How To Overcome Offense Biblically: It’s A Choice

Have you been offended yet today? One of the temptations Satan throws our way is that of being easily offended. It’s a common stumbling block for everyone, and followers of Jesus are certainly not immune.  But, we can learn how to overcome offense by using Biblical principals. 

(cloudy sky) How To Overcome Offense Biblically - It's A Choice

In this broken world, offense comes all too easily. This side of heaven, we are all imperfect people, and it only takes a word or an omission to send us spiraling toward an offended heart. Let’s take a look at what the Bible says about offense and how to avoid having a spirit of offense.

What Does The Bible Say About Being Offended?

These powerful verses from the Bible can help us understand what offense is and how to avoid allowing it to affect our Christian walk and ultimately our ministry and God’s intended purpose for us.

Romans 9:30-33

What shall we say then? That Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, attained righteousness, but the righteousness that is by faith; however, Israel, pursuing a law of righteousness, did not arrive at that law. Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as though they could by works. They stumbled over the stumbling stone, just as it is written: “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense, and the one who believes in Him will not be put to shame.” (NASB)

1 Peter 2:8

…and, “A stone of stumbling and a rock of offense:; for they stumble because they are disobedient to the word, and to this they were also appointed.  (NASB)

The prophet Isaiah was given the Word of God to tell the people that One was coming who would be a stumbling stone and a rock of offense to the Jewish nation. Jesus is referred to as this rock of offense in both the Old and the New Testaments. 

The apostle Paul refers to the same prophecy, and elaborates on this in his letter to the Romans, telling them that Jesus is offensive to the nation of Israel because although they who pursued righteousness, they were following the law by their works, not by faith. They couldn’t get past the law to get to the Savior, so they kept denying Him. It was the Gentiles who have believed by faith and have found true righteousness in Jesus Christ. 

Isaiah 44:22

I have swept away your sins like a cloud. I have scattered your offenses like the morning mist. Oh, return to me, for I have paid the price to set you free.” (NLT)

Ephesians 5:1-2

Therefore, be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma. (NASB)

2 Corinthians 12:10 

For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (ESV)

1 Peter 4:14

If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory, and of God, rests upon you. (NASB)

We are reminded by the prophetic words of Isaiah that God has scattered our offenses and completely swept away our sins. If God’s grace goes this far, then should we not be more than willing to do so for others? 

Both Paul and Peter tell us how privileged they were to have been able to suffer for the sake of their Savior, since He gave up his own life for us all, In making such a sacrifice each one in the body of Christ is strengthened and blessed.

These offenses occur when we are insulted for proclaiming His name, when we endure persecution and other calamities because we are Jesus-followers, when we go through hardships or weaknesses because of the Name of Jesus. And it is in enduring such a great offense as one of these for His sake, that we are made strong through the Holy Spirit.

Proverbs 19:11

A person’s wisdom yields patience; it is to one’s glory to overlook an offense.  (NIV)

Proverbs 17:9

Whoever would foster love covers over an offense, but whoever repeats the matter separates close friends. (NIV)

Proverbs 12:16

The vexation of a fool is known at once, but the prudent ignores an insult. (ESV)

Romans 3:23-24

For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet God, in his grace, freely makes us right in his sight. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins. 

The wisdom book of Proverbs makes it clear that when we have the love of God, we have the good sense to avoid the negative emotions associated with being offended, therefore we can simply make the choice not be offended. When we refuse to be wounded by even a great offense, it shows the offender that we belong to God and choose to hold our witness higher than our pride. 

If we really think about it, another human being can’t offend us more than we have offended God with our sinning. Everyone sins and has sinned. And everyone is offered complete forgiveness by the gospel of Jesus Christ. Passing on the grace of His forgiveness that we have received is worth much, much more than our own offended heart.

NOTE: These principles DO NOT APPLY IN ABUSIVE RELATIONSHIPS! If you are in an abusive relationship you are not only offended, you are being misused, and that is NOT what God wants for you. Seek help for your situation immediately, as this is NOT the avenue for healing in an abusive relationship. 

Is Offense Affecting My Witness?

After studying the subject of offense from a Biblical viewpoint, I truly believe that offended people are ineffective for God’s Kingdom. That’s a hard one, and I’m stepping on my own toes. However, as followers of Christ, who want to set an example by walking in the image of Christ, we should make the conscious choice to not be offended.

I’ve included this list of reasons for how a spirit of offense can impair our own faith as well as our God-given purpose followed by a Scripture that points to the Biblical basis:

  • Our Christian influence on others depends on remaining un-offendable. If we become offended when rejected as God’s messengers, we lose our ability to get through to the person who offended us, and that person may never have another chance. In that case, we could be the obstacle that keeps someone else from believing. We must overlook offense for their sake, also realizing that offense damages our own faith, too (2 Corinthians 6:3, Romans 14:13).
  • God has ever so much more reason to be offended at the sins of humanity than we have to be offended over any insult or principle. And yet He continues to love and nurture us, as His children. (Isaiah 44:22).
  • Offense is an obstacle to relationship. Satan uses offense as a powerful tool in the spiritual warfare that he incites. He wants to ruin relationships and tear people apart. For more on Christian unity in relationships read What Can We Learn From Stories Of Unity In the Bible? Satan wants nothing better than to shut down our Christian influence so that we are totally ineffective for bringing people to God. (Proverbs 17:9, 2 Corinthians 10:3-5).
  • Offense takes the form of unforgiveness, and choosing not to forgive an offense from someone causes God to choose not to forgive our own offenses. We are instructed to be kind, tender-hearted, and forgiving to one another. This doesn’t just apply to our beloved brothers and sisters in Christ – this applies to the way we treat everyone. God forgave us, and so we are to forgive others – all of them (Matthew 6:15, Ephesians 4:32, Colossians 3:13).
  • If we believe that we are the only ones hurt by an offense or an insult, we are believing falsehood. No one has escaped being the offender, and no one escapes the chance of being offended many times in life. (Ecclesiastes 7:21-22)
  • Revenge –  or, paying back evil for evil, should not be in our vocabulary or our thoughts. The job of each one of us, as a child of God, is to live peaceably with others as much as it depends on us, and leave the vindication for wrong to God. He can do a much more effective job than we can, and can even reach that person’s heart in ways we never could (Romans 12:17-19).
  • We are guaranteed to be offended at times, but God has prepared the way by telling us to expect it, and instructing us to love. Because love covers a multitude of offenses. We are to bear with one another in love. This may mean putting up with many uncomfortable things (a multitude of sins) because of love for a difficult family member or coworker, or even a stranger. By God’s grace can we do this. It doesn’t come naturally, but through Christ, with the help of the Holy Spirit, we are able. (Proverbs 10:12, Philippians 4:13, Ephesians 4:2, 1 Corinthians 13:4-7
  • Jesus tells us to be humble. Humility places us last on the list. Being obedient is so often hard and even downright ugly at times. We may think, “But surely He doesn’t want me to…”.  But Jesus said, “Blessed is the one who is not offended by Me” (Matthew 11:6). 

“Companions as we are in this work with you, we beg you, please don’t squander one bit of this marvelous life God has given us. God reminds us, “I heard your call in the nick of time; The day you needed me, I was there to help. Well, now is the right time to listen, the day to be helped. Don’t put it off; don’t frustrate God’s work by showing up late, throwing a question mark over everything we’re doing. Our work as God’s servants gets validated—or not—in the details. People are watching us as we stay at our post, alertly, unswervingly . . . in hard times, tough times, bad times; when we’re beaten up, jailed, and mobbed; working hard, working late, working without eating; with pure heart, clear head, steady hand; in gentleness, holiness, and honest love; when we’re telling the truth, and when God’s showing his power; when we’re doing our best setting things right; when we’re praised, and when we’re blamed; slandered, and honored; true to our word, though distrusted; ignored by the world, but recognized by God; terrifically alive, though rumored to be dead; beaten within an inch of our lives, but refusing to die; immersed in tears, yet always filled with deep joy; living on handouts, yet enriching many; having nothing, having it all.

Second Corinthian 6:1-10 (MSG)

How Can I Overcome Offense Biblically?

Choosing not to be offended is much easier said than done. When the offense comes, we may react in our old ways before we even think about it. This choice requires a great deal of thought and prayer to master. But with the power of God and the help of the Holy Spirit working in us, we can prevent the root of bitterness that grows from an offended spirit. 

We can learn much about this spirit of offense from the apostle Paul. In Ephesians 4:1-3 he urges us to walk worthy of the calling God has given us. Whatever the Lord has called us to do, we are to do it humbly, gently, patiently, lovingly, in spite of the faults of others, keeping in relationship with God, and at peace in relationship with those we are serving. 

That is a tall order, and I can say that I have failed many times to fulfill the expectation by not retaining these qualities. Having said this, I have also learned much from my failures and forgivenesses in these areas. 

Jesus talks about bearing fruit in John 15:1-8, and Paul references this fruit-bearing in Galatians 5:22-23. He lists the fruit of the Spirit, which are qualities we will develop when we abide in Christ. They are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. 

In Galatians 5:19-25, He contrasts the above qualities of Biblical fruitfulness with this very different list of qualities that come from the flesh, our human nature. Those are sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, factions, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. 

The thing is, taking offense is not on the list of qualities that come from the Holy Spirit, yet offense is at the root of many of the qualities that stem from the sinful nature. From this, we can see how harmful choosing to offense can be and what it can lead to. 

Yet we can avoid a spirit of offense when we obey God’s word, placing our trust in Jesus, therefore inviting the Holy Spirit to fill us and guide us in our attitudes, words, and actions. When we do this, we will have great peace ourselves and we will foster a bond of peace with others around us.  

Free 31-Day Bible Reading Plan On The Power Of Forgiveness

We all want to be in God’s favor, and there are many times when we may debate the right thing to do in a given situation. On the subject of offense, Peter has some advice for us in 1 Peter 2:19 (HCSB). With this godly advice, we can see that we are wise to take careful thought before reacting when someone insults or offends us. 

The Pharisees stumbled over Jesus, who became a rock of offense to them by opposing their man-made rules and the methods they themselves had developed for practicing their religion. Jesus preached grace and the Pharisees preached legalism. When they clashed, they blamed Him – the One who was carrying out the plans of the God who chose them as His beloved people. 

Jesus came to show us all how God’s grace and mercy work, and they were so offended that they rejected not only God’s grace but God’s own Son, sent to save them by that very grace they were discrediting. Yet, in their offense, they were actually instrumental in carrying out the plan of God for eternal grace for all people everywhere. 

From this, we see that offense may be uncomfortable, hurtful, and even damaging. But it’s nothing that God cannot handle for us when we bow to Him, allowing Jesus to be our perfect example. When we take the first step in overcoming offense, our heavenly Father will go the rest of the way and take care of us with His righteous right hand (this is Jesus), just as Isaiah 41:10-11 assures us.

When we are acting with a clear conscience, out of obedience to God, we have His protection, which is more complete and secure than any other. 

How To Overcome Offense Biblically - It's A Choice

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