“Blessed is the person who is not offended by me.”
In Part I, I listed three reasons why Christians become offended by God and how to avoid them.
In this post, I want to address being offended by others.
What do I mean by being offended? T. Austin-Sparks once said, “If you get upset, offended, and go off and sulk, and nurse your grievance, you will die.”
The word “offend” in the New Testament means to trip, stumble, or fall away. I’m using the word here with a specific connotation. Being offended is to get so upset with someone that you hold a grudge against them or retaliate actively or passively. Hurt feelings aren’t the same as being offended. But often, Christians choose to be offended when their feelings get hurt.
Here are eight things I’ve learned about being offended by others:
1. Christians will hurt your feelings. Because of the Fall, this will happen (James 3:2). Sometimes a person is being malicious, intending to hurt you (usually because they don’t like you or they’ve chosen to be offended by you). Other times they will hurt you without realizing it.
2. When others hurt you, your spiritual maturity will be revealed. Last month, I was speaking to a church, and I made this statement: “You will discover how real your relationship to Jesus Christ is when your feelings get hurt. You can be the greatest speaker, the greatest worshipper, and you can talk eloquently about Christ, but when your feelings get hurt, what you do at that moment and afterwards is going to reveal the reality of your relationship to Jesus Christ.” I went on to say that people have one of two reactions when their feelings get hurt: They deal with it before Lord or they destroy others.
3. God intends to use mistreatments for our good. Recall the mistreatment that Joseph endured at the hands of his own brothers. Joseph took it from the hand of God saying, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good” (Genesis 50:20). Remember King David when he was being cursed by Abishai. David chose not to kill his detractor, but instead, he saw the persecution in light of God’s sovereign hand (2 Samuel 16:11-12).
To paraphrase Romans 8:28, everything that comes into our lives, whether good or evil, has first passed through the hands of a sovereign, loving God before it got to us. And He uses it all for our good. Once you make peace with God’s sovereignty and His ability to write straight with crooked lines, the more at peace you will be with those who mistreat you. While God is not the author of confusion or evil, He seeks to use all things for our transformation.
4. Christians often get offended by reading into words and actions. This usually happens when a person is over-sensitive and thin-skinned. In my experience, this makes up most of the cases where a Christian is offended by another believer. As I’ve stated before, Christians are the most easily offended people in the world. We should be the least.
5. Christians often get offended with a person when they believe false accusations against them. Wise and discerning Christians who have been around the block for awhile ignore gossip that puts other believers in a bad light. In fact, in the eyes of the wise and discerning believer, any statement that has a defamatory tone is discredited out of the gate.
When wise and discerning believers are concerned about someone, they go straight to the person they are concerned about privately as Jesus Himself taught us to do, asking questions rather than making allegations. Some Christians, however, never think to do this. Instead, they readily believe slanderous allegations about a sister or brother in Christ without ever going to them first. And thus they become offended by the person who is being attacked.
The question, how would I want to be treated if someone were saying these things about me?, never seem to occur to them. The life of Jesus Christ always lead us to live that question. The flesh always leads us in the opposite direction. Remember, satan is the slanderer (that’s what “devil” means), and he uses gossip to destroy relationships. That’s why the Bible says that believing gossip separates close friends (Proverbs 16:28).
6. What you do with a hurt is a choice you make. You can choose to be offended and make a friend out of your hurt, feed it, take it out for daily walks, cuddle it, and protect it until it destroys you and others. A root of bitterness, if allowed to live, will defile many (Hebrews 12:15), let alone prove destructive to your own spirit.
You can also choose to be offended and retaliate actively or passively. Or you can choose to live by Christ and bring your hurt to God. Sometimes the Lord will lead you to go to the person and talk to them in a gracious manner, seeking reconciliation (Matthew 18:15). Other times He will lead you to forbear it, take it to the cross, let it go and move on. “A man’s wisdom gives him patience; it is to his glory to overlook an offense.” (Proverbs 19:11). Sometimes He will show you that you’ve completely misinterpreted the actions of another.
(Note: In cases of repeated abuse, which I don’t have in mind in writing this post, getting others involved is often wise and necessary. Forgiving someone doesn’t mean enabling them to commit a crime or continue to devastate the lives of others.)
7. To be offended by a child of God is to be offended with God. When Jesus began preaching in His hometown of Nazareth, His neighbors were offended by Him. Meaning, they stumbled over Him and rejected who He really was (Mark 6:3). When you choose to be offended by another Christian, you are rejecting who they are in Christ. Thus it effects your relationship to Jesus, whether you realize it or not. Why? Because Christ and His body are connected, so “if you’ve done it to the least of these my brethren, you’ve done it unto Me.” (Again, I’m not equating being offended with being hurt.)
8. You can live free from offense. This doesn’t mean that you will never be hurt. Nor does it mean that you will never be angry. Jesus got angry. Remember His temple tantrum? Paul says “Be angry and sin not. Don’t let the sun go down on your wrath” (Ephesians 4:26).
Anger is a normal human emotion when someone abuses you or abuses someone you care about. But what you do with your anger determines whether or not it is sin. In addition, we should always be “quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry” (James 1:19). But the Lord has called us to the high road of living without offense. And He has given us both the power and the will to do of His good pleasure in this area (Philippians 2:13).
There’s a lot more that can be said on the subject. In fact, I wanted to provide stories illustrating each point, but the post would have been much too long. However, I’ve added more thoughts on the subject in my post, Living Without Offense. You may want to take a look at it.