Hi, everybody, and welcome to week 1 of a series that we are calling Have Mercy. And as we begin, I’d like to tell you where we’re going with this series for the next five weeks. In the upcoming weeks, we’re going to talk about what it takes and the faith that it takes to… See more
Hi, everybody, and welcome to week 1 of a series that we are calling Have Mercy. And as we begin, I’d like to tell you where we’re going with this series for the next five weeks. In the upcoming weeks, we’re going to talk about what it takes and the faith that it takes to forgive. Hence the name, Have mercy.
We’re going to talk about learning to forgive the big betrayals in life. Those are the actions that significantly alter the course of our living. We’re also going to talk about how to overlook the smaller things, what we’re calling the offenses. We’re going to look at how to forgive ourselves in the moments and in the times when we look at the mirror and who we see is not who we want to see. And our very last week, we’re actually going to talk about reconciling with God, not forgiving him because he’s never done anything wrong, but reconciling with him when it feels like he’s been absent or when it feels like his plans did not lead you to the plans you dreamed about having for yourself. Over the next five weeks, my hope and my prayer is simply this, that we will learn together.
How do we have mercy in a world of hurt?
How do we have mercy in a world that’s filled with hurt, filled with people who seem to be malevolent, filled with sin, filled with just anger, filled with frustration? How do we learn as a community of believers to have mercy?
Today, we’re going to talk about what it means to be offended and really a biblical approach to what we should be doing when we are offended. If you have a Bible, turn with me to Proverbs Chapter 19, we’ll get there in just a second.
But isn’t it true? Wouldn’t you agree with me that we live in a day where people are perpetually offended, where people are just constantly offended? Let me prove a point. I know that all of us know somebody who we would categorize as someone who is easily offended. You know, somebody like this, somebody who you have to be really cautious with the way in which you speak with them. Somebody who you would categorize as just being easily offended, someone who when you don’t text them back they feel some type of way towards you. Someone who you can’t really joke with. Everyone knows somebody like that.
I want to tell you two things that really offend me when I’m driving in traffic. I don’t know about you, but when I’m driving in traffic, which we don’t do right now, but when I’m driving in traffic and I let somebody cut in front of me or come in front of me, if they don’t wave saying thank you or give me a head nod, I’d like a demon comes in my heart. I don’t know what happens to me, but I just I just get so frustrated. If even if they give me a polite head nod, that’s good enough.
I also get really offended when I call someone or rather when I’m texting someone and they’re coming back and forth and back and forth and back and forth. And then I pick up the phone to call them and they don’t pick up their phone. That offends me so much. I don’t know what it is for you, but we live in an age of perpetual offenses. Maybe someone rolls their eyes at you and it just sets you off, or it’s the tone in their voice. Or maybe it’s just social media. You can’t even get on social media without leaving offended by what people say, by what they don’t say. Maybe it’s when a friend doesn’t respond to you or slow to respond to you, whatever it is. All of us, I believe, would agree that we live in an age of perpetual offenses.
We as a society are quick to be offended. We are quick to call foul. We are quick to judge. We are quick to become bitter. And I’m not even pointing at anybody else. I’m really I’m pointing at myself again. We’re going to look at Proverbs 19 in just a second. But I want to just tell you how bad it is for me. So when we start talking about it, you can really kind of kind of get the point and relate it to yourselves. Last year, I actually, you don’t know this, but I made a viral video. Look at this. So this is a video, Viral Hog is the group that bought my video. I sold the rights of my video.
The heading is “This guy trying to deal with a stubborn chicken on his car will be the best thing you’ve seen all week.” So if you want to look it up, you can look it up. But chicken on my car, it’s me yelling at a chicken to get off my car. Don’t want to talk too much about the video, but the point is that I sold it to this company, Viral Hog. They actually give me some recurring money. It’s millions and millions and millions of people who have watched this video. It’s on Instagram. It’s on Facebook, all different types of platforms.
And when it started to go viral, I started to look at the comments, which don’t look at the comments. I started to look at the comments. People are not nice. That’s what I’ve learned. They’re just really brutal. They said things that I can’t even repeat. But like pick up the chicken, you blank, blank, blank. I was like, wow. Like, I was actually a little bit kind of frustrated. It was like a cesspool of hot garbage in the comments. They called me all sorts of names. They didn’t even know me, but they called me all these things. That was just an opportunity for people to be mean. And so I would I would get kind of annoyed. I was reading through the comments, getting annoyed. And I remember when my wife said to me, and this is what I would like to tell you just from the jump, if you are looking to be offended, you will always find what you’re looking for.
So she said, “hey, look, if you go on if you go online and you’re looking to be offended, you’re always going to find what you’re looking for.” And here’s what I’m going to say, I’m going to preach today from the Scriptures. I’m going to challenge you on some things that may be in your heart, that may have been a part of kind of the fabric of your life.
And if you are looking to be offended, you will be. But if you allow God’s word to wash over you, I encourage you and I believe today, you can be changed. It can be changed because I don’t know anybody who has ever found themselves going, ‘You know, well, my life’s better because I’m so angry, you know, because I’m bitter and I’m offended. My marriage is just stronger. My relationship with God is just so much better because I have something that’s going under my skin.’.
And I just want you to know that as we open the pages of scripture, I believe the word of God is going to speak into our world, an alternative viewpoint of how to think about life’s offenses. You ready?
Proverbs 19, I’ll give you the bottom lime from the very beginning: Satan wants to bring you low by making you bitter, but God’s purpose for you is to rise above it.
Proverbs 19, verse 11
“A person’s wisdom yields patience. It is to one’s glory to overlook an offense.”
The proverb begins by conflating patience and wisdom. The fruit of wisdom in your life is patience until the opposite can be said. You know a foolish person by how quick they respond to things. So a wise person person is patient. But a foolish person is so quick to respond. The prudent man doesn’t make rash decisions. They don’t make rash choices. They are methodical. They are temperate. They are deliberate. They don’t rush into judgment. But they also don’t rush into acquittals.
They are patient. A person’s wisdom yields patience. It is to one’s glory to overlook an offense.
What does it mean to overlook an offense?
The key word here in this text is the word over. And so the question is what does the proverb writer think. What does it mean to overlook an offense? First, I want to tell you what it does not mean. I’ve studied this passage out a lot this last couple of weeks, it isn’t the same as pretending something never happened. To overlook doesn’t mean you assume that it never happened. It doesn’t mean to disregard the offense, to assume that it’s just to sweep it under the rug, to hide it, to leave it just like out there and just go. It’s not about brushing it aside. It’s not about going. Instead, it means actually something that’s so much more difficult.
Cross Over to the Other Side
Look at what the Hebrew word is. The Hebrew word is abar. The way you pronounce it is more like avar, a v o r. Doesn’t it kind of sound like over to you? Avar. The Blue Letter Bible translation or definition of this word means to pass over.
It means to cross. It means to cross over. It means to pass. To march over. Or to go over. It’s the same biblical word used in the Bible. When the Hebrew crossed the sea. That’s the word they use here. It’s also the same word used in the Book of Exodus when the Spirit of God passes over the people of Israel. It means to physically move from one side to the other. So you could begin to rewrite the text or rethink the text this way. It is to your glory to physically cross over to the other side.
So because I love imagery, this is the way I think about it. We, as disciples of Jesus Christ, as Christians are on a journey. Let’s call it a quest.
It’s a quest to change the world through the transcendent, almost scandalous love of God. We are on a mission to show the world that it can be greater if it just holds on to the gospel of Jesus. We’re on a mission. We’re on a journey. And day in and day out on that journey we come into contact with raging rivers, rushing white tipped rapids. They’re are wild. They are treacherous and brutal to cross. These are the offenses.
Our journey. Our mission is clear. But on the way, we see the rivers of offenses.
And they come hammering in on our life. They rage on social media through interactions at work. They come in forms of people with road rage and at home with your children and with your spouse. They come in the form of people’s ignorance. Other times they come in the form of pride and malevolence. But they are all raging rapids, trying to take you away from the mission that God has given you.
And so as you approach those rivers, there are two choices. One, you can be swept away by the rivers, swept away by the current, swept away by the offenses, or you can overlook it. The way I think about that imagery way is you can build a bridge and get over it.
So what do you do? What do you do when you see the duplicitous waters of the world’s offenses? What do you do when you run into the treachery of ignorance and cruel people? Scripture says we look it over, we get over it. We rise above it in order to continue on the mission of God. I know, get over it sounds bad. It sounds like I’m diminishing your pain. But I want to be really, really clear. I’m not. It’s not about diminishing your pain. It’s about elevating your purpose.
It’s not about saying to you, look, your pain doesn’t matter. That’s not the point. What I’m saying to you is simply this. Look, the pain is real, but the purpose is more important.
The calling is greater. The pain is real, but the mission God has given you is more important than those individual small offenses. Because if you allow the river to sweep you down into a current of despair what’s going to happen is you’re going to lose the opportunity. You’re going to lose your testimony to become the man or woman God has called you to be.
In other words, instead of focusing on the offenses or replaying the offenses, rehearsing the offenses and being swept away into the sea where you are no longer useful for the mission of God.
Instead, you rise above it because you realize your purpose is more important than the offenses we get over it. Rise above it. We do it because the calling of God is the only thing that will save our world.
That’s why I have to tell myself when I’m in the middle of something, got to get over it. Look, your life is too short and your calling is too great to live bitter. Your life is going to pass you by. And every time you allow bitterness to win, you obey the directive of the evil one. Remember, Satan wants to bring you low by making you bitter. But God’s purpose for you is for you to rise above it. I need to learn to get over it. You need to learn to get over it. Because my calling is so much more important.
I wrestled a lot about whether or not to share this story, but I decided to do it because I believe it’s a useful antidote. The other day, somebody I’m building a friendship with and trying to really get them connected to our church said something that floored me. As we were talking and they were talking about someone we both knew. And basically they mentioned the person that we both knew that that person has a problem. And basically, you know, I’m A and he’s B, so we’re having a big discussion about person C and he’s like, you know, person C has a real problem. They like to steal things. And so I’m not one to, like, allow gossip in the middle of a conversation with people I don’t really want to talk about. But the person persisted. So I’m trying to divert the conversation, and they keep on persisting. And this is what they said:
They said, “Do you know why they steal things?” And I said, “No, no. Why?” He says the person said, “because they’re Cuban.” I’m not even kidding. That was the line that came out of their mouth. And they were looking for me to give them some approval of their statement, you know?
So they they just continued, “It’s like every time they go somewhere, they just need to steal something.” And after hearing this, I thought for a second and then I just punched him dead in the face. Just kidding, I didn’t do that. But after hearing it, I’m thinking, “what am I going to do?” I interjected. I said, “you know, I’m Hispanic, right? And my wife is Cuban.” But that didn’t seem to deter him from his opinion. He doubled down. He says, “yeah, it’s in your culture.”
Now, I thought for a second, here’s this dude making this crazy racist comment about me, my wife and my kids. I thought maybe, you know, does this guy lock his doors at night because of people like me? Does he, you know, lock his car door when he sees me approaching? I was tempted to be offended. And actually, I was tempted to tell him off. And because I’m a New Yorker, I could tell someone off, like, I can go right at the top of my dome and just rip them apart. But I didn’t do that.
I thought if I told them off he would never speak to me again. And actually then he would have a reason to lock his door. But in that moment, it was the spirit of God. It was like a breathe into me. I thought for a second. What’s the goal in this interaction with this person? My goal is to help him find Jesus because Jesus could fix everything in that person’s life, including his racism. So instead of calling him everything I wanted to call him, I said, you know, “I don’t know how you learn that, but I don’t believe it’s true. And I hope as you get to know me and my family and the amazing people in our church community, that they will change your mind. We have some amazing, amazing Latino people in our congregation.”
He stopped for a second. He replied to me, “Yeah, that would be nice.” I excused myself and we ended the conversation. You know, I share all this. It was painful and it was kind of confusing. It was frustrating for me. But I share it because my calling to help him become a disciple of Jesus is more important than the offense I received in that given second. So I tried to build a bridge trying to get over it.
Cover the Offense With Love
I’ve been given a mission from God to change the world. And let me just tell you, it does not mean you don’t deal with that person’s sin. But I think Jesus will eventually deal with that person sin just in that moment. My calling is more important than that offense. Nobody ever changed the world by walking around bitter. And I’m trying to change the world for Jesus.
So I guess the question becomes, look, that’s the heart we have to have. I know it’s not easy. And I guess the question becomes, how do we, as followers of Jesus, get over the offenses of life? How do we grow past all the lowly little daily temptations to kind of be quick, to be rash, and be quick to be frustrated?
I want to give you one practical one answer to this question, and then we’re going to unpack it for the rest of our time. How do we alleviate the past? How do we alleviate kind of the daily temptation to be offended?
And the answer is we cover the offense with love.
“Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all offenses.”
Hatred stirs up strife. Love covers all offenses. There’s a dynamic that happens within every interaction. There’s this tension. You basically have two choices. You can stir it up or you can cover it. Those are the only options you’re really given in an interaction.
Another way to think about this is you can be an accuser or you can learn to love. You can be a hater, but you can learn to love. You have a choice. One is honestly satanic.
How do we know this? Well, our spiritual enemy, the devil, Satan, whatever you want to call him. He has a title. One of his titles is the accuser. He constantly tries to expose you and expose the wrong you have done and fill you with shame.
He constantly is trying to stir you up towards anger and towards bitterness. In Revelation, chapter twelve, verse 10, it says, “The devil accuses the brothers and sisters day in and day out.”
He’s always trying to stir up, to accuse them, to prove them as guilty, to say you’re not good. You’re not worthy of God’s love. You have no future. How could you possibly be loved? He stirs up the guilt in your heart. He does it all the time.
I guess the tragedy is this, that he doesn’t need to be the accuser. If you are the accuser, he doesn’t need to be the one that stirs up strife and anger and frustration.
The fact is that the devil works through God’s people and through the world all the time to make it so that love can’t cover up anything. But that sin is exposed and frustration lays bare.
We just rip out all the evil in people’s lives and we put them on display. Look at our culture today. You go back 25 years to find a tweet that someone said so you can ruin their life.
That’s not the work of God. That’s the work of the devil.
The devil wants you to see an offense and just stir it up. Bring it back to the surface. Stir it up. That person’s life is destroyed below the smoke so big that hate fills every pore in your skin. Stir it up. Make more accusations and more accusations and more accusations.
What do accusations do, though? They erode marriages. You live in a marriage full of accusations your marriage is not going to last very long.
They split friendships. Accusations destroy the church. And Satan’s plan is to use you to use me to do it. But God’s plan is for us to cover the offenders, to cover the offenses with love.
The word cover here is really beautiful, love covers all offenses. It means to hide, to protect it. It means to keep it safe.
I get the feeling in this passage that the thought is that we protect the offender. Again, that does not mean you don’t deal with sin. You deal with sin. You need to deal with sin. It has to happen. But in the middle of what’s happening, instead of jumping on the parade to destroy someone’s life, you become like the Samaritan that didn’t pass by the man on the side of the road, but instead protected a man who had been his enemy forever. That’s the heart.
You have to love an offender. And sure, you got to deal with the issues. Those issues need to be addressed, dealt with. But they need to be done in a way that proves to that person that they are a child of God. It’s radically different than the way the world lives.
And this is love. I love this quote from from Jay Packer. It was written in 1891. It says:.
“Love takes the largest view of life — it does not vex itself with temporary details, with transient aberrations; it looks down into the very core and substance of the soul, and, knowing that the heart is true in its supreme desires, it covers many flaws and specks, yea, even faults and sins, in the hope that concealment may destroy their influence and their very existence.
“There is a covering up which is a vain concealment, a merely deceitful trick; no such covering up as meant here; this is rather the covering up with which God covers the iniquities of the pardoned man…it is the love of God in action which at all costs must expel sin from the universe, and set up the Kingdom of God among men.”
He’s saying we love, like Jesus loved, and like God loves by covering up the sin of others. And that’s intense.
Jesus looked at you and looked at me. We were filled with guilt, filled with shame, filled with terrible, vile things.
At our very core we are evil. He covers us with righteousness.
2nd Corinthians 5:21
“God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”
Of course we address the sin of man. We have to. But we do it in a way that brings them to repentance, not just in a way that exposes their own godliness, like God does for us, knowing that we are sinful and our offenses are so great. He still covers us with the mercy.
It’s like an orchid. Orchids are amazing plants because what they do is they seek out rotting plants. They live on decaying bark and decaying trunks of other trees. They live on those trunks. And as the decomposing plant fills the air with poisonous gases, the orchid covers up the smell with its own loveliness. It absorbs the soiled branches and it produces a wonderful fragrance.
The question is, are you an orchid? Or do you go into decaying forces and just rip it up so it’s all exposed and everybody sees it and everybody can jump on the bandwagon to destroy someone’s life? Are you a pleasant, beautiful orchid or do you destroy people like the devil? Those are honestly the only options. One is beautiful and the other, in its purest sense is satanic.
Will you have mercy on other people as disciples of Jesus? We should cover human frailty, clearing away harsh suspicions and cruel slander. We should breathe forth merciful judgements on people. Compassionate sympathies.
Of course we deal with sin. I said it 10 times, but we do it in a way that brings about repentance and doesn’t just expose them for the sake of them being exposed.
“Whoever fosters love covers an offense, but whoever repeats the matter separates close friends.”
Don’t repeat it. “You did me wrong 20 years ago. You did me wrong 5 years. Oh, you did me wrong three months ago. You did me wrong.” Don’t bring it up again and again and again and again and again. Instead, give other people the benefit of the doubt.
“They said they were sorry. Okay, that’s enough for me.” Choose to believe the best in people. Love trusts. The Bible says I trust other people’s intentions and believes the best about people.
Ephesians chapter two says, I love this translation. This version of this text says:.
“Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love.”
Because God loves you, you begin to forgive other people and you love other people. Because Jesus forgave you, you have grace under the people because he showed you mercy. You begin to have mercy on other people. Make allowances for others because of your love. But what if somebody is just really rude to you? Really harsh. Maybe intentionally mean. What do you do?
Well, I’ll give you just a quick thought. I’ve always known that hurt people, hurt people, hurt people, hurt people.
They’re going through something probably because something bad has happened to them. And so what I decide to do is instead of being offended, I want to have compassion. Instead of being offended by, let’s begin to have compassion for someone.
Instead of getting mad, you go, wow, what is that? What’s happening in that person’s life that would make them have that position? If I lived that way, if I grew up that way, I’d probably be in that same spot. What would I need in that moment? Someone to come alongside of me and to help me help me get over to the other side of their offenses. I want to act in compassion. Look, you and I, we need to rise above it. We need to cover the way that Jesus covered because nobody ever changed the world by walking around bitter. You are on a journey. You are on a mission.
Imagine Jesus is on a mission, on a journey. He’s ready to go to the cross. And he’s like, I don’t want to go because the Pharisees are so mean to me.
No, Jesus built a bridge over the raging rapids and did the mission. He called the apostle Paul to do a very similar thing.
“And now, compelled by the spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there. I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardship are facing you.
However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me — the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.”
What is he saying? The calling ahead of me is greater than the offenses behind me. I had been called by God to something great, by his spirit, will empower me and will equip me, and my love will elevate me because I have been given a purpose. I was saved from the world to redeem other people. And so why live my life bitter? Instead, I will build a bridge to get over the offenses so I can continue the mission that Jesus has set before me.
I will not be pulled down by Satan. I have a mission. You have a mission. We are in God’s kingdom. Stay above it. Love through it. Cover it with mercy. If I could just like, sit with you and just talk to you face-to-face. If I could just, like, pull you to the side. Just have a conversation with you. I would say come on, brothers. Come on, sisters. Don’t let social media battles, don’t let those offenses that you see online pull you away from the mission of God. Don’t defend your theology with anger and with disrespect.
We’re called to love, to love, to love, to love, to love.
And so when you’re tempted to be angry, tempted to be afraid, tempted to be self-righteous, tell yourself, no, I will not let it happen to me. I’m over. It’s because I got something greater before me.
One Last Thing
I don’t know about you, but I’ve done a lot of things to offend the heart of God. Done a lot of things to hurt him. If he were to do to me what is deserved, I don’t even know where I’d be. I’d be dead.
I’ve done a lot to offend people. I’ve done a lot to offend his glory and his name. I’ve tried to steal his fame. I’ve done so much evil in my own life. But grace has shown me that the same mercy he gives me is the mercy I want to give to other people.
Give Mercy Like Jesus
Do you give mercy like God or do you have a countdown? Like three times and then it’s all done. And yes, you’ve got to stand up for truth, but we’ve got to stand up for truth in love. I’m not going to be offended because my life is short. It’s a mist. I’m here today and I’m gone tomorrow. My calling is too great to live without mercy for other people.
So, the next time the devil tries to pull you down, you say no. By the power of Jesus I’m going to get over it. You tried to kill him. You tried to pull him down, too. But he had resurrection power. And just like his power God’s power lifted him. God’s power can lift us, too. We have a divine purpose. We need to learn to live with the divine purpose and not live in the mud of the world.