Proverbs 17:9

Whoever covers an offense seeks love,
but he who repeats a matter separates close friends.

“I probably shouldn’t tell you this, but…”
“He didn’t want me to tell anyone, but…”
“Did you know…”
“We should be praying for…”

And so begins many a repeating of a matter that creates anger and suspicion that never should have occurred. Every day we say and do things that we should not or did not mean to do. Someone gets frustrated and says something without thinking. Another gets nervous and acts in a way in which he knows better. But the sinful word or deed is now “out there.” Will it be repeated? Will we pass it on, letting it be relived in our mouths and the ears of others?

It depends on how we respond to offense. Jesus said that when we are offended we should go privately to the offender. If that does not resolve the matter, then bring in a witness, then elders. In other words, seek to handle an offense privately with the intent for a peaceful resolution. But this proverb notes that there are times when it is best to overlook an offense. Indeed, if we were to bring up every offense we think we receive, our days would be marked by confrontation. Ephesians 4:2 tells us to bear with one another in love. This assumes that we will be offended, and we are called upon to take much of it in stride. After all, we (more often than we know) offend others. If we were confronted every time we erred in our speech and acts, we would be weighed down in discouragement.

And if our mishaps were repeated – if the unthinking remark was reported or foolish act passed on – then we would be devastated as hurt and anger were compounded. Stop and pray before you confront someone about their offense. And do not repeat a matter unless you are compelled after much prayer. Whenever you share an offensive remark or deed, you place a burden upon the hearer. This is not a matter of minding your own business. It is a matter of acting in love, thinking what is best for everyone. If need be, seek godly counsel what to do. But always keep before you what demonstrates love for neighbor – both the neighbor who offends and the neighbor you are about to tell. Seek love.

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