Overcoming Offenses – Preaching to the Choir 1
Until recently most people would not like to admit to being offended. Lately, some people make a habit of admitting offense. What’s going on with that? What is the effect of it on society? How should a Christian view the issue? Check it out in the first of our new series, Preaching to the Choir.
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For more on deeper level spirituality, check out our series, True Spirituality
If you want more about the Chicago Tribune article quoted, this is the link.
We’re starting a new series today. We call it Preaching To the Choir. Our first topic today is Overcoming Offenses. This series is about specific outlooks that no one wants to be found with – so much so that most of us deny it immediately, if someone suggests we might have one of them. For example, have you ever heard someone say, “I’m sorry I offended you?” And what’s the immediate response? Well, for most people, it’s, “You didn’t offend me.” Since on one wants to be found with any of these topics that we’re going to cover, everyone will believe that I’m talking to someone else. There’s no need for them to hear these things, so I’m preaching to the choir.
I admit that title is a bit needling and, in this case, I think it might be a good thing. When it comes to these issues, we all may need to be needled a bit, if we’re to take a serious look at ourselves. So let’s get started. We’re preaching to the choir about the issue of being offended. Let’s look first at the contemporary landscape.
I did a Google search and I found an article, and I wanted to read excerpts from it to you.
“For a frightening number of people, the art of being offended by everything, or even better, loudly and publicly complaining about being offended by everything, is pursued with alarming dedication. For some, being offended is practically a credo – an all-encompassing way of life.”
So this quote came from the Chicago Tribune, which I think I discovered is a conservative newspaper – more so than most. And the author was a woman named Heather Wilhelm. And I think the point she wants to make is, that this issue cuts across political lines. It’s a new cultural phenomenon – at least, in the US, and I would suspect Europe as well. So let’s continue. Here’s some encouraging news.
“If you’re with me on this, we’re not alone. And when it comes to constant outrage, we might be nearing a tipping point. Witness celebrity professor, Jordan Peterson, a clinical psychologist best known for offending large numbers of people on television and the Internet on fraught topics, such as transgender pronouns, gender roles and identity politics. This month he released a book, that’s already shot to the top of Amazon’s new releases category, titled ‘Twelve Rules for Life – an Antidote to Chaos.’ ‘No one trying to understand how to live should read this book,’ wrote Julian Baggini in a ‘Financial Times’ review. Anyone interested in the growing assault on liberal values, however, should study it with fear and trembling.”
Then, back to the author – she says:
“This is a fascinating critique, given that no matter what you think about Peterson’s opinions on various topics, ranging from proper posture to child rearing to evolution to Communist propaganda posters to the work of Carl Young, Peterson’s most consistent position centers on one of the most precious liberal values of all, free speech. In certain circles, free speech has lost its importance. We can’t go around offending people after all.”
So this penchant people have for being offended and complaining about it is a way to try to limit the speech of other people. So here’s a conservative writer opining that this new idea – that we can’t suffer offense – is an attack on conservative values – though she doesn’t come right out and say that – and, at the same time, she quotes somebody, who’s a liberal, who feels the same way she does. Both sides feel they’re under attack. Conservatives would probably listen to this message and say, “Liberals are attacking us.” And so there’s a separation between people in this country. What is causing this problem? Well, now it’s in vogue to be offended and outraged by opinions other than your own. Some are outraged that our President is pro-life. Others are offended or outraged so much that Rosie O’Donnell recently suggested that the military should take out Donald Trump in a coup. Many people are afraid to say how they feel because they might offend somebody. Others are not afraid at all and use insincere offense to manipulate people into being quiet. Both sides think the other side has become easily offended.
So what’s going on in our nation because of this? Well, it’s causing division. I was eavesdropping on two people talking in a coffee shop recently. One of them mentioned that she had listened to Fox News, and said, “It was like ‘experiencing an alternative universe.’” So Fox News and CNN, who are all supposed to be reporting the true news, are worlds apart – so much so that they can’t both be right at every point. And yet, many people now use one or the other of these channels to bolster their own view, rather than being educated about what is really going on in the world, which further divides us as a nation.
I know that some of you are thinking that I have failed to take sides in this liberal/conservative thing, and you think that is being an alternate universe of its own, but I really haven’t taken that position. I’m in the real universe, which is God’s viewpoint. You won’t find liberal or conservative in the Bible at all. You will find instead good and evil. And then some of you will say, “Well, yes, I’m right. I’m on the good side, because I’m a this or a that. The other side is evil.” But you would be wrong. Why is that? Because God does not parse everything we see in the world today as liberal and conservative. He sees it as good and evil. The fact is, there are lots of evil people in both camps and lots of good people as well. There are lots of bad ideas and strategies in both camps, too. Do I believe that one of the two – liberal and conservative – has more good and less evil? Well, yes, I happen to believe that one of them has more good and less evil, but that’s irrelevant to the point I’m making today. I want to parse things God’s way – good and evil – rather than liberal and conservative. I’m not political. I’m biblical. And I should think that Christians would want to think that way as well.
Okay, enough of that. When we talk about offenses, and being offended, and outraged at what’s going on in the world, what does the Bible say about this? Well, let’s take a scripture and look at the words in it. In Job 34:31, it says:
Job 34:31-32 – Has anyone said to God, “I have born punishment. I will not offend anymore. Teach me what I do not see. If I have done iniquity, I will do it no more.”
So let’s look at that word offense. It’s Strong’s 6206. It means a transgression or affront against the law or an individual. We use the word offend that way too, don’t we? You know, if you get a ticket and you have to go to court, you’re called an offender. Right? So the word offend is translated stumble in other translations. And that means to stumble and break the law. You’re an offender. So, when someone says, “I am offended by what you just said,” they mean they are outraged by it or wounded by it – that you have violated them. For example, Rosie O’Donnell would, I think, agree that she is offended by Donald Trump. He outrages her.
Okay, now that we know what the word means in the Bible, and see that it’s used the same way today, let’s take a deeper dive into the significance of the word in context. Go with me to John 6:60. It says:
John 6:60 – When many of His disciples heard it, they said, “This is a hard saying. Who can listen to it?” But Jesus, knowing in Himself that His disciples were grumbling about this, He said to them, “Do you take offense at this?”
So, I mean, we use that same word today, don’t we, in the same exact way. So we get the sense here that Jesus is asking them, “Are you offended by what I said?” in the same sense that Rosie O’Donnell is offended – put off – by Donald Trump. So He’s saying, “Is this a personal affront to you?”
Now let’s go back and read what happened earlier in the account so we can understand why He asked this question. If we begin the story in John 6:16, He had just fed a large crowd with a few fish and a couple loaves of bread. A kid gave Him that food. And the disciples saw that. That evening they couldn’t find Jesus when it was time to leave, so they got in a boat and took off for Capernaum. We kind of gather that Jesus had a way of catching up. They weren’t worried about Him. So, as they took off, the wind was blowing. So it was, apparently, slow going. And it says they only rowed four miles or so when they saw Jesus walking toward them on the water. And He got into the boat and instantly they were at their destination. So they saw that, too, didn’t they? And the next day, the crowd that had been fed was looking for Jesus, because they saw the boat with the disciples in it leave without Him. So, when they couldn’t find Him, they got in boats and crossed the Sea of Galilee to look for Him in Capernaum. When they found Him, He told them they were not there because of what He had said or the miracle He did to feed them, but because of the hope of more free bread. So let’s pick up the story from there in verse 27.
V-27-52 – Do not work for food that perishes – the free bread – but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of man will give you, for on Him, God the Father has set His seal. Then they said to Him, “What must we do to be doing the works of God?” And Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God – that you believe in Him who He has sent.” So that’s your job. So they said to Him, “What sign do you do that we may see and believe you? What work do you perform? Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness – as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’” And Jesus said to them – see, they used a good example – a good analogy – right? They gave an example of having bread too. So Jesus is using bread as an example of Himself, and they’re using bread to show a miracle that God did, and they want to know what’s He going to do, like Moses did. And Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly I say to you, ‘It was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father give you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.’” And they said to Him, “Sir, give us this bread always.” And Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to Me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in Me, shall never thirst. But I have said to you that you have seen Me and yet do not believe. All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and whoever comes to Me, I will never cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. And this is the will of Him who sent Me – that I should lose nothing of all that He’s given Me, but raise him up on the last day. For this is the will of the My Father – that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in Him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.” So the Jews grumbled about Him because He said, “I am the bread that comes down from heaven.” And they said, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does He now say, ‘I have come down from heaven?” And Jesus answered them, “Do not grumble among yourselves. No one can come to Me unless the Father, who sent Me, draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day. It is written in the Prophets, ‘And they will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me – not that anyone has seen the Father except He who is from God. He has seen the Father. Truly, truly I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.” The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us His flesh to eat?”
Now I want to draw your attention to something. Those of us who are Christians, with perfect 20/20 hindsight – you know, the perspective of history – understand exactly what Jesus is talking about, don’t we? And we can look through the confusion of the Jews and realize these mysteries aren’t mysteries to us. We understand it.
V-53-62 – So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink – you know, true nourishment. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drink of my blood abides in Me and I in him. As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, whoever feeds on Me, he also will live because of Me. This is the bread that came down from heaven – not like the bread the fathers ate and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.” Jesus said these things in the synagogue, as He taught in Capernaum. And when many of His disciples heard it, they said, “This is a hard saying. Who can listen to it?” But Jesus, knowing in Himself that the disciples were grumbling about this, said to them, “Do you take offense at this? Then what if you were to see the Son of man ascending to where He was before?” Well, they got to do that, didn’t they? Yes, they did. They were there. It was reported in the book of Acts – that He ascended to heaven – back up where He had been. Then in verse 63, it says:
V-63 – “It is the Spirit who gives life. The flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirt and life. But there are some of you who do not believe.
So some were offended at the powerful truth that He spoke to them. Let’s look again at the Strong’s comment about this word offense. Offense: a transgression or affront against the law or an individual. And then, notice this amazing comment: The gospel itself is seen as offensive by unbelievers who often unable to cope with its radical challenge to their unbelief. Isn’t that amazing? Is your belief challenged by the gospel? Are you offended by it? Are you in rebellion against it? Do you tithe? Do you keep the Sabbath the way they did in the New Testament? Do you live a Christ-like life as an example to unbelievers? Well, if you do, good! Look with me at Proverbs 19:11.
Proverbs 19:11 – Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is His glory to overlook an offense.
People who are striving to be Christ-like let offenses drop away. They are impervious to them. Most of them are irrelevant, if you have eternal life as your context. They can hear the full measure of the gospel of Jesus Christ, such as the saints fighting at Armageddon, or the full exposé of what’s going on in the world today – not from a liberal or conservative perspective, but from a biblical perspective. They do not clasp their hands over their ears and say, “La, la, la, la.” They can take it all in.
Let’s look at another scripture. It’s in Psalms 119:165.
Psalms 119:165 – Great peace have they who love your law, and nothing shall offend them.
Can you be like that? Unoffendable and at peace? Well, let’s talk about how to do that.
While Jesus was in Mary’s womb, his cousin, John, was in the womb of Jesus’ aunt, Elizabeth. They were born within a short proximity to each other and they undoubtedly knew each other as they grew older. John became a great preacher – a bit before Jesus started His ministry. For his troubles, the Romans threw John in prison and then had him killed at a whim – beheaded. Would you be outraged, offended, bent on revenge, so fearful you could not carry on? Jesus wasn’t. Why not? How was He able to do that? How could He be unoffended in the face of it? Well, 1 Peter 2:23 explains it to us.
1 Peter 2:23 – When He was reviled, He did not revile in return. When He suffered, He did not threaten, but continued entrusting Himself to Him who judges justly.
So Jesus suffered all manner of insult, all manner of threats, all manner of unfair assessment, and finally death. And He wasn’t offended by any of it, because God’s plan was real to Him. He knew God would raise Him up. Do you know that, too? If it’s real to you, then you know that, in the end, every insult, every threat, every wound will be taken care of. In the end, you know you will win. So it doesn’t really matter what they say or do in the long run. I know they can hurt us, but that’s all going to become irrelevant in the face of eternal life. If you’re God’s, you’re impervious to anything bad.
A scripture comes to mind – it’s somewhat out of context, but it’s important. It’s in Hebrews 11:10. Paul writes:
Hebrews 11:10 – For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God.
Now he was talking about Abraham, in context. But Jesus did an even better job of it than Abraham did. God is Jesus’ foundation. And so He followed God perfectly. He was strong in the face of offenses. That really is the whole ball of wax right there. That’s the most important thing a person can do to become unoffendable.
But there’s one other niggling thing here we need to tie up. The biblical state of being offended means to be in violation of God’s law. It’s a sin to be offended. So all these people that boasting about being offended by everything are really telling us that they are violating God’s law when they do that. Consequently, because it’s a sin to be offended, it’s everyone’s responsibility to avoid being the cause of someone else’s sin. Jesus said that He knew people would be offended by the truth He spoke, but they would not be offended by the way He lived His life. And they weren’t. But they were offended by the truth He spoke, so that’s probably the one exception to the rule.
Let’s look at a scripture. It’s in Mark 9:42.
Mark 9:42 – Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea.
So He had a little child on His lap when He said this. So He’s telling people, “If you offend children, if you cause them to sin and forsake the faith because of your bad example, it would be better if you had a millstone hung around your neck and you just jumped in the ocean.”
Now that word sin, it’s the same word that we read earlier. It means to be offended or to stumble. So, to be offended is to sin.
And Paul says – also, as another example – that if eating meat were to cause others to stumble in the faith, he wouldn’t eat any meat. It was more important to keep the peace, and to help new people who are fragile in the faith, to grow than it is to eat meat. When the Jews wanted Jesus to pay an unnecessary temple tax, He told Peter to give them the money so they were not be offended. He didn’t want to be the cause of that.
Now, it’s quite popular for people to talk disparagingly today about millennials, and the buzz word is “they’re all offended by everything.” But 30% of my counseling practice – roughly – year in and year out is made up of millennials. And yes, some of them are weak in that way, as are some people who are much older. But most millennials aren’t like that. We can’t lump everybody together with a bad habit just because they’re in a certain age group. The ones who are weak, however, are offended by such talk. And the ones who are not weak are not offended. They just go about doing what they need to do, working hard and making a life for themselves. They don’t feel like they’ve been treated unfairly – or, if they do feel that way, they just go on. They’re not offended by it. So the ones who are not weak are not offended.
So we don’t want to cause offense to anyone, right? So stowing that kind of talk would probably be a good thing – right? – if we want to live like Jesus lived.
Well, that’s about it for today. We’re going to do one of this series – Preaching To the Choir – every four weeks, because we have another series going as well – Bible Stories for Adults – which we will intersperse with this new series in an attempt to meet the widely varied needs of our listening base.
Speaking of the base, don’t forget to comment on the Website, or our Facebook page, or Tweet us. We like to know what you think.
Until next time, this is Bill Jacobs for LifeResource Ministries, serving children, families and the Church of God.