Dealing with offenses
“Woe unto the world because of offences! for it must needs be that offences come; but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh!”
Jesus speaking here has given us a key truth in being able to deal properly with offences. This truth is that offences against us are inevitable. There is no such place as a place of no offences. God allows offences to come into your life to test you and to help you grow; the key is how we respond to offence in our lives. There is a difference in being offended (what others do to us), and taking offence (what we do to ourselves). The difference between the two is how we respond to it.
The Biblical response to someone offending us is to forgive them. Matthew 18:21-22 says, “Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times? Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven.”
Peter thought that forgiving someone for offending him seven times was a great feat of Christian growth, but Jesus told him to forgive seventy times more than his best guess. The term seventy times seven was meant to imply an infinite number of times. Jesus was in effect saying to Peter, be offended and forgive, but do not ever take offence.
To take offence means that we put on the air of being offended. When we take offence we want everyone to know we are not happy with them. It is not Biblical to act in this manner. Allow me to use an illustration: when a child gets offended at their parents and doesn’t know how to deal with it properly they will throw themselves down on the floor, kick and scream, cry and whine, we call this a temper tantrum. When an adult takes offence they act much the same way, only in a more socially acceptable manner.
The heart of the matter is the same, they puff up like a horny toad to let everyone around them know that they are unhappy. The truth of the matter is that Biblically happiness is your choice.
If you are frequently offended, I want you to know that this is written in love and with a sincere desire to help you overcome the traps of Satan. This is not to coddle you; it is written to help you overcome. It is not God’s plan for a person to be constantly taking offense. We must come to one realization right off the bat, that taking offence is something you have done, not something that was done to you. Many times we can get into the rut of believing that our being offended is other people’s fault, but it isn’t. Now I am not saying that others never do anything wrong, or never do bad to you; I am saying that taking offence at what others do is entirely up to you. You are in control of your own spirit and your own will, and a person that takes offence at everything others do will be a person who is perpetually unhappy, and will run off those around them.
In this article we will be looking at the Biblical causes for people being offended, the consequences of being offended for the offended person, and the cure for being offended.
There are four Biblical causes for a person taking offence.
The first cause is the source of most all of our troubles: it is that old word pride. Proverbs 13:10 “Only by pride cometh contention: but with the well advised is wisdom.” Many times we are so filled up with pride that anything that we perceive as a slight to ourselves we immediately take offence to. Pride is a self exalting feeling that you either think you are better, or that you deserve to be treated better. Pride is called in the Bible the great transgression, and it is the sin that turned the angel Lucifer into the Devil. He was lifted up in pride and took offence that God did not exalt him above everything. His action of taking offence made him the enemy of God. Taking offense makes you act like the Devil and it separates you from God as well, you may think that you have righteous anger, but it is really self-righteous anger and is against God.
Another reason people take offense is because they are trying to divert focus away from themselves. In John chapter 8, the Pharisees brought a woman to Jesus that they were offended at for the fact that she had committed adultery. Jesus said to them in verse seven, “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.” He then stooped down and wrote in the dirt, the Bible gives their response in verse 9, “And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst.”
You see, their conviction was confronted by Jesus and they forgot about the offense of the woman. I have seen many people under conviction of God to deal with something in their life that they didn’t want to deal with.
Many times I have seen them take up some offense in order to divert the attention off of themselves and use it as an excuse not to get right with God. Many times the offense they take up belongs to someone else. It is like they become crusaders for anyone who they perceive as being offended. Proverbs 26:17 says, “He that passeth by, and meddleth with strife belonging not to him, is like one that taketh a dog by the ears.” Taking on an offense that is not yours is like grabbing a dog by the ears: you are the one that is going to get bitten. It is far better to simply deal with your conviction than to look for offenses to mask it.
A third reason people take offense according the Bible is that the offended person lacks sufficient Christian character. Matthew 13:21 says, “Yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while: for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended.” The phrase hath not root in himself means that his character is not deep. He is easily offended because he has not yet grown and matured in Christ, digging out the rocks and stumps in his life so that he can be a fruitful field for God. Everyone of us has things in our lives that are stumbling stones.
As people come through our life, if we don’t remove these stumbling stones, others will stumble over these areas, and they or we will become offended when this happens. An immature person takes offense at little things; a person who grows up into maturity is less likely to be offended. I have heard people say to each other things like, “grow up”, “just be an adult”, “don’t be so juvenile”, or “how junior high”.
The issue is not just being emotionally immature, it is being spiritually immature, as well. Even an emotionally mature lost man will not be able to handle many offenses, but a spiritually mature man will be able to control his spirit and forgive. God gives an example of each of these in proverbs. Proverbs 25:28 says, “He that hath no rule over his own spirit is like a city that is broken down, and without walls.” Proverbs 16:32 says, “He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty; and he that ruleth his spirit than he that taketh a city.”
The last reason given in the Bible is that they lack love for God and His Word. Psalm 119:165 says, “Great peace have they which love thy law: and nothing shall offend them.” A sincere love for God and His Word will cause us to forgive our brothers when they trespass against us, overlooking their faults that would otherwise offend us. 1 Peter 4:8 says, “And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins.”
When we take offense, we are telling on our love for God and His Word. When I find myself taking offense at what others have done, the first thing I do is examine my walk with God. Even someone who is grounded in the Lord can struggle with this when they are not walking with the Lord as they should. When we are not faithful in the Word our love slacks off from what it should be. Little things become grievous to us and we begin to act in the flesh if we are not walking in a fervent relationship with God. Being filled with the Spirit is the ultimate weapon against this issue.
If you are someone who takes offense, you need to know that there are serious consequences listed in the Bible for doing so.
One of the things people will eventually do if they take offense is to turn away from following after Jesus. Did you realize that many people were offended at Jesus? What does this tell you? Does it say to you that Jesus was offensive or that they were not following God? Matthew 13:57 says, “And they were offended in him. But Jesus said unto them, A prophet is not without honour, save in his own country, and in his own house.”
In John, Jesus was preaching and many people got offended by His message. It says in John 6:66-67, “From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him. Then said Jesus unto the twelve, Will ye also go away?”
If you notice, Jesus did not run after them and say He was sorry that He offended them. Telling them the truth was not the problem, the problem was that they didn’t love His law, nor did they love Him enough to follow Him when it went against their feelings. Many people have been offended and used it as an excuse to stop following Jesus Christ. We must be like Peter in verse 68 of the same chapter and say, “Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life.”
You will never solve the problems of your life by running from them. If you get offended at work the answer is not to just find a new job, you will get offended no matter where you go. If you get offended at church, the answer is definitely not to find a new church, the answer is to fall so in love with God and His Word that His grace smoothes over any offenses that come your way.
Can you not hear the people that stopped following Jesus saying, “Well, I will find me a new church that isn’t so hard on people.” Thinking of the irony of that statement makes me laugh, knowing that Jesus made them, and told them the truth because He loved them; they were offended at the Creator. I often think, if Jesus, the only perfect man, couldn’t avoid offending people, I am in serious trouble.
Another thing that taking offense produces in your life is the sin of murmuring. The disciples were caught in this trap in John 6:61 it says, “When Jesus knew in himself that his disciples murmured at it, he said unto them, Doth this offend you?” According to the Webster’s 1828 dictionary, to murmur means “to grumble; to complain; to utter complaints in a low, half articulated voice; to utter sullen discontent; with at, before the thing which is the cause of discontent; as, murmur not at sickness; or with at or against, before the active agent which produces the evil.”
You see, even the disciples were caught up in the sin of taking offense and allowed it to produce other sins in their life. God expresses His displeasure with the sin of murmuring in 1 Corinthians 10:10, saying, “Neither murmur ye, as some of them also murmured, and were destroyed of the destroyer.”
God warns us that He has destroyed others for murmuring, and commands us not to murmur. Jesus specifically says in John 6:43, “Jesus therefore answered and said unto them, Murmur not among yourselves.” Murmuring is not just a bad habit, it is a sin that perverts our heart and turns us against God.
If we continue to take offense, it will lead us down a road further still into unforgiveness and bitterness.
In Matthew 18, Jesus gives us a parable and instructions about dealing with offense in our lives. He says in verses 23-35, “Therefore is the kingdom of heaven likened unto a certain king, which would take account of his servants. And when he had begun to reckon, one was brought unto him, which owed him ten thousand talents. But forasmuch as he had not to pay, his lord commanded him to be sold, and his wife, and children, and all that he had, and payment to be made. The servant therefore fell down, and worshipped him, saying, Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. Then the lord of that servant was moved with compassion, and loosed him, and forgave him the debt. But the same servant went out, and found one of his fellowservants, which owed him an hundred pence: and he laid hands on him, and took him by the throat, saying, Pay me that thou owest. And his fellowservant fell down at his feet, and besought him, saying, Have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. And he would not: but went and cast him into prison, till he should pay the debt. So when his fellowservants saw what was done, they were very sorry, and came and told unto their lord all that was done. Then his lord, after that he had called him, said unto him, O thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all that debt, because thou desiredst me: Shouldest not thou also have had compassion on thy fellowservant, even as I had pity on thee? And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due unto him. So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses.”
The key to understanding this passage is that God is the one that has forgiven you for your sin against Him, which is far greater than anything another person could do against you.
The consequence of not forgiving our brother is that God says He will withhold forgiveness from you. I don’t know about you, but the idea of God being angry at me is a far greater deterrent for me to forgive than that a man will be mad at me.
Unforgiveness and bitterness gives Satan an advantage over you that you cannot overcome. 2 Corinthians 2:10-11 says, “To whom ye forgive any thing, I forgive also: for if I forgave any thing, to whom I forgave it, for your sakes forgave I it in the person of Christ; Lest Satan should get an advantage of us: for we are not ignorant of his devices.” And Hebrews 12:15 says, “Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled;”
Seeing the causes and the consequences of taking offense, it is vital that we see the cure for it, as well. As with all problems, the cure is putting on the spiritual opposites of what causes our fleshly problems. If we are to overcome the sin of taking offense, we must begin by putting on humility.
Jesus humbled Himself to come down and take on the form of a servant. Do you notice that the creator of the entire universe was willing to humble Himself for you, but Satan, a created being, was not willing to humble himself to the Creator? Many people who call themselves Christians act a whole lot more like the devil than like Jesus. They are unwilling to take on the form of a servant; they want instead for everyone to bow down at their feet and confess that they were wronged and deserved better.
Biblical humility according to the Webster’s 1828 dictionary “consists in lowliness of mind; a deep sense of one’s own unworthiness in the sight of God, self-abasement, penitence for sin, and submission to the divine will.” In many ways, humility can be summed up in the way Jesus explained judgment in Matthew 7:1-5 when He said, “Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.”
The truth is that many times the people who take the most offense are also the biggest offenders of others, and if everyone else judged them the way that they judge they would be severely condemned which is why they feel condemned all of the time. It is not the judgment of others; it is their own heart judging themselves. I must first take the beam out of my eye, and then I will see clearly the love of God for me as well as others, and will love them instead of judging them.
The second step in overcoming the sin of taking offense is to submit myself to Jesus Christ. I must become His servant. A servant has no rights, and if I am to follow Him I must give up any perceived rights I have. John 13:16 says, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him.” I must remember that Jesus did not take offense at those He was trying to minister to, even when they were crucifying Him. If I am His servant, I am to follow His example.
I must cast off my feelings and rights and serve in lowliness of mind. One of the problems we have is that we live in America where we are told that we have rights, and we are always defending our rights. As a Christian, we are to surrender our rights to the Saviour and take His will on instead of our own. Ephesians 5:21 says, “Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.”
Lastly we will discuss the need to grow in Christ. If I am to overcome the sin of taking offense, I must mature in Him. I do this by adding the “Ingredients for Life” found in 2 Peter 1:5-8, which says, “And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity. For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
This is the process of taking the stones and stumps out of the ground of my heart so that I can be a fruitful field for Him, a field that is void of offense, a field that is just usable and moldable to Him. Imagine going out into your yard to plant a garden, you get a tiller and scope out the perfect place to plant the garden, you start the tiller up and the yard yells at you, “Hey, don’t do that! I can’t believe you would treat me like this! I am offended!” This sounds crazy doesn’t it? Of course, dirt has no say in where or how you plow and plant; it is up to the digression of the farmer. The farmer knows what kind of plants will grow in what kind of soil, and how to prepare the soil to grow the kind of crops he wants to grow.
God in His great wisdom knows where and how to grow things in your life. He brings offense into your life to point out stones and stumps that are in the way of having a fruitful garden. 1 Peter 2:19-21 says, “For this is thankworthy, if a man for conscience toward God endure grief, suffering wrongfully. For what glory is it, if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently? but if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God. For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps:”
This passage shows us that God knows you will receive wrong from others when you do good, and He is interested in your response. He wants to use these situations in your life to bring Glory to Himself. Yield yourself to Him, when offenses come as they must, humble yourself to Him, submit to His Word, and grow by the experience without allowing the Devil to have a place in your life.
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