One of the sad events of human experience is that of being offended by someone. Many happy friendships and processes have been damaged or destroyed due to people taking offence.
The Bible refers to offences in several places. Solomon points out that a brother who is offended is harder to win back than a fortified city (Prov 18:19). Jesus said that a person is blessed if they resist being offended (Matt 11:6).
The Bible word for “offended” actually means “scandalized” and it has important significance. The “scandalon” which the word refers to is a small stick or similar trip lever for a larger trap. In other words, an offence is a trip-stick. If you don’t respond properly to the offence trigger, a much bigger thing will fall on you and cage you in. That bigger thing is not the offence itself, but your reaction to the offence.
While it is an ugly experience to be offended, let down, hurt, disappointed, discouraged and even outraged by what others do, our reactions are the related process which is even more critical to our life and happiness.
We are not who we are because of what others have done or said to us, but because of how we responded to what they did and said. Our reactions, responses, choices, conclusions, justifications and words are where the REAL IMPACT is.
Jesus made that plain when he spoke about what “comes out of a man” as the thing that DEFILES the man (Mark 7:20). When we react we are ensnared by our chosen response. And that response often comes so naturally to us we do not even think we made a choice. We will even conclude that the offender MADE US react that way. But that is not true. Two people will experience the same offence and yet respond differently. It is not the offence that is at fault, but the heart of the responder.
That does not mean we should seek to offend people. It is a sin to cause a child to sin or lose heart and faith. We will give account for our every word. But remember that Jesus offended people, yet he was sinless. So don’t be too quick to blame the offender when you feel upset.
Your reactions expose YOU, not the offender. Your responses and what comes out of you expose your HEART. And your Heart is the Heart of the Matter. If you become bitter, resentful, unforgiving or if you cut the other person off, reject them from your group of friends, etc, you are not only at fault, you are CAUGHT IN THE TRAP!
You are DEFILED! Despite your self-righteous condemnation of others and your righteous indignation at what they did or represent, you are the one carrying the evil. You are the one with an evil heart.
This truth impacts families, where children feel offended by their parents. It impacts churches where leaders resent members who frustrate them. It impacts society where people set long-term prejudices toward neighbours, bosses and political leaders. A society full of enslaved people is a sad society to be in. A parent, teacher, pastor, leader or friend who is Scandalised will impact you by their bad heart attitude. If you are Scandalised you will offend others and impact society, from your place of being trapped by the offence.
That’s why the HEART is the Heart of the Matter. Your heart, self-righteous and aroused as it may be, is critically important to your on-going life and happiness. If you harbour resentment, unforgiveness, anger, prejudice, hurt, reaction, an offence, or any similar reaction to others your heart has been corrupted. And the evil of your own heart has been exposed by God. God has allowed you the opportunity to reveal what is REALLY in your heart, and you have proven to God that you are evil-hearted.
That is why FORGIVENESS is so powerful. Forgiveness is a choice of the will to over-rule the evil of our heart and to give grace.
That is why a child needs to Give their Heart to their Father – to overcome the heart tendency to resent his failings (and that is how children qualify for the blessings that come on those who honour parents).
That is why God commands a blessing on brothers who dwell in unity – since they each have to overcome the evil of their hearts to do so.
I have observed that many more people are scandalized than I would have thought. Some lovely, Christian people, some godly leaders, and others who I hold in high regard have been tested with offence and have become scandalized. Instead of quickly dealing with their heart responses I have seen people opt for justification of their position. I have seen people break fellowship, cut off others and even begin campaigning against fellow Christians.
None of us is perfect and I am certainly aware of my own vulnerabilities. I present this observation about offences in the hope that at least some will see what is happening in their heart and will step into the light and into the freedom Christ has won for us.
DISCLAIMER: Without detracting from all I have said, I need to point out that there are evil people and that it is appropriate to deal with them appropriately. I am not advocating that we go soft on evil people or that we should forgive every offender and throw away our judicial system or the fear of God. In such cases, however, our response to another person’s evil needs to be based on Righteousness, Truth, the Fear of God, Biblical Standards and God’s Leading. If our heart gets involved, with hatred, resentment, victimization, or all the other evils which an outraged heart could come up with, then we are out of order, even if the other is also evil.