Why Are You Offended?

They stumbled over the stumbling stone, just as it is written, "Behold, I lay in Zion a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense, and he who believes in him will not be put to shame." (Romans 9:32-33)

Why did Jesus’ contemporaries take offense at him?  Was he offensive in his speech or actions?  Were they just hypersensitive?

Why does anyone get offended?  Do you get tired of all of the people who seem to get offended at so many things?  How about you: what offends you?

People get offended because they are proud!  Do you take offense at this declaration?  Is there a way that can we never again be offended?  Yes, there is, as long we are willing to understand and admit that it’s an issue we each need to deal with personally.

Now, there are some people who take pleasure in being offended.  They like the attention they can bring to themselves each time they declare that they are offended.  It gives people a way of controlling others.  If I tell you that you offended me, know this: I am trying to get you to change in order to satisfy me.

Therefore, some people do not want to stop being offended.  For them, it is both convenient and comfortable to keep on being offended by others.  However, it is important to note that if you find yourself often, or even occasionally, offended by others, you are in bondage to the attitudes, actions, and words of others.

There is a way to get free from this bondage.  The solution, however, does not require others to change their attitudes, actions, or words. It requires that each of us change our thinking about ourselves.  God wants you to be free from all kinds of bondage, and the truth of God will set you free.

So what is this truth about me that will set me free from ever again being offended by others?  The apostle Paul declared: "I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment."1  Now, there are many who misinterpret this scripture, saying that we are instructed here to think highly of ourselves, but just not too highly.  

That, however, is not what the scripture says.  It tells us to think of ourselves with sound judgment.  But what exactly does that mean?  It means to honestly and soberly appraise ourselves.  This means that we must think of ourselves as God has taught us to think of ourselves; as godly people through the ages have thought of themselves.

Clearly Christ is our example of how to think of ourselves.  Although he deserved to be honored by every person who approached him, the prophet said of him: "He was despised, and we did not esteem him."2  How did Jesus think of himself?

Although he existed in the form of God, [he] did not regard equality with God a thing to be held onto with an eager grasp, but emptied himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.3  

Jesus taught his followers that we should expect to be disliked, and even hated.  "If the world hates you, you know that it has hated me before it hated you," he warned.4  Did you get that?  Expect to be disliked, and even hated!  Jesus was neither surprised nor offended when people spoke ill of him, made fun of him, mistreated him, abused him, and killed him.  The apostle Paul says: "Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus."5  

How did the prophet Isaiah think of himself?  "Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips."6  What did Jeremiah say about himself? "I do not know how to speak, because I am a youth.”7  What did the prophet Amos think about his qualifications to be a prophet?  He said: “I am not a prophet, nor am I the son of a prophet; for I am a herdsman and a grower of sycamore figs."8  

What did the eventual leader and deliverer of the nation of Israel say when God told him that he would lead the Jewish people out of captivity?  "Please, Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither recently nor in time past, nor since you have spoken to your servant; for I am slow of speech and slow of tongue."9  And what did the man who became the wisest king in the history of Israel say when God called him to become king?  "I am but a little child; I do not know how to go out or come in."10 

And what about Jesus; did he declare his ability to act and speak independently?  Jesus said:

Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of himself, unless it is something he sees the Father doing.

I can do nothing on my own initiative. As I hear, I judge; and my judgment is just, because I do not seek my own will, but the will of him who sent me.

I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me.

My teaching is not mine, but his who sent me.

I do nothing on my own initiative, but I speak these things as the Father taught me.

I did not speak on my own initiative, but the Father himself who sent me has given me a commandment as to what to say and what to speak.

The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own initiative, but the Father abiding in me does his works.11  

Do these statements by Jesus mean that he was incapable or powerless to speak or act or decide anything on his own?  No, they simply instruct us that as a matter of character or nature, Jesus never operates independently of his Father.  In this way Jesus provides an example for the way we ought to live in relation to God.  

We are taught to live by faith, not by sight.12  In fact, the scriptures teach us that "Whatever is not from faith is sin."13  Similar to Jesus, we are instructed to never think, act, or speak, independently of our heavenly Father.  Everything we do should be done in dependence upon him.  Are we capable of doing things independently of God?  Of course we are.  Are we capable of doing anything of eternal value apart from God?  No!

Through the prophet Micah, God teaches his people that he is really not interested in all of the things we try to do by our own efforts, no matter how magnanimous or marvelous they may seem.  He teaches us that what he wants from us is to simply, "Do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God."14  This same kind of emphasis is found in many scripture texts.15  

So what does it really mean to be humble, to walk humbly, or to humble ourselves?  It requires sober thinking and sound judgment about ourselves.  We need to realize the truth: We are nobody, we know nothing, we have nothing, we can do nothing, we can say nothing...apart from Jesus Christ.  Does this statement offend you?  Do you take exception to this declaration?  Do you emphatically disagree with what I've called "the truth"?

Consider these scriptures:

I am nobody16

I have become foolish; you yourselves compelled me. Actually I should have been commended by you, for in no respect was I inferior to the most eminent apostles, even though I am a nobody. (2 Corinthians 12:11)  

I know nothing17  

For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified. (1 Corinthians 2:2)

I have nothing

What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it? (1 Corinthians 4:7)

I can do nothing

I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. (John 15:5)

I can say nothing

And when I came to you, brethren, I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God. (1 Corinthians 2:1)

If you still doubt the truth of this description of biblical humility, consider the words of Jesus to the church in Laodicea: "You say, 'I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing,' and you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked."18  

Think about this for a few minutes: Can you make yourself breathe all throughout the day and night?  Can you make your heart beat?  Can you make yourself go to sleep?  Can you turn food into energy?  Can make yourself grow an inch?  Can you make your immune system fight off diseases?  If you cannot control, or even understand how all of these these basic functions of the human body work, then is it too much to say: I am nobody, I know nothing, I have nothing, I can do nothing, and I can say nothing, apart from Jesus Christ?

So then, what does all of this have to do with being offended?  Just this: if you are truly humble, you will never be offended by what anyone says or does to you.  Jesus was never offended because he voluntarily humbled himself: he took the position of a servant, not his rightful position as almighty God.  Whoever will think of himself/herself like Jesus thought of himself, and will take the place of a servant in every relationship, will also be free from the bondage of being offended by the actions or words of others.  

You see, the religious leaders of Jesus' day took offense at his words and actions because they thought: I am somebody, I know something, I have something, I can do something, and I can say something...all by myself.  In fact, they were probably thinking more like this: I am exceptional, I know a lot of important truths, I have a lot of valuable things, I can do a lot of amazing things, and I can say a lot of things that others want to hear.

When Jesus came along and said things that the religious leaders disagreed with, or was attracting the crowds that normally flocked to hear them speak, or was doing miracles that they couldn't do, and which generally made them seem less significant, they were offended.  But if they had understood that it was God that gave them the ability to do anything good at all, they wouldn't have been offended.

Was John the Baptist offended when Jesus began to draw away from him the crowds that he was accustomed to attracting?  Not at all.  Why not?  He had the mind of a servant.  John said: "A man can receive nothing unless it has been given him from heaven. My joy has been made full. He must increase, but I must decrease."19  Rather than being offended at the increasing popularity of Jesus -- at the expense of his own popularity, he was excited.  To him, life was all about knowing Jesus and making him known.  

When the apostle Paul was imprisoned, some people were hoping to cause Paul to suffer distress by the way they were preaching the message about Christ.  They were preaching, the scripture says, motivated by envy and strife.  Did Paul take offense?  No, he simply responded: "What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed; and in this I rejoice."20  For him, life was all about knowing Jesus and making him known.  He said it this way: "For me, to live is Christ."21  

In contrast, I know a Christian woman who told me how offended she was when a co-worker of hers used the Lord's name in vain.  She asked him to stop cursing within earshot of her, and told me that she felt it was her right to not have to work in an environment where she had to be exposed to that kind of speech.  She felt as though he was doing it specifically because he knew it upset her.

What she didn't realize was that she was expecting him to humble himself and show respect to her.  What Christ tells us to do is to humble ourselves and love and serve and pray for those who treat us badly.  Unfortunately she was a person who found fault in a lot of the people around her, both inside and outside the church.  She had unwittingly set herself up as the judge of those around her, and although she wanted to know Christ and make him known, she was failing in both of these objectives.  She came across as a bitter and unhappy woman.  It's a miserable way to live.

When was the last time you declared that you were offended by something someone said or did, or failed to say or do?  God wants to set you free from these kinds of attitudes.  He doesn't want your joy to rise and fall according to the words and actions of others around you.  You need to understand and embrace the truth about who you really are.

You are nobody, you know nothing, you have nothing, you can do nothing, and you can say nothing, apart from Jesus Christ.  That's the truth.  Embrace it and be free.

1 Romans 12:3

2 Isaiah 53:3

3 Philippians 2:6-8

4 John 15:18

5 Philippians 2:5

6 Isaiah 6:5 - I used to think that the closer I got to God, the better I'd think and feel about myself.  However, I saw that Isaiah felt worse, and thought more soberly, about himself precisely when he saw a clear vision of God in his holiness.

7 Jeremiah 1:6

8 Amos 7:14

9 Exodus 4:10

10 1 Kings 3:7

11 John 5:19,30; 6:38; 7:16; 8:28; 12:49; 14:10

12 2 Corinthians 5:7

13 Romans 14:23

14 Micah 6:6-8

15 To name a few: Isaiah 57:15; 66:1-2; Psalm 25:9; 51:16-17; Matthew 11:28-30; 22:37-40

16 God called David: "A man after my heart", yet David said of himself: "Who am I, O Lord God, and what is my house, that you have brought me this far?" (2 Samuel 7:18)  See also 1 Samuel 18:18; 1 Chronicles 29:14; Psalm 22:6.  Nebuchadnezzar learned his insignificance the hard way! (Daniel 4:35)  The apostle Paul called himself the foremost of sinners (1 Timothy 1:15), and the least of the apostles (1 Corinthians 15:9), and said that there was nothing good in him (Romans 7:18). 

17 In Christ are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. (Colossians 2:3)

18 Revelation 3:17

19 John 3:27-30

20 Philippians 1:18

21 Philippians 1:21

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