Last week we noted that an offence is when we cause someone to be upset or troubled through our actions or words whether justified or not. We also noted the following: 1) we ought to live lives void of offence to others; 2) it is impossible to live the Christian life without offending someone; 3) we will, sometime in our life, wrongfully offend someone. We then noted that the Christian will make appropriate amends upon inappropriately offending someone.
This week, we're going to look at the other side of the coin: what to do when we are offended. The Christian will not find himself only offending, but also being offended. It is equally important that we understand how we are to behave when we are offended as when we offend.
Perhaps the first question that we need to ask is this: ought we to be offended? There is a difference between an objective sin (one that is against God) and a matter of personal preference wherein one is offended. If the offence is merely a matter of opinion, then one need not necessarily take offence at such personal matters. One may, in that regard, simply overlook such things and move on.
When I was a boy, my parents would wrap Christmas presents just from "Santa" in brown paper. This had a tremendous effect upon me as a child and I remember being so thrilled to see those presents wrapped in brown paper. I decided to do that with my children. Then, one year on Christmas morning, one of our relatives commented on the "ugly brown paper." I was offended. How could this relative be so insensitive as to not understand how precious my childhood "Santa" presents were? Then I realized that this relative had no idea about my childhood. So I did nothing. It wasn't worth discussing. It was merely a personal preference in the first place and didn't need to be brought up. I "forgave" this person and moved on. There are, however, some things which ought to lastingly offend the Christian.
The Christian ought to be offended at sin. Why? Sin offends God (Psalm 51:4). Sin is the tool of Satan to tempt men to do evil (Matthew 4:1) and evil is offensive. The Christian has the obligation to stand against sin and Satan and fight (Ephesians 6:11, 13). Are we lovers of God or lovers of men (Galatians 1:10)? If we love God, then we will be offended at sin.
The Christian also ought to be offended with those who are not offended at sin. Consider Romans 1:32; according to that verse, those who consent to sin are just as worthy of the same punishment as those who sin. The problem with many in our society today is that they have stopped being offended at sin. When that happens, they also stop fighting it. And when they stop fighting it, they succumb to it. There is a popular saying attributed to Edmund Burke, "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing." To do something, we must first be offended.
The Christian ought to be offended at those who commit sin and would cause him to commit sin (Romans 16:17, Revelation 2:14). This is not to say that we hate the individual person who does the sinning, but rather, that the sin that he does is repugnant to us. John tells us who the real culprit is, "He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning…." (1 John 3:8). Satan is behind all sin, but some are caught in his lies. Our response should be to hate the sin but love the sinner (Galatians 6:1).
So, what do we do when we are offended? If the offence is a matter of personal preference, then the best course of action is to do nothing. If the matter is of the sort where personal liberties are involved, we follow Paul's advice in Romans 14. For offences that involve sin, when one has been sinned against privately, Jesus told us what to do in Matthew 18:15-17. If the sin is a matter of public record, we follow 1 Corinthians 5. If the offence is disputed and we have spoken that which is right, then we take Peter's advice in 1 Peter 2:23, commit the matter to the Righteous Judge, and suffer silently. However, in all of these matters, we need to be practicing self examination constantly to ensure our own heart is right before the Lord (Matthew 7:1-5, 2 Corinthians 13:5).
It is not necessarily wrong to offend nor is it necessarily wrong to be offended, but it could be either way. They key to understanding when to act and when to keep silent depends upon the offence that has been committed. Let us learn to approach such situations as the Lord would and act according to what His word teaches.