Many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another. Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many~ Matthew 24: 10-11 NKJV
A few years back I did something incredibly stupid.
My Mother-in-law (a wise and perceptive woman) attempted to give me a friendly warning concerning the character of a person I considered at the time to be a very close friend.
Rather than doing the smart thing and simply taking her warning to heart- or perhaps probing a bit to try and find out what exactly caused her to come the conclusion she came to about the situation- I took offense. I got angry with her for telling me something I did not want to hear.
Long story short I continued to share way too much information with this person who was (in hindsight) not at all trustworthy. I will not weary you with all the particulars of the long-term consequences of my idiocy. I will tell you that to this day I am paying a price for snubbing the wisdom of my Mother-in-law.
I recently found myself on the other end of a similar situation. It all started when I attempted to alert someone to some potential pitfalls I perceived in a particular situation. The person I tried to warn took obvious offense and assumed I was being critical rather than helpful. As soon as I realized I had caused offense I apologized and moved on.
Finding myself on the receiving end of another’s offended-ness got me thinking about the whole issue of offense. Unless you have been living in a cave for the better part of the past decade you know that we live in a society full of people who are easily offended by pretty much everything.
I recently read about a group of women who have decided it is a heinous form of cultural appropriation for white women to wear hoop earrings (yes, you read that correctly). These women have posted some utterly intriguing rants describing in vivid detail exactly how offended they are that white women wear hoop earrings.
Seriously. You can Google it.
One definition of offense is a feeling of displeasure that is caused by the words or actions of others. We all get offended from time-to-time, and sometimes our offense is justified. Some words and behaviors really are offensive and should not be tolerated. Nonetheless, living life in a perpetual state of offense is a spiritually dangerous thing to do for at least four reasons…
Offense sets us up for deception-
In Matthew 24 Jesus describes what life will look like prior to His second coming. Jesus predicted that as we near the end people will take offense at just about everything. Offense will lead to hate and betrayal. Out of all that hate, betrayal and offense, false teachers will arise and lead people away from truth. Jesus was doing more than giving as a vision of future events in this verse. He was providing insight into the very nature of offense. Offense (by it’s very nature) causes us to become heavily focused on feelings. When feelings are running the show we become unwilling and/or unable to comprehend truth that doesn’t line up with what our feelings are telling us. As a result we become sitting ducks for false teachers who tell us what we want to hear, rather than what we need to hear (2nd Timothy 4:3).
Offense derails us from God’s mission for our lives-
Most people do not drop out of church or ditch ministry activities because of big doctrinal disagreements, insurmountable scheduling conflicts or lack of time. Those are the excuses we use to drop out of church and ministry. Most folks drop out of church (and derail God’s plan for their lives in the process) due to some petty personal offense they simply refused to let go of.
Offense produces bitterness-
Offenses and insults that are not quickly forgiven and forgotten inevitably breed bitterness. Hebrews 12:15, teaches that bitterness is a choice, a choice that defiles and ultimately destroys those who give-in to it.
Continually picking-up an offense is a sign of pride-
Usually we become offended because someone tells us an unpleasant truth about ourselves or points out a fact we missed. It’s the height of pride to believe that we know so much that we never need to be taught, informed or redirected. Proverbs 16:18 tells us that pride comes before a fall. Those falls almost always occur because a warning went unheeded.
Because offense causes us to become dangerously self-focused, we are never more open to pride, bitterness and self-deception than when we are offended. It is impossible to live in this world without becoming offended, but it is possible to assume the best about other people and to forgive quickly when we do become offended.