For the sake of this conversation, I am using the following definitions of the word offend:
- cause to feel resentment or indignation
- act in disregard of laws, rules, contracts or promises
- strike with disgust of revulsion
In the midst of the culture wars, Christians oftentimes declare, as if surprised, that they are truly offended by what the world has done or is doing … and typically such a comment is directed at someone.
But is that truly a biblical or Christian response?
My answers would be ‘Yes’ … and ‘No’.
John tells us we are not to love the world …
Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever. 1 John 2:15-17 (NASB)
So in effect, IMHO it would seem to say that John is saying ‘Yes, a believer should be offended by the world … its prince and ruler, its systems, its influence, its things … the lusts of the world.’
After all, John did tell us not to be surprised by the hate of the world for believers (1 John 3:13) … yet John also recorded these words of Jesus …
For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. John 3:16-17 (NASB)
So Jesus has basically said, ‘No a believer should NOT be offended by the world … that is the people of the world. God’s desire is for the people of the world not to perish but to be saved through Jesus … with believers as His ambassadors of reconciliation.’
And Jesus wants the people of the world to be reconciled to God and to overcome the world through faith IN Him …
For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world–our faith. 1 John 5:4 (NASB)
So now that I have confused matters regarded being offended by the world, can I offer some confusion regarding Christians offending the world?
Should Christians offend the world?
Once again, my answers would be ‘Yes’ … and ‘No’.
Paul offers these words of instruction …
Give no offense either to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God; just as I also please all men in all things, not seeking my own profit but the profit of the many, so that they may be saved. 1 Corinthians 10:32-22 (NASB)
So basically Paul is saying, ‘No, Christians should not offend the world … because that could become a man-made obstruction to their salvation.’ Furthermore, Paul clarifies that offending the world could discredit the ministry … and He then reveals through his own testimony … that what he is telling us is not going to be easy.
And working together with Him, we also urge you not to receive the grace of God in vain–for He says, “At the acceptable time I listened to you, And on the day of salvation I helped you.” Behold, now is “the acceptable time,” behold, now is “the day of salvation”–giving no cause for offense in anything, so that the ministry will not be discredited, but in everything commending ourselves as servants of God, in much endurance, in afflictions, in hardships, in distresses, in beatings, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labors, in sleeplessness, in hunger, in purity, in knowledge, in patience, in kindness, in the Holy Spirit, in genuine love, in the word of truth, in the power of God; by the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and the left, by glory and dishonor, by evil report and good report; regarded as deceivers and yet true; as unknown yet well-known, as dying yet behold, we live; as punished yet not put to death, as sorrowful yet always rejoicing, as poor yet making many rich, as having nothing yet possessing all things. 2 Corinthians 6:1-10 (NASB)
Jesus makes this declaration …
Blessed is he who does not take offense at Me. Luke 7:23 (NASB)
But then Paul quotes the prophets in revealing that Jesus is indeed a ‘rock of offense‘ …
But Israel, pursuing a law of righteousness, did not arrive at that law. Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as though it were by works. They stumbled over the stumbling stone, just as it is written, “Behold, I lay in Zion a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense, And he who believes in Him will not be disappointed.” Romans 9:31-33 (NASB)
And the people were … and continue to be … offended by Jesus …
“Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not His mother called Mary, and His brothers, James and Joseph and Simon and Judas? And His sisters, are they not all with us? Where then did this man get all these things?” And they took offense at Him. But Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown and in his own household.” And He did not do many miracles there because of their unbelief. Matthew 13:55-58 (NASB)
So while ‘No, Christians are not to offend the world … Yes, as a result of the indwelling presence of Christ IN the believer, the world will be offended.’
After all …
Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I came to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man’s enemies will be the members of his household. Matthew 10:34-36 (NASB)
So glad I could share my confusion on the topic of offended … may the Holy Spirit provide clarity to us both!
Praise God for the wonder of His paradoxical ways!