Do You Have a Right to Be Offended? Study No. 175

Brethren today become offended so easily. You can look at someone cross-eyed and they could be offended. "A brother offended is harder to be won [back] than a strong city: and their contentions are like the bars of a castle," Proverbs 18:19. The key to avoiding offense is NOT avoiding offense. It is learning how not to be offended. The Bible answers the question: "Do you have a right to be offended?"

Most of us have lots of experience offending others. In the past, I was good at it, but hope that I have learned some lessons since my impetuous younger days, when I would argue at the drop of a hat. My friend, Chris Anderson, showed up one time at Sabbath services sporting a full beard. Those were the days of the hippie youth rebellion, when beards and long hair were symbols of rejection of authority. Well, I let Chris have it, dressing him down for his beard! Needless to say, I lost a friend. A few years later, I studied the subject of beards in the Bible, and found that, not only are beards O.K., but the Savior had a beard, and men of Israel were expected to have a beard, and that it was humiliating to have half of one’s beard shaved off. I remembered what an "ass" I had been, and wrote Chris a letter of apology. Eating crow is not pleasant!

Offenses will come, no matter how we try to avoid them, "Woe to the world because of offences! For it must needs be that offences come; but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh!" Matthew 18:7. And in verse 6 is this dire warning: "But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea." Who are the "little ones"? In context, they are little children, verses 1-5. However, the definition is not limited to young people. Verses 12-14 define "little ones" as the one sheep out of 100 that went astray. In Zechariah 13:7, the little ones are all the sheep. We are all "little ones" in the general sense.

An example of offending the "little ones" is a newcomer in the faith, who comes to a congregation, and is turned off by constant bad mouthing of other groups, which believe much the same doctrinally. Here is another bad example: a certain Church group, Group X, had a singles activity, and someone left the Church because a single person from Group Y attended the event. In either case, did the offended person have a "right" to be offended? We shall see. In our fear not to offend, do we go to the opposite extreme and say nothing?

Most of all, we need to worry about offending God. In Matthew 13:41-42, Jesus said, "The Son of man shall send forth His angels, and they shall gather out of His kingdom all things that offend [cause to sin], and them which do iniquity; And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth." The word "offend" here is Strong’s #4625, skandalon, which means "a snare, stumblingblock, cause to fall," or, in the vernacular, "a ‘gotcha’." So, causing offense is causing someone else to fall and stumble. It is related to #4624, skandelizo, "to scandalize."

The disciples, especially Peter, were an offense to Christ, Matthew 16:21-23; and they were offended by Him, Matthew 26:31, 33, in spite of denials to the contrary. People who are not grounded in Christ, easily become offended, as shown in the Parable of the Sower, Mark 4:16-17. Persecution or hard times causes them to immediately be offended. In His own country, people who knew Jesus were offended, Matthew 13:55-57. The usual result of being offended at Christ is that no mighty work is done when folks are too offended to notice, Mark 6:5-6. Jesus warned us of coming persecution so we should not be offended, John 16:1-3. At times, our Sabbath-keeping is offensive to some Sunday-keepers. However, we do not keep the Sabbath to deliberately offend anyone.

We should bend over backwards not to offend our brethren, Romans 14:21, I Corinthians 8:13. Jesus knew He offended some of His own disciples, who as a result, no longer walked with Him, John 6:60-66.

Jesus was delivered to death for our offenses, Romans 4:25. We are to mark them, take note of them, who cause offenses contrary to the doctrines we have received, Romans 16:17. Jesus is a stumblingblock, a rock of offence, Romans 9:33. Give none offence, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, I Corinthians 10:32. Why? Verse 33, "that they may be saved."

How would you like it, if you were a poor black mother with a very sick daughter? You came to Church, and after services, you approached the elder in order to ask him to anoint your very sick daughter. He was in the front, talking to some of the leading men. As you came near, one of the deacons growled, "Get out of here, can’t you see the elder is busy?" The elder said he couldn’t be bothered with you, and used a derogatory word to refer to you, as a lowlife person in his eyes. Would you be offended at this demeaning treatment? Wouldn’t you say that you had a "right" to be offended?

Well, before you answer these questions, consider carefully that there is an example in the Bible where Christ appeared to deliberately offend a poor woman in the same manner as described in the above example. And, instead of being offended, she was not even slightly miffed! And, to top it off, in the end, Jesus held her out as an example for us to follow! Whoa!

In Matthew 15:21-28, we find a Gentile woman of Canaan who approached Christ, begging Him to heal her daughter who was grievously vexed with a demon. At first, He refused to answer her! The disciples had no compassion for her, and asked Jesus to send this bothersome person away. Finally, Jesus said (my paraphrase), "I am sent only to the lost sheep of the House of Israel." But the Canaanite woman refused to give up. She worshipped Him the more, saying, "Lord, help me!" Jesus then said, "It is not fitting to take the children’s bread, and cast it to dogs." Jesus called this Gentile woman a "dog"! If you tried this today, you would probably get your face slapped, or worse! Call a woman today a female dog, and you better run for cover. If the Canaanite woman would have been offended and walked off in a huff, she would have had a clear right to do so, in our eyes. However, in this case, her daughter would not have been healed.

She ignored the put down, humbled herself and said, "Truth, Lord, yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their master’s table." There was one purpose in her mind: her daughter needed to be released from demonic possession. It seemed that nothing could offend this woman. Nothing at all. Then the Lord responded with His characteristic compassion and understanding. He did not offend her, knowing that with her character, she would not likely be offended. He was pleased with her attitude. "O woman," He said, "great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt." Her daughter was immediately made whole. We should be like the Canaanite woman. We should NOT be offended, at anything.

However, just before this incident, Jesus also offended the Pharisees, Matthew 15:1-20. In verse 12, we see that the disciples were concerned about Jesus offending these "high and mighty" important persons. But the Savior was not out to "win friends and influence people." He called the Pharisees hypocrites, transgressors of the Commandments of God, and blind leaders of the blind. Unlike the Canaanite woman who had great faith, the Pharisees were offended. One must conclude that it is not good to be offended. The Canaanite woman seemed to have a right to be offended at indignities done to her, but she wasn’t. The Pharisees had no right to be offended because they were wrong in leading others away from the paths of God. Yet they were offended. Therefore, WE HAVE NO RIGHT TO BE OFFENDED! It is the person who is not offended, who usually has the compassion and understanding not to offend others.

David and the prophets knew this. David wrote, "Great peace have they which love thy law: and nothing shall offend them," Psalm 119:165.

I would like to conclude with a letter from our friend, Kathy Puliafico, of the Denver area. She wrote:

"I have two ladies whom I am introducing to the Sabbath and Holy Days. They are coming out of traditional Christianity and feel they have been duped into rejecting the Old Testament. They are very zealous. Unfortunately, all of the ex-Worldwide groups [here] have either too many walking-wounded people still suffering from past injuries or people who love to discuss current rifts between groups. Every attempt I have made to introduce these ladies to ex-Worldwide groups has resulted in disaster (and I’m not that good at damage control). I now have them attending a Messianic congregation, where each conversation doesn’t begin or end with the word "Worldwide." However, I do feel that the teaching and level of Truth is much greater in the ex-Worldwide groups than in the Messianic groups.

"We did receive the Truth through Worldwide, but unfortunately we also received a lot of excess baggage in terms of how we treated one another. Therefore, at the present time, we cannot be good witnesses

unless we can let go of certain aspects of the past and just preach the Truth that we did learn. I wish the splinter groups would address the issue, because there are many more people searching for the Truth out there, who would benefit from what we have been taught."

Do we treat newcomers like dogs? Or, with love and compassion? We do not have a right to be offended, or to offend others.

— written by Richard C. Nickels W