These days, in our politically correct society, everyone is offended at something or someone, it seems. You hear it on TV; read it on social media; see it in the workplace; even in the Church. Offense has become an epidemic. According to the dictionary, offense means, “something that offends or displeases; the feeling of resentful displeasure caused; the act of attacking; attack or assault.”
The biblical definition of offense means, “to cause one to stumble or fall away; to see in another what I disapprove of and what hinders me from acknowledging his authority; to cause one to judge unfavorably or unjustly of another; to make indignant.” In Matthew 13 as Jesus taught in the synagogue, many became offended with Him. They couldn’t understand His wisdom and authority because they only knew Him as Mary’s and Joseph’s son. In chapter 11, He told HIs disciples to tell John the Baptist, who was in prison at the time, “Blessed is he who is not offended because of Me.” This was after He recounted the things He was doing – healing the sick, raising the dead, and preaching to the poor.
In the parable of the seed and the sower, Jesus said there would be some who would hear the Word and receive it with joy, but, “…since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away.” Having no root can cause one to be easily offended. Perhaps one of the most sobering verses on the subject is Matthew 24:10. Jesus is teaching His disciples on the signs of the end times and says, “At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other… but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.” In other words, when believers are not rooted in the Word and trouble or persecution comes, many will become offended with God and those who speak truth, and fall away from the faith. I believe this prophecy is beginning to come to pass.
At it’s core, offense is rooted in pride. This becomes apparent when one takes offense if his views are disagreed with. To think that everything you believe is one hundred percent correct is pride. To attack someone for disagreeing with you is arrogant. The people in the synagogue who took offense at Jesus did so because they believed He was just a common man – the son and brother of ordinary people they knew. His words and anointing defied those beliefs. John the Baptist knew well what Scripture taught about the coming Messiah. It was prophesied He would set captives free. Not only was he in prison, but he was Jesus’ first cousin. Surely Jesus would set him free, he likely thought. Jesus, knowing this, forewarned him about taking offense when He didn’t.
Believers today, especially in our Western, comfort driven culture, are woefully illiterate when it comes to the Bible. Just last year, a study done by LifeWay Research and the United Kingdom Bible Society found that:
- Only 45% of regular church attenders read their Bible more than once a week.
- Almost 1 in 5 churchgoers say they never read the Bible at all.
- More than half of Evangelicals believe that the Holy Spirit is a force and not a personal being.
- In the United Kingdom, almost 1 in 3 couldn’t identify the Nativity as part of the Bible
- 27% of British parents think Superman is or might be a biblical story.
Not only is this appalling, but it clearly shows the unprepared state of most believers for the times we are living in, especially in light of Matthew 24:10. And this is in a society that has the greatest access to teachings, conferences, seminars, churches, etc.! There are no doubt many reasons for this, but more importantly, what can we do to guard ourselves from the trap of offense?
It is to our benefit to first of all, take responsibility for our own spiritual growth. While teachings, sermons, conferences and such can be helpful, we must make time for God’s Word, reading, studying, and meditating upon it. Our intimacy with Him depends upon it! We cannot know someone we never spend time with or listen to. Time spent in His Word will transform the way we think, free us from pride, and help us learn humility, if we apply it to our lives. Doing this consistently will help us become rooted and grounded in the truth of His Word and His nature, and guard our hearts against offense.