The opportunity to take or give offence can occur in numerous ways when our self-nature is not gratified or ministered to by the actions or words of others.
“Life and death are in the power of the tongue”; what we say and how we say it is a major cause of giving offence (Prov 18:21; Jas 3:2-12). We are to be careful not to cause another person to be offended, lose faith and stop following Christ by anything we do (Mt 18:6-9; Rom 14:21; 1 Cor 8:9-13, 10:31,32; 2 Cor 6:3). Insecure, self-centred people, those with sensitive natures, and those with low self-esteem readily take offence as arguments and conflicts result in people being emotionally hurt and holding resentment against others.
Respond in the opposite spirit
others treat us and what they say, we must control our reaction – the natural tendency is to be critical and speak negatively, responding in like manner (Prov 16:32). The Bible’s advice is to respond in the opposite spirit – “Bless those who curse you, pray for those who ill-treat you by showing them extra love and consideration. Do not respond as the ‘old life’ would by repaying evil for evil, instead overcome evil with good (Lk 6:28-31; Rom 12:14,17-21; 1 Pet 3:9-12). In humility live out Christ’s nature, especially of love and entrust yourself into God's hands (Gal 5:22,23; 1 Pet 2:23, 4:8). It is to our credit to overlook an offence, by not retaliating but rather lovingly forgiving without keeping a tally (Prov 10:12, 17:9; 1 Cor 13:4,5). When David was offended by Nabal’s attitude Abigail was able to diffuse the situation through her wise, mature counsel – ‘Please overlook this offence, don’t react, cool down and see things from a different perspective’ (1 Sam 25:1-42). Instead of holding grudges, by the grace of God, just as we have been forgiven much, we also must forgive, allowing the potentially damaging response of another to work for our good (Gen 50:20; Mt 6:12,14,15).
“Great peace have those who love your law and nothing can make them stumble” so, by being grounded in the Word and casting our burden on the Lord, we can survive whatever others do to us for our confidence is in God (Ps 119:165; 1 Pet 5:7). Stumbling and falling away through offence is the result of not obeying the Bible or walking in love (Eph 5:2; 1 Pet 2:8; 2 Jn 1:6). Jesus said, “Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me” when people were offended at the extent of His lifestyle requirements yet many did stop following Him (Mt 11:6, 13:21, 24:9-11; Lk 7:23; Jn 6:60-69, 16:1). Even His disciples became offended and withdrew, for a short period, during His greatest trial (Mt 26:31; Mk 14:50).
Human offences affect our relationship with God as well as others
life and close relationships (Lk 15:28-30). Do not continually point out the faults of others, however sometimes issues need to be addressed to bring forgiveness and restoration in an estranged relationship. Any confronting, correcting or challenging of their actions must be done with humility, love and the goal of restoration, while not compromising truth in order to keep others from being offended. If you have been offended, don’t discard the relationship, because all relationships have testing periods and through this we grow.
There can be healthy debate and respect for differing viewpoints, although sometimes it is advisable to keep our views of non-essential matters to ourselves so we do not offend others. We should be sensitive and monitor the effects of our behaviour on others, modifying our lifestyle so that it builds them up rather than offending or causing them to stumble.
Offences take root when our human nature has been wounded, consequently those offended are more vulnerable to Satan’s attacks. Hurt feelings are often the precursor to stumbling and falling away. Satan tries to use strained and broken relationships to destroy our interconnection with other humans and distance us from God. We are not give Satan any opportunity who wants us to take the bait and self-destruct as insults and offences can quickly become poison in the soul, growing into hatred that impairs the whole personality and contaminates others round about (Eph 4:27; Heb 12:15). An offended person often is unyielding, choosing to hold on to hurts, and this distrust injures their spirit and consequently severed relationships are hard to restore (Prov 18:19). Instead make the conscious choice, ‘I have bigger goals and objectives than to be thrown by this situation, so I choose to forgive, regardless of whether the perpetrator has offered forgiveness or not. I choose not to let this offence tarnish my relationship with them or God’. Endeavour to see any offence you have caused through the eyes of the one you have offended. This will help you not to do anything to others which you would not like done to you (Lk 6:31).
Throughout the Bible, sin is also called an offence – a breaking of the law instituted in the Garden of Eden, but something which can be rectified by Christ’s sacrifice (Rom 5:15-21).
See also: backslide, bitterness, confront, criticism, forgive/forgiveness, hurts, inner healing, not being ministered to, opposite spirit, perspective, reaction, recognition, reconciliation, relationships, stumble/stumbling block, words, wounded.