March 12, 2012

The Glory of Overlooking

Living in a fallen world comes with a guarantee: somebody, somewhere, is going to do you wrong. Someone will take your stuff, hurt your feelings, or malign your reputation. And ministry life doesn’t get an exemption.

In fact, the wounds of ministry life often seem more excruciating, or at least more unexpected, because they come from those who bear the name of Christ.

There can be seasons in ministry life when we cry out with David: “Even my close friend in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted his heel against me.” And, “for it is not an enemy who taunts me—then I could bear it. . . . But it is you. . .my familiar friend. We used to take sweet counsel together; within God's house we walked in the throng.” (Psalm 41:9; 55:12-14)

Have you been hurt? Or, what can you do when you are?

This summer, I taught my children from The Young Peacemaker by Corlette Sande. In this material, Sande outlines biblical conflict resolution in three steps that even a grown-up could remember: overlook it, talk about it, or get help.

As I worked through the curriculum, I realized that overlooking a hurt is hard to do. Like my children, I’m quick to feel my “right” to steps two and three without giving step one a peaceful chance. I don’t like to overlook. 

But in ministry life, when the peace and prosperity of the Body can be negatively affected by my conflicts, overlooking is almost always the right choice.

The Biblical case for it is extensive: “love covers a multitude of sins,” “whoever covers an offense seeks love,” and “if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.” (I Peter 4:8, Proverbs 17:9, Matthew 5:39)

Is there a place for two people working through an offense and seeking justice? Yes, and more on that another time, but the beauty of Proverbs 19:11 is hard to resist: “Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense.”

When we overlook, we look away and beyond. We put the offense behind us permanently, and we no longer hold it against the offender. Instead of seeing the offense, it is our glory to gaze at Christ.

Christ, the Prophet who promised offense. We should not be surprised when we are wounded by an offense. In fact, it validates the message of Christ who said: “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you. . .for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Matthew 5:11)

Christ, the Lamb who was offended. I Peter 2: 21-23 says, “Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps. . .who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten.”

Christ, the Judge who will bring justice for offense. Romans 12:19 reminds us that justice may not be immediate, but it is certain: “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’” By overlooking an offense, we have not abandoned justice, but, instead, leave justice in the hands of the Lord.

Are you wounded by one of Christ’s people? Overlook and look beyond--to Him who bore your offense on Calvary.


  1. Good reminder--we're currently going through Resolving Everyday Conflict with our church family on Sunday evenings. Your article is excellent in that we (pastor's wives) often do need to overlook faults in order to preserve the peace of the church body. It's tough though! Thanks for the encouragement.

  2. This is good advice when we are prone to drama or to draw others into a conflict, which can inflame the situation.

  3. You're right, it is soo hard to overlook when we've been deeply hurt by the body of Christ we've served/served with. Thank you for this reminder that the biblical thing to do is (even in the process of working through a situation-often part of reconciliation requires some overlooking) to choose to overlook the offense and look to Christ! I'm going to look up that book too...the sooner the kids learn, the better!

  4. This came at the perfect time for me. Thanks for sharing your wisdom! We do tend to set the bar higher for our brothers and sisters in Christ, don't we? I think, the cure for this heavenly standard is to "know yourself". Hoping for grace from others should encourage us in the direction of being gracious to others. I always enjoy your posts. :)


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