Freedom is defined in many ways, but I like to define it from the
position of what Jesus announced as His mission on earth to those in the
synagogue in Nazareth, "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because
He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor. He has sent Me to
heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives and
recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are
oppressed, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord." (Luke
4:18-19) In other words, to be free is to be released or
rescued from being confined, enslaved, captured, or imprisoned either
physically, emotionally or spiritually. Many believers talk about their
freedom in Christ without having a true biblical understanding of it.
Many seem to think that freedom in Christ is to cast off all restraint
and do whatever they "feel" like doing once they have made a profession
of faith. This means only obeying the scripture that they "feel" they
should and or that they can continue in their sin because after all "I
am free." Freedom is not based on our feelings or what scriptures "I"
decide to obey. Freedom finds its anchor through faith in Jesus Christ.
In Luke 17:1-4 Jesus teaches the apostle about offenses. He says, "It is impossible that no offenses should come..." The apostles response should not only be a learning experience for every believer, but also something that should be applied daily due to what Jesus said. Their response was, "Increase our faith." (Luke 17:5) This is the only place in the New Testament where the apostles ask Jesus to increase their faith. They were not asking for more faith to heal the sick, cast out demons or preach, but the faith to not offend as well as the faith to deal with offenses when they come. Remember, Jesus said that offenses would come and then He them the power of faith, "If you have faith as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, be pulled up by the roots and be planted in the sea, and it would obey you." (Luke 17:6)
Next, Jesus continues to speak to the apostles by asking them three questions, "which of you, having a servant plowing or tending sheep, will say to him when he has come in from the field, come at once and sit down to eat? But will he not rather say to him, prepare something for my supper and gird yourself and serve me till I have eaten and drunk, and afterwards you will eat and drink? Does he thank that servant because he did the things that were commanded him?" (Luke 17:7-9) What does this have to do with dealing with offenses? Much, if you understand that "the Spirit of God dwells in you." (1 Corinthians 3:16), that "you are not your own...you were bought with a price, therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God's." (1 Corinthians 6:19-20), that "you are a new creation; old things have passed away..." (2 Corinthians 5:17), that "you are a new creation created according to God in righteousness and true holiness." (Ephesians 4:24) (for the lack of space I will not site the numerous verses of scripture that reveal who the believer is in Christ)
Finally, Jesus concludes this matter, "I think not. So likewise you, when you have done all those things which are commanded, say, we are unprofitable servants. We have done what was our duty." (Luke 17:10) What does Jesus mean, "We have done what was our duty?" When it comes to dealing with offenses, what is the believers duty? If we know who we are in Christ, we won't offend others nor will we become offended by others, even if the offense comes from another believer. Look what the Holy Spirit speaks through Peter, "Finally, all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another; love as brothers, (and sisters) be tenderhearted, be courteous; not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary blessing, knowing that you were called to this, that you may inherit a blessing." (1 Peter 3:8-9)
This is the believers duty when it comes to dealing with
offenses. First, we should never offend another person, period! Our duty
is to have compassion for one another; love as brothers, (and sisters)
be tenderhearted, be courteous. If we do our duty as shown here, we will
never offend another person whether a believer or unbeliever. Next, if
you are offended by anyone, your duty is not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary blessing, knowing that you were called to this. Believers
are not to claim, receive or hold on to an offense. If they do, and
unfortunately many do, they will fail doing their duty and unfortunately, open the
door of their heart for the devil to hold them captive which prevents
God from blessing them.
In Matthew 18 Jesus tells us what believers are to do when someone brings an offense. No matter how small or large the offense is, believers are to forgive, period. (Matthew 18:21-27) As Peter said, believers are to bless (forgive) not curse (hold unforgiveness). Jesus also tells us what happens when a believer holds on to unforgiveness. The believer is tormented because he/she has given place to the devil (torturers). (Matthew 18:28-34) The sad thing is Jesus' conclusion to this matter to believers who have unforgiveness, "So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses." (Matthew 18:35)
If you have been offended and are dealing with unforgiveness, you can be totally free from the hurt, torment and or ill feelings that you have towards another person right now. First, let the offense out by speaking what the offense was and who it was that offended you. Secondly, you must completely forgive them no matter how difficult it may seem. (Colossians 3:13) Next, purpose not to think (2 Corinthians 10:5) or speak (Ephesians 4:29) anything concerning this matter ever again. In doing so, you will not "give place to the devil." (Ephesians 4:27) Also, ask the Lord to forgive you for holding on to unforgiveness (1 John 1:9) Finally, let 1 Peter 3:8-9 have place in your heart and speak blessings over the one(s) who have offended you. In doing these things, you not only release the one that you have held captive in your heart through unforgiveness, but you also will free yourself from being tormented due to unforgiveness. Although Jesus said, "offenses will come" by applying these simple principles by faith you will walk in freedom overcoming all offenses. With that said, I have one final thought. Time does not heal wounds, only forgiveness from the heart does. So let it all go and become the blessing that you are called to be to others, so that you may inherit a blessing.