Being Easily Offended
John 9:13-16 MKJV They brought him who once was blind to the Pharisees. (14) And it was a Sabbath when Jesus made the clay and opened his eyes. (15) Then again the Pharisees also asked him how he had received his sight. He said to them, He put clay upon my eyes, and I washed, and I see. (16) Therefore some of the Pharisees said, This man is not from God, because he does not keep the Sabbath. Others said, How can a man, a sinner, do such miracles? And there was a division among them.
No matter how good your ministry is it will always offend someone: When the sharply sartorial Smith-Wigglesworth was healing thousands of men and women in the first great healing ministry of the twentieth century there were those who said: “This man cannot be of God because he dresses so well!” And when Charles Spurgeon, the Prince of Preachers was drawing crowds of thousands in London, and seeing many saved, some decried his ministry - because he smoked a pipe! And when Billy Graham went to New York the great theologian Reinhold Neibuhr opposed him because “The Rev. Graham makes the gospel too simple for the complexities of a nuclear age.”
The reasons people are offended are often as superficial and trivial as those above. The church furniture is moved, a tie is worn, or is not worn by the preacher, the version of the Bible is incorrect, or the church flowers are too old! This easily offended spirit can be quite intimidating for a pastor who has to endure the wrath of the person concerned. However we need to remember that we are not responsible for the contents of someone else’s imagination. And the “great offence” in these cases is simply the product of their own mind and has not substance or reality to it.
In this case the Pharisees were again offended because Jesus healed on the Sabbath. (We have covered their view of the Sabbath in other studies) The point I want to explore is the whole territory of “being offended”. Love is patient and long-suffering and is not easily offended. If you think about it all of the fruit of the Spirit work towards keeping community intact – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, meekness, long-suffering, and self-control. These things keep the body of Christ whole, as one body, and enable community to flourish. But being easily offended splits people apart and destroys community.
When there is a major change in a church many people leave, they are offended by this or that and go to another church, or even to no church at all. This is an offense against community, against love and against Christ. It is OK to leave a church if there is terrible sin or clear doctrinal heresy over the basics of the faith. But to leave because the piano was moved or because an administrative decision went the other way – is sin. [To leave because you are moving to another state or for some neutral reason is fine.]
The Pharisees offense at Jesus eventually led to murder and to their damnation. In fact being offended can lead to some very dark places spiritually:
Matthew 12:24-32 MKJV But when the Pharisees heard, they said, This one does not cast out demons except by Beelzebub the ruler of the demons. (25) And Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them…. Therefore I say to you, All kinds of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven to men, but the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit shall not be forgiven to men. And whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man, it shall be forgiven him. But whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it shall not be forgiven him, either in this world or in the world to come.
The Pharisees were so offended by Jesus that they called His miracles and exorcisms ‘demonic’ and thus sinned against the Holy Spirit. This led them to a place of such terrible hardness against God that they could not be forgiven, because they could not repent.
Thus being easily offended is extremely dangerous to our spiritual lives. We need to learn how to bounce back from situations that annoy us and irritate us. We need to recognize when we are becoming angry and irritable and easily offended and we need to rebuke it in Jesus’ name.
Remember the “four Rs” - Resolve, Resent, Reject, Revenge. If an issue is not resolved it leads to resentment, which if it is not dealt with leads to rejecting other people, which if it continues leads to acts of revenge. Nearly all-mass murderers are described as “such a quite person who kept to himself” in other words he was isolating himself from people! This is a sign of the “rejection” phase and dwelling in rejection eventually led to violent revenge.
If we let resentment and offense take hold in us we can end up saying and doing evil things and even becoming an evil person ourselves. This can happen despite our best intentions. It is a fact that the Pharisees set out to become good people. Their whole aim was to become as good as possible. But unfortunately they became evil and wicked and murderous – simply because they let their offenses and resentments dwell inside them.
Ephesians 4:26-27 MKJV Be angry, and do not sin. Do not let the sun go down upon your wrath, neither give place to the Devil.
These verses tell us that if we let anger dwell inside us unresolved we “give place to the Devil”. When Judas got offended at Jesus’ anointing in Bethany – that is when Satan got hold of him. (Luke 22:3, John 12:3-5, Matthew 26:6-14)
Not all anger is wrong, brief anger has its place, Paul says “be angry” - and do not sin. But Paul also tells us that anger should not last 24 hours or even 12 hours, we are to fix it the same day. You perhaps cannot help getting angry, but you can help staying angry.
We can bring our anger under control if we want to. Each of us has a “red button” like the “STOP“ buttons on trains, that we can use as an ‘emergency stop’ to cool our emotions. Even when you are really mad and shouting and your face is red, and the phone rings, you can pick it up with a calm voice and say “Hello Mother”. In a few seconds you can go from angry to calm – if you want to. We have all done this, we have all shut off our anger and brought ourselves under control in an instant. The key was “deciding to” – we decided to shut down the anger response and as soon as we genuinely decided to that – it ceased.
We can decide to NOT be offended or resentful or irritable. We can see these responses as far more deadly than any poison and we can deal with them firmly and put them far from us. How we respond is our decision – and its implications are huge. Being easily offended is against love, against Christ, and against Christian community. It isolates us and darkens us, makes us lonely and miserable and may even open us up to demonic influence. That is why it is essential to cultivate a forbearing and forgiving spirit.
Matthew 6:14-15 MKJV For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; (15) but if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.