When I traveled to Israel last year, I lost my temper with my best friend in an incident at the Dead Sea. While the details of the incident are not important, the fact that I was forgiven by my friend for behaving like anything other than a friend is important. We laugh about it now, but I still cringe when I remember how I acted.
Several months ago, I unknowingly hurt my friend’s feelings. When I realized later that she was upset with me, she would not talk about it. I was sure I said something insensitive and stupid, but without knowing the details, I was not sure which of my many remarks was truly the offensive one. I apologized, but the apology sounded hollow and empty since I did not understand my offense. The incident was overlooked and we continued with our friendship.
Several days ago the incident from several months ago resurfaced. Remarks I made brought this incident back to the mind of my friend. We both got angry and actually offended each other. But we worked it out. Our friendship was too valuable to discard merely for carelessly uttered remarks that each of us found insensitive. Offenses are a reality of life, even in friendships. No one is beyond being offended or above offending. We may offend others both intentionally and unintentionally. We may be offended directly or indirectly. Often we are offended only in our own minds.
Far too often, people discard relationships over words carelessly uttered. The person that offended either cannot ask for forgiveness, or the person that that was offended refuses to forgive. We are all going to say stupid things. In James 3:2 we are told:
For we all stumble in many things. If anyone does not stumble in word, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle the whole body.
We are not perfect. We are sinners. The difference as a follower of Christ is that I recognize my sin and ask forgiveness from the person that I offended. I also ask Jesus for forgiveness, for when I offend others, I also offend Him.
My friend is a sister in the Lord. While we have only been friends for seven years, I have often told her that we were always friends but did not always know it. Yet, God always knew it. He knew we were friends, but in His infinite wisdom, He held back this friendship from each of us until we were ready for it. He held it back until He prepared us for it. Our friendship is a priceless gift from God. I do not have to weigh my thoughts or measure my words with my friend. Rather, I can pour them out just as they are because I know my friend will hold on to the ones worth keeping and kindly sweep the others away. There are times when it is necessary for me to assist in the sweeping by asking for forgiveness, and there are other times when my friend assists me in the sweeping by asking for forgiveness.
Don’t throw away your friendships over carelessly uttered words. Rather, take up a broom and start sweeping. Acknowledge how truly blessed you are simply to be the other person’s friend. A true friend is not accepted for the value they add, but rather for the value of who they are. Think about it. Is this not how Christ accepts us?
For whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved. (Romans 10:13)