Have you ever reached into your refrigerator and pulled out a carton of milk, only to find out that the milk was passed the expiration date? Odds are, it wasn’t the date on the carton that alerted you to the issue—-it was probably the smell! For as we all know, once the expiration date is passed, milk begins to STINK! The other day I was thinking about how the same thing is true with old offenses. I’m sure we’ve all encountered someone who has held on to an offense (major or minor) for way too long allowing the aroma of the bitterness and anger they feel to overtake their whole lives. I know I have. The conversation usually goes something like this: “Hey, how’s it going? How are you doing today?” “Well, I’m struggling.” (Code for ‘replaying the instance over and over in my mind’). Before long, they are retelling the story of what happened, who did what, why the other person was wrong, and how deeply they were wounded, offended or wronged. Here’s the thing: As they are telling their story, you know they aren’t opening up a wound for the purpose of healing. They aren’t seeking counseling or help getting over it. They aren’t even sharing a testimony of victory so that other people can see how to overcome in their lives. Instead, you can tell from the way they tell the tale that they don’t want the wound to be healed—-they want to nurse it. Rather than let go of the bitterness, they want to retain it and if possible spread it to everyone who will listen. For them, the anger, the resentment, and the pain are still alive and well in their heart and mind, even though the event occurred five, ten, twenty, forty, even fifty years ago and technically the expiration date on that offense has passed. Just like an expired carton of milk, the old offense is creating a powerful stench in the offended person’s life. Anyone who encounters them thinks, “Whoa!!! It’s time to move on!” But how exactly does someone who has held on to an offense that long, “Let it go”? Here’s the first step—-it’s a big one—-probably the most important step in the process: You have to decide you want to overcome the offense. You need to choose that you want to treat the offense like spoiled, chunky milk and GET IT OUT OF YOUR LIFE. Because here’s a problem: We become accustomed to our pain. If we allow it, it can become a part of us. For some it is actually a comfort—-an excuse for why their lives are the way they are and an escape from taking responsibility for our own actions. If they let go of the pain or the offense, then what? Well, then you could experience freedom. Because here’s the truth: Even though we may find comfort in the pain of the offense, the pain is actually crippling us. It’s keeping us from experiencing all that God has for our lives and accomplishing all that He wants us to do for His kingdom. Until we, personally, make the choice to say, “The expiration date on this offense has expired” then we creating our own roadblock to finding God’s true passion, place, and purpose for our lives.
Okay—so what do you do if you’ve come to that place where you are ready to get rid of your expired offense? Start working the steps of forgiveness. For one last time, identify the offense. Admit that the person was wrong in what they did to you. Then ask God to forgive you for holding on to the offense for so long. (Because technically, God commands His people to forgive, so holding onto an offense is disobedience.) (Matt 6:14-15) Next, choose to forgive the person who hurt you. Choose to forgive them in your heart and ask God to help you. Next, pray for the person. Every time the offense wants to replay in your mind, take a moment and pray a prayer of blessing on the person who hurt you. If possible, do something nice for them, but if that isn’t possible, pray. (Luke 6:27-35) In some situations, it is necessary to go to the other person and try to settle the issue. Ask them to forgive you for holding onto the offense and tell them that you forgive them for what they did to you. In many instances, taking the initiative to break the ice and talk to the person rather than about them can bring healing to a situation. If this isn’t possible (due to death, distance, or danger) then at least choose to stop ruining their reputation by sharing with everyone who will listen. The truth is that even when we are sharing our testimony of healing, we can often avoid naming names or giving specific details. Finally, choose to let the offense at the foot of the cross and refuse to pick it up again. When the enemy wants to come against you replaying the incident in your head, don’t let him.
Instead say, “It’s over….the expiration date has passed….and I’m tired of it stinking up my life.
I’m not going to replay it anymore.
I’m not going to have pretend conversations saying the things I wish I would have said to them. (And you thought you were the only one who did that!)
I’m not going to try to get revenge either literally or verbally by spreading rumors. I’m going to put it behind me and move on with my life!” Because really, who wants to walk spreading an aroma of spoiled, soured milk? Instead, let’s choose to do what we would do with an expired carton of milk—-get rid of it and move on!