… Why not rather suffer wrong? Why not rather be defrauded?—1 Corinthians 6:7
The biggest problem in my life and ministry is me. And the biggest problem among my many idiosyncratic problems is the impulse toward self-defense and self-justification. The Lord has been working well on me over the last several years in this area, and I do think, by his grace, I have gotten better at suppressing this impulse, denying it, even going into situations I know will include much criticism directed at myself having proactively crucified it for the moment. But my inner defense attorney (a voting partner in the ambulance-chasing firm of Flesh & Associates) is always there, crouching at my door, seeking to rule over everybody by arguing in my quote-unquote "favor."
Crucifying the defensive impulse is so difficult because it essentially means choosing to allow others to misunderstand you, misjudge you, and even malign you. (Of course, many times the painful things said are accurate, and so it's another difficult necessity to listen well and to "test all things [and] hold fast to what is good" (1 Thess. 5:21).) But many times, especially for those in ministry or in other leadership positions, the criticisms and complaints are inaccurate. Most often, it's a careless word or a thoughtless deed that feels like a malicious attack. The need to cry out in one's defense rises up.
But wisdom knows when to claim one's rights and when to submit to being defrauded. Wisdom is more concerned about the heart of the person giving offense than its own hurt feelings. Wisdom even knows that not every hurt feeling is evidence of an intentional offense. Wisdom knows when to stick up for one's self and when being defensive is totally about self-interest. It's that kind of defensiveness we must crucify.
This does not mean, of course, you must adopt a martry complex or become someoen's doormat for repeated sins against you or others. It's not loving in fact to let someone continue in sin. But when it comes to those isolated personal slights, the mis-aimed discouragements or random offenses, what if we chose the glory of letting them go? As Proverbs 19:11 says, "A person’s insight gives him patience, and his virtue is to overlook an offense."
Why would you and I do that? Why would we turn the cheek this way, go two miles with the guy demanding one? It's certainly not very street-smart. It's obviously not comfortable. But wisdom directs us this way, ultimately, because we believe that the consolation of Christ now and the compensation from Christ in the age to come will far surpass any "justice" we could gin up with our own self-interested rebuttals… even if we're in the right. If Christ is our treasure, if Christ is our justification, why not rather be defrauded?
In many cases related to personal offenses—not all, but perhaps most—the best defense is neither a good offense nor a good defense, but simply sitting on the bench and, in love, refusing to play the game.