Have you ever been offended? We all have to some degree. Have you ever been hurt by a church? Maybe you are reading this, and even at this moment you are mad or upset with a church and their treatment towards you. Maybe you feel as if you should have been given a chance to minister or serve. Maybe an usher or leader said something very nasty to you. Maybe you were overlooked or used in some degree. If you have been in the church for more than a day, I am sure you have been offended. Offense is present wherever there is people. As the Lead Pastor of a growing church in the city of Atlanta, I have spoken with many people on the subject of offense. Offense seems to be everywhere. People leave churches because of offense, people leave marriages, burn bridges and tarnish people’s reputation and names because of offense. After speaking with pastors and parishioners who have been hurt and healed of offense, I began to ask a lot of questions. What makes someone leave a ministry, while others draw closer? Why is it that offense hurts some, and empowers others? What is it that causes breaches in relationships? I came to understand that dealing with offense is a perspective issue.
Now what is offense? Offense is something that offends or displeases someone. It is a violation or the breaking of a law. To “take offense” means to feel humiliated, injured, or annoyed. Wherever there is people, there will be offense. This is why it agitates me when I hear people say that they left a church, or “the church” because of offense. As many times as you have been at a job where people offended you, you never left. As many times as family has offended you, you still went to the cook out and the reunions. As many times as you could have been offended at a restaurant or a theater, that doesn’t make us stop eating or watching movies. The reality of it is, people will find anything to become a catalyst for offense.
Offense breeds defensive people. Defensive people are people who feel it is necessary to always be one step ahead of you relationally. These are people who, if they think you are going to break up with them, they will break up with you first just to avoid embarrassment. Defensive people are usually chronic pathological liars and vivid imaginators. They dwell in suspicion and have a false sense of persecution. They think everyone is after them. You may be reading this and saying “hey, that’s me” or “wait, I know someone like that,” well in this blog I seek to reveal the dangers and the blessings of being offended.
The Dangers of Being Offended
Sustained unity is one of the keys to growth in any organization. A healthy atmosphere and culture is needed for anything to be successful and impacting. One of the main deterrents to a healthy culture is offense.
A brother offended is harder to be won than a strong city: and their contentions are like the bars of a castle. (Prov. 18:19)
“A brother offended.” This gives us insight to how offense travels. Offense can only exist where there is relationship. Offense does not occur where there is not expectation. David said in Psalm 55:12-14:
12 For it was not an enemy that reproached me; then I could have borne it: neither was it he that hated me that did magnify himself against me; then I would have hid myself from him: 13 But it was thou, a man mine equal, my guide, and mine acquaintance . 14 We took sweet counsel together, and walked unto the house of God in company.
It wasn’t a stranger that offended David, it was someone that he was close to. Offense only happens within the confines of covenant. And the scripture says that “a brother offended is harder to win than a strong city.” A strong city or stronghold is designed to keep people out and hold things in. It is characterized by its defenses. It gains strength by division. Offense will always cause division. People who are offended separate themselves and become reclusive.
Another result of offense is the spirt of murder. The spirit of murder, hate and infirmity follows those who are consistently offended.
Matthew 24:10 And then shall many be offended , and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another.
Do you see the process. Offense breeds betrayal, betrayal breeds hate, hate is the foundation for murder. When we look at the story of Cain and Abel (Gen. 4:1-14), we see this process clearly. Cain became offended with his brother because Abel received respect from God, and he didn’t. Cain also was offended with God. I want to point out here that neither God nor Abel did anything wrong, but offense was still present. Offense is not always the result of wrongdoing, but is most times the result of misunderstanding.
13 And Cain said unto the LORD, My punishment is greater than I can bear . 14 Behold, thou hast driven me out this day from the face of the earth; and from thy face shall I be hid ; and I shall be a fugitive and a vagabond in the earth; and it shall come to pass , that every one that findeth me shall slay me . (Gen. 4:13-14)
Offense not only caused Cain to kill his brother, but caused Cain to run from the presence of the Lord. It also says that he became a vagabond, which is a wondering man without any place to dwell. An inability to worship, serve, submit and be planted in a local church are all signs of offense. We must understand the responsibility of the “offended” and not just the “offender” to restore order and unity.
I have heard people say that you shouldn’t offend people, and I believe that this is true. Deliberate offense should never be the goal of anyone in power, but it is also true that offense is inevitable. You can not walk on egg shells trying not to offend someone. Now this is the blessing of offense. The entire reason I wrote this blog is to get to this point.
I believe offense can be a blessing. I heard it said that what offends you, reveals you. The scripture calls Jesus a “rock of offense”.
7 Unto you therefore which believe he is precious: but unto them which be disobedient , the stone which the builders disallowed , the same is made the head of the corner, 8 And a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence, even to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient : whereunto also they were appointed . (1 Peter 2:7-8)
Jesus comes to offend. The gospel comes to offend. It comes to offend everything that is not like Jesus. When you are offended, it reveals the weaknesses you have in your flesh. This is a good thing, a constructive thing. You should rejoice when you are offended, for God is showing you that you can and must become better. Do not allow offense to become a wedge between you and your destiny. Do not allow offense to separate you from the people your purpose is attached to. Offense can be used as a catalyst for personal development and growth. I want to encourage you that offense does not have to be a bad thing. It can be the very thing God uses to grow you. Do not allow the spirit of offense to cause you to become nomadic. Relationships between people are never perfect, it takes hard work, dedication and consistency to yield the maturity we need to support each other. My prayer is that if you are offended in any area, or with anyone, that you would seek restoration and renewal.
“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.” (Matt. 18:15-17)