The Grudge: Offender

The Grudge: Offender

This morning, we’re continuing our message series regarding offense. 

We spent a few weeks going over how to avoid taking the bait and getting trapped by offense and how to receive healing from the hurt of offense.  This week, we’re switching gears and learning a bit about how being the offender. 

We previously learned that offense comes from the Greek word skandalon and Hebrew word pah.  It is defined as the movable stick or trigger of a trap, any impediment placed in the way and causing one to stumble or fall or the source or agent of calamity. 

Today, we’re looking to the Greek word skandalizō meaning to put a stumbling block or impediment in the way, upon which another may trip and fall.  This is the person who lays the bait or sets the trap; the offender.   

This can happen quite intentionally or completely accidentally.  Satan is a master of deceit and can at times use us to cause others to stumble and fall without ever realizing that it even happened! 

From my perspective, as we read through Biblical accounts, there are three different scenarios where we can find ourselves offending others.  The first step in determining how to respond when we offend someone is to discern which of these three scenarios occurred. 

  1. We unknowingly offend someone and accidentally cause them to stumble. 
  2. We purposefully offend someone to get their attention and to save them. 
  3. We maliciously offend someone intending to cause them to stumble and fall and get hurt. 

As a way for us to better understand these from an emotional or spiritual perspective, let’s consider how these three occur from a physical perspective. 

  1. We unknowingly offend someone and accidentally cause them to stumble. 

You are sitting in a chair and as someone walks by you, they trip over your foot.   

How would you respond? 

  1. We purposefully offend someone to get their attention and to save them. 

You see someone walking with their head buried in their phone walking in front of a speeding car.  You run in front of the car and shove them out of harm’s way. 

How would you respond? 

  1. We maliciously offend someone intending to cause them to stumble and fall and get hurt. 

You see someone that you don’t like walking by so you sneak a chair out just enough so that they trip and fall face-first into the tray of food that they carrying.  They break their nose, get food all over their face and clothes and are extremely embarrassed in front of everyone. 

How should you respond? 

These simple and physical scenarios make it easier to understand how a person can cause offense and what the intent and motive is.  However, offense is rarely this cut and dry and understandable.   

There are often several perspectives toward the offense that typically contradict one another adding conflict to offense and then enabling offense to cause offense and to multiply hurt.  It’s a nasty web of a net that can be very difficult to get free from! 

One person says that the unknowingly offended someone, but the offended one says that it was intentional and malicious offending the offender.  One person says that they intended only good and to help and meant no harm at all from causing offense and the offended person says that they are just out to make them look bad then offending the offender.  Hurt people hurt people. 

Most of this is a matter of heart attitude and motive.  Here is some truth that we all need to grab a hold of before we go on any further.  There is only One whom truly knows and reveals heart motives.  We, ourselves, are not even fit to judge our own selves in this matter.  Only the Lord, Himself, knows and can reveal them. 

Proverbs 16:2 

All a person’s ways seem pure to them, but motives are weighed by the Lord. 

1 Corinthians 4:3-5 

3 I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself. 4 My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me. 5 Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait until the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of the heart. 

With this truth in mind, when it comes to offense, we should always, always begin with this simple prayer of David: 

Psalm 139:23-24 

23 Search me, God, and know my heart; 

    test me and know my anxious thoughts. 

24 See if there is any offensive way in me, 

    and lead me in the way everlasting. 

We may not think that we intentionally did something and we may not think that we intended any harm by it.  We may be innocent and pure in our own eyes.  However: 

Jeremiah 17:9 

The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? 

The deceitful thing about deceit is that it is deceitful.  One who is deceived does not know that they are deceived.  If the deceived knew that they were deceived, then they would not, in fact, be deceived.  They think that they are right.  They think that they have done no wrong.  They truthfully think that their heart motives are pure and sincere.  However, their heart may be deceiving them. 

So, when we are accused of being the offender, we should begin always with going to the Lord, ourselves. 

Psalm 139:23-24 

23 Search me, God, and know my heart; 

    test me and know my anxious thoughts. 

24 See if there is any offensive way in me, 

    and lead me in the way everlasting. 

Jesus is the only one involved who can truly make a right judgment.  After all, our judgment could very well be clouded by a deceived heart within us!  We all have a far easier time seeing fault in others than we do in ourselves!  That’s why Jesus warned us: 

Matthew 7:1-5 

1 “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. 2 For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. 

3 “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 4 How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. 

The desire of Jesus is for everyone involved to get free from the trap of offense that ensnared them all!  He wants them all to have the offense removed so that they can heal and be set free. 

Now this is a whole other message for another time, but Jesus then goes on in this chapter how to make a right judgment by the fruit of people’s lives.  He warns that there are wolves walking around in sheep’s clothing looking to devour us.  This single verse has been misused and mistaught out of context to mean that we should never make any judgment call about anyone ever. 

Regardless of how we became an offender, we start by letting God seek our own hearts and getting right before Him.  If He reveals anything offensive within us, we seek His forgiveness.  Then, regardless of our guilt or innocence before the Lord, we then seek His wisdom in how to proceed.  We want to honor Him in all things and walk by faith and trust in Him. 

Whether unintentional and innocently or maliciously and with intent to offend, we should apologize for the offense and ask the offended to forgive us.  We don’t want to be an offense, or a stumbling block, between anyone and Christ.  Ask if there is anything that you can do to make it right; to make amends or reparation to make right the wrong regardless of our intention or heart motive. 

This covers the first two offense scenarios. 

In Romans 14, Paul urges us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, to make up our minds not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of others.  To make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.  To be careful not destroy the work of God for any lesser thing. 

Much of what causes offense, especially between followers of Christ, are what are referred to in the Bible as disputable matters.  Not black and white, doctrinal absolutes, but issues unrelated to salvation that can be sinful for one person and acceptable by another person and both stand righteously before Jesus.  Paul describes them this way: 

One person considers one day more sacred than another; another considers every day alike. Each of them should be fully convinced in their own mind. One person’s faith allows them to eat anything, but another, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. The one who eats everything must not treat with contempt the one who does not, and the one who does not eat everything must not judge the one who does, for God has accepted them. Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To their own master, servants stand or fall. And they will stand, for the Lord is able to make them stand.  

Now, we’ll move onto the third scenario where offense is caused by us trying to save a person.  This is not just a, “dude, your breath stinks” kind of offense, but rather tripping up someone up while they are walking down a path that leads to their death and even to hell, itself! 

If you read through the Bible, you will see that God’s people often causes offense by speaking and living God’s truth.  John the Baptist was beheaded because of this.  Jesus was beaten and put to death on a cross for this.  Stephen was stoned to death for this.  Many of the old testament prophets and new testament believers were persecuted and even put to death because their stand on truth caused offense. 

For this scenario, there is no apology.  There are not reparations.  There is no wrong-doing. 

Now, as a precaution, this doesn’t mean that we a license to take God’s truth and intentionally offend everyone by swinging that sword around slicing people up with it!  It is simply a reality that when we speak and live out God’s truth with the intent to save those around us from eternal damnation that they are walking toward, it will cause offense.   

We don’t want to be a stumbling block to people coming to Jesus, but Jesus, Himself is either the rock upon which we step upward to salvation or the rock that causes people to stumble as they continue toward hell. 

2 Corinthians 6:3 

We put no stumbling block in anyone’s path, so that our ministry will not be discredited. 

1 Corinthians 1:22-24 

22 Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24 but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God. 

Mark 7:1-23 (Matthew 15:1-20 ) 

1 The Pharisees and some of the teachers of the law who had come from Jerusalem gathered around Jesus 2 and saw some of his disciples eating food with hands that were defiled, that is, unwashed. 3 (The Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they give their hands a ceremonial washing, holding to the tradition of the elders. 4 When they come from the marketplace they do not eat unless they wash. And they observe many other traditions, such as the washing of cups, pitchers and kettles.) 

5 So the Pharisees and teachers of the law asked Jesus, “Why don’t your disciples live according to the tradition of the elders instead of eating their food with defiled hands?” 

6 He replied, “Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written: 

“‘These people honor me with their lips, 

    but their hearts are far from me. 

7 They worship me in vain; 

    their teachings are merely human rules.’ 

8 You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to human traditions.” 

Matthew 15 

12 Then the disciples came to him and asked, “Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this?”  

13 He replied, “Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be pulled up by the roots. 14 Leave them; they are blind guides. If the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit.” 

15 Peter said, “Explain the parable to us.” 

16 “Are you still so dull?” Jesus asked them. 17 “Don’t you see that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and then out of the body? 18 But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them. 19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts – murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. 20 These are what defile a person; but eating with unwashed hands does not defile them.” 

Jesus offended the Pharisees and the teachers of the law.  He often did and He never apologized.  His offense was always the third scenario and never the first two.  It was to save them and not to harm them. 

The only time that He responded positively to their offense was regarding the temple tax.  Jesus, the child of the Father of the temple, did not really owe this tax.  However, as to not become a stumbling block over such a trivial and arguable matter, He chose to instead sacrifice the funds to pay the tax and to remove the offense. 

His intent wasn’t to make these leaders look bad in front of their followers, but to get these leaders back on the right path so that all of the people could be turned back to the Lord. 

Paul also wrote a letter to the church in Corinth correcting them on many issues where they had strayed away from God’s truth and into sin.  The letter offended them, but in a good way.  He followed up to that letter and wrote to them: 

2 Corinthians 7:8-13 

8 Even if I caused you sorrow by my letter, I do not regret it. Though I did regret it – I see that my letter hurt you, but only for a little while – 9 yet now I am happy, not because you were made sorry, but because your sorrow led you to repentance. For you became sorrowful as God intended and so were not harmed in any way by us. 10 Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. 11 See what this godly sorrow has produced in you: what earnestness, what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what alarm, what longing, what concern, what readiness to see justice done. At every point you have proved yourselves to be innocent in this matter. 12 So even though I wrote to you, it was neither on account of the one who did the wrong nor on account of the injured party, but rather that before God you could see for yourselves how devoted to us you are. 13 By all this we are encouraged. 

God will offend us.  His intent by it is to save us.  He doesn’t intend to harm us, but to save us.  He doesn’t intend to tear us down, but to build us up.   

The truth is that ignorance is not bliss.  Not knowing that you have cancer will not save you from it.  Not knowing that there is a speeding car coming down the street will not save you from walking out in front of it.  God reveals things in our lives that offends us solely so that the offense can be removed.   

The question is, “How will we respond when God’s truth offends us?”   

Will we be sad about it alone and allow our hearts to be hardened toward God or toward whomever the truth was conveyed to us through?   

Or will we be sad about it and repent?  Will we soften our hearts toward God and allow Him to do a work in our lives to remove what is offensive within us to Him?  Will we allow Him to remove the stumbling blocks within our lives that are tripping us up on our journey with Him? 

Let’s let Him do His work this morning.  Repentance doesn’t need to be a somber and tear-filled event.  Repentance can be a joyous occasion!   

We can thank God because of His great love and faithfulness!  We can thank God because we were wondering away from Him and He came and rescued us!  We can thank God because He loves us and cares about us enough to call us back home.  He made a way where there was no other way for us to do so!  He paid the price to remove all of our sin and shame and condemnation and offense so that there is now NO STUMBLING BLOCKS between He and us!  Let’s thank God!!!