Monday, October 31, 2011

Covering the Tab

9 Overlook an offense and bond a friendship;
   fasten on to a slight and—good-bye, friend! 
(Proverbs 17:9 The Message)

The Amplified Bible puts this passage this way:  He who covers and forgives an offense seeks love, but he who repeats or harps on a matter separates even close friends.  To cover an offense is more than just overlooking it in a casual manner, responding with a flippant attitude that "it didn't really matter".  Sometimes, I think we get a little confused with what it means to overlook an offense.  You see, in friendship, there will be repeated offenses - that is a given.  We don't set out to offend, but we find ourselves doing it sometimes without really noticing how our actions, words, or slights bring offense to another.  The Amplified Bible is a little clearer about the process of "bonding a friendship".  There is the process of overlooking the offense, and the subsequent process of forgiving it!

When a friend and I go to a restaurant for a meal, we often "cover" the check for each other (taking turns "covering" the bill).  What we are doing is taking care of the debt of that other person's meal.  Now, take that to the idea of the other person at the table having offended you.  When you "cover" that offense, you are actually cancelling out the debt of that offense.  There is a willingness on our part to "step up" to cover the offense - to relieve the other of that offense.  It is a continual thing - we must always keep the "accounts" square in friendship - not allowing anything to stand as an unforgiven "debt".

This type of friend is highly coveted indeed.  The type of friend that repeats, or harps on an offense constantly reminds the one who has committed the offense that there is a "debt" owed.  We have a natural tendency to rehearse that which another "owes" - kind of like when an accountant goes over and over the books to keep accurate tallies on the debits and credits on the accounts.  Rehearsing the "debt" not only damages the original relationship, but the relationship others will have with that individual down the road.  

We actually influence the way others see or friends by the things we allow to be repeated about them.  We may find ourselves repeating an offense - sharing how we were slighted by that other person - without realizing that the repeating of that offense (matter) is really damaging that individual's reputation in the eyes of another (not to mention how God must feel about it).  The negative we allow to be spoken will never result in a positive relationship with another.  We must guard our words - quickly letting go of the offenses that we really don't need to hold onto anyway.

The idea of "covering" the debt of another is perfectly exemplified for us in the action of the Cross.  Jesus fully "covered" our debt for sin - taking full responsibility and making full restitution for our debt.  When he asks for us to "cover" the slights of another with the same grace he extends to us, he is really not asking what he was not willing to do himself.