Skandalizō is the Greek word for offend, and it has a number of meanings.
- to entice to sin (Matthew 5:29; 1Corinthians 8:13)
- to cause a person to begin to distrust and desert one whom he ought to trust and obey; to cause to fall away; to stumble (John 6:61; Matthew 26:33)
- to be offended in one, i.e. to see in another what I disapprove of and what hinders me from acknowledging his authority (Matthew 11:6; Mark 6:3)
- to cause one to judge unfavorably or unjustly of another (Matthew 17:27)
- to cause one displeasure at a thing (Matthew 15:12)
I think it’s safe to say that the opportunities for us to become offended at others or at God are many. I can count, using both hands at least, the people I have known throughout my walk with Jesus who have become offended, using most if not all of the definitions above.
Watching people stumble, enter a life of sin, or walk away altogether, is hard, especially since it is avoidable. Our offenses spring from our flesh and we have been given the Holy Spirit, who does not get offended.
Offended is our choice, not something that happens to us, or something we do that we just couldn’t help.
Mary and Martha could have chosen to be offended when Jesus did not come to heal Lazarus. They may have been hurt, but they did not become offended. (John 11)
In Matthew 11, John the Baptist is in prison, and asks what is now a very well known question:
“Are You the One who is to come, or should we expect someone else?”
The same man who said “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.” (John 1:29) is now saying “are You the one?” Jesus’ answer seems puzzling.
“Jesus replied, “Go back and report to John what you hear and see: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor. Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me.”
I believe John the Baptist knew who Jesus was, but doubts crept in when Jesus didn’t do what John thought He would do. Like many others, perhaps he thought Jesus was there to start a revolution and overthrow Rome. Instead, He was going to “the least of these”.
It seems to me that Jesus’ pronouncement of blessing on anyone who doesn’t stumble because of Him, was also a warning to John. It’s Me, John. I am still the One. Don’t get offended because I am not doing what you expected of Me.
I think we need to hear the same warning because so many of us are waiting for Jesus to “restore to us the kingdom” by overthrowing a government and leading a great political revolution. Or perhaps we’re waiting for Him to give us what we want. To make our lives comfortable, fulfill our dreams, and help us succeed in all of our plans.
Instead, Jesus is still going to the least of us. Healing, bringing us back to life, and telling us the good news that we can be saved from our wretchedness. He is sanctifying us, often by fire, to rid us of our impurities, our selfishness, and our idolatry. Turning our ways into His way. And sometimes, as in the case of Mary and Martha, it can look like He’s not doing anything at all, when in fact He is about to show us the glory of God!
It’s Me, Church. I am still the One. Don’t get offended because I am not doing what you expected of Me.
We may get our feelings hurt. We might get angry at God and for sure one another. But when we choose to be offended we have chosen something far more serious, and dangerous, which is why I think Satan’s goal isn’t hurt feelings in the people of God. It is to encourage us to be offended. And the deeper the offense, the better.
The truth is, Jesus is still the One, His Word is still true, and His ways are still higher than our ways. He is still the head, and we are the body.
We cannot be offended at the body, without being offended at the head. I’ve known people who have said “I love Jesus, I just can’t stand Christians.” Or, “I love Jesus, but I don’t want anything to do with the Church.” The truth is, Jesus will never separate Himself from His Church. We do that, and it is always based on an offense.
We are His Church and the command still stands to walk in love toward one another, to forgive one another, and to consider others above ourselves. To pray together, walk together, serve together, and worship God together.
Bottom line: The whole world is offended these days, and the enticement to join them in it is strong. But we are not the world, we are the Church.
We can choose to live unoffended.