In the family of God we are encouraged to ‘give no offence either to Jews or Greeks or to the church of God’. 1 Corinthians 10:32. Paul is of course referring here particularly to whether it was ok to eat certain foods. The antidote he said was to take part in a meal with ‘thankfulness’. In other words if I can do something for the glory of God, i.e. if I know it’s pleasing to God, then I needn’t be judged by someone else with a different level of conscience, but I am also making sure that I am not going out of my way to offend them.
We do know and have probably experienced that there is offence in the gospel. Isaiah tells us of the Messiah that ‘He shall be for a sanctuary; but a stone of stumbling and a rock of offence to both houses of Israel’. Isaiah 8: 14 AV. Peter also tells us that Jesus is ‘a stone of stumbling and a rock of offence’. 1 Peter 2:8 AV. As far as the Lord is concerned, however, He wants offense neither given or taken in His family, and Paul prays for the Philippian church that as their love abounds with discernment they will be ‘sincere and without offence till the day of Christ.’ Philippians 1:10 AV.
You may have noticed by now that I have been using a lot of AV quotes today, and that is because later versions of the bible don’t use the word ‘offence’. They speak rather of things that cause us to stumble, which is fair enough as the Oxford English dictionary defines ‘an offence’ as ‘a stumbling block’. I think however that ‘offence’ is a more appropriate word for us today. I may stumble over something because I haven’t noticed it was there, i.e. I am a passive victim of the situation, but if I ‘give or take offense’, I am an active participant, I play a part in my own stumbling, or that of another.
Jesus himself said ‘It is impossible but that offences will come: but woe unto him through whom they come’. Luke 17:1AV.It’s important therefore that we don’t cause another to be offended, or get offended with another unnecessarily. It is also may be even more important that we don’t get offended with God. I think poor John the Baptist had this challenge when he was in prison. We can tell this from Jesus response to him when he sent his disciples to Jesus to ask “Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?” (he was clearly having an issue with the fact that Jesus wasn’t getting him out of prison).
Jesus tells John’s disciples to go back and “report what you hear and see: The blind receive their sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised and the good news is preached to the poor.” (no mention then of captives being released from prison as in Isaiah 42:7?) Then Jesus tells them to say to John “Blessed is he who does not take offense at Me”. Matthew 11:4-6. Offense can be given but it also has to be taken.
We had a situation once, in a church, which cost us a great deal as a family and it felt like the Lord had forgotten us too. A good friend gave me a text ‘Great peace have they which love thy law and nothing shall offend them’ Psalm 119:165. I knew then I had a choice whether I got offended, not just with my fellow christians, but with God Himself. I knew I couldn’t afford to be offended with God, I needed His friendship, and the peace He gives, too much for that.
None of us like to be thought of as offensive, or easily offended, but this morning I felt that the Lord was encouraging me to ‘go on the offensive’. The weapon of choice? ‘Thanksgiving’. If what we do, we can do with thanksgiving in our hearts, we will be less likely to offend our fellow believers, but also if, when we are offended, we choose not to ‘take’ offense but we give thanks instead, we bullet proof ourselves against the fiery darts of the enemy, who wants to encourages us into self pity, resentment or even anger.
Our thanksgiving enables us to go on the offensive. We can give the devil a real headache, cause him to ‘stumble’ in his attempts to derail us, because if we don’t take offense, then he can’t cause division, or get us to have a ‘stand off’ with the Lord. Thanksgiving is our offensive weapon against the enemy. Thanksgiving stops us from becoming offended by our fellow Christians and by God, and it is also turns what the enemy would use to make us offended by God, into an offensive weapon. Giving glory to God is something that offends him and sends him packing, so let’s do it and enjoy the freedom that it will bring us too.