never says, “Look, I’m truly sorry. Please forgive me.”  If your session ends up disciplining your brother, and your response is one of schadenfreude, you haven’t forgiven him.  You’ve done just the opposite of what God commands.

Granted, this extreme scenario is unlikely to occur with any frequency.  What is more likely is that you’re adverse to confrontation and are therefore unlikely to want to go to your brother.  Or you like nursing a grudge and licking your wounds, flopping around while the enemy looks on and laughs riotously.

If you aren’t going to go your brother, you only have one option, and it’s a mighty tough row to hoe.

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

Looking at the first half, it’s good sense if you realize that often, offense is given when the person a) did not intended to offend, or b) did so in ignorance of the harm their action caused.  Ready anger keeps the skin thin.

Looking at the second half, why is it glorious to overlook an offense?

First, it’s divine-like to forebear, to hold back wrath.  In Romans, Paul spoke of God’s divine forbearance in passing over former sins prior to the demonstration of His righteousness in putting forward Christ Jesus as a propitiation for sins.  (God is just, and He will judge all sin, but He will do so in a perfect way.  Brother to brother, we are called to reconcile, not to judge each other.)

Second, it’s hard, really hard, to forebear with someone who has hurt you.  If you can do it, it’s to your glory.  If you can’t, a root of bitterness is going to spring up in your heart and choke the lifeblood out of it.

In trying to overlook an offense, you may go to bed thinking you’ve got it licked only to wake up and immediately think of what that jerk did to you.  Keeping pulling on the root of that weed.  If you can’t get the root out, go to your brother so he can help you pull it out.  Some roots take more strength than you have.

Third, if a brother sins against you, they are actual sinning against God.  (See the sorry account of David, Uriah, and Bathsheba.)  If your brother confesses his sin, God is going to forgive him.  We can’t out forgive God, but we can try.  Come on, shake it off.