It wasn’t the first time and probably won’t be the last, but this particular time annoyed me more than usual.
“I am so sorry, Lord,” I said, “I hope I didn’t offend you by going to sleep in the middle of praying.” I was sincerely sorry in my apology.
“Of course not,” he answered. “Nothing you do could offend me.” I could almost feel him smiling. “Have you given any thought to that word, offend?”
Well, no, I hadn’t thought about it at all, actually. I just use the word like everyone else does from time to time. Maneuvering my way through meowing kitties I headed to the kitchen for their breakfast and my cup of coffee. Offend, I thought. What does that mean?
A TV show with too much violence or filthy language offends me. International news reporting grossly evil behaviors offends my sensibilities. Disagreeable attitudes and behaviors, those kinds of things are offensive. Even odors wafting from the paper mill or garbage pail can be offensive to my nose.
But hurt feelings was what it usually meant to me. Sometimes deeply hurt feelings. Ridicule, sneering comments about various things, perhaps related to what I believe. Keeping silent wasn’t always easy, or even possible.
As I recalled some of those occasions, a verse popped into my mind – “Great peace have they which love thy law: and nothing shall offend them.” (Ps. 119:165) I had made myself memorize that verse years ago when faced with offensive moments at home or at work, legitimate reasons to get angry, frustrated or impatient.
“No offense,” someone would say, all the time intending offense behind a phony smile. “None taken,” was the acceptable response, but of course offense was taken. I would ask the Lord to forgive them for offending me, and forgive me for holding a grudge. Over time I got better at it.
But I didn’t think that was what the Lord was trying to teach me. “Is that it, I asked him?”
“No, think again,” he said. “Think stumble or fall down, made to stop in your tracks.” He began to explain what “offend them” in that verse truly meant. “Think football. Think military.”
So I did some research. I learned that the English word comes from old French, meaning to strike, causing someone to fall down. It would stop them from going any further. I began to understand.
Offending someone’s feelings does stop something, it stops good thoughts or good opinions, puts a halt to a good relationship, even if it’s only for a few minutes. It also starts something, bad thoughts, bad opinions, a contentious relationship.
“The best defense is a good offense.” A good offense gains ground for its own team, nullifying – stopping – the opposition’s defensive actions. True in football, true in military tactics.
Spiritually, the enemy’s offense is aimed at stopping our faith, stopping our walk with the Lord, hindering our ability to share the gospel with someone else. But if I love God’s law (word), nothing the enemy can do will stop me. It won’t stop my faith from working.
Our spiritual offense is aimed at stopping something, too. Aimed at stopping the enemy from deceiving others, from leading them down the wrong path.
Jesus himself is a stumbling block, according to the Bible. He’s an offense to those who refuse to believe the gospel, that Jesus is who he says he is, to those who want to keep others from believing, too. He’s certainly an offense to the devil. I like that.
Meditating on all that, I had another thought:
If you put enough stumbling blocks in the devil’s way, you give people more chances to get themselves untangled from his lies. If you share the gospel enough times, that’s what you’re doing. You’re giving people one more chance to believe, to be rescued from the enemy’s hands. See I Cor. 3:6 and II Tim. 2:24-26.
There’s an old cliche, “No-one has a right to hear the gospel twice until the whole world has heard it once.” Sounds good, doesn’t it?
But I myself heard the gospel dozens of times, before I finally asked Jesus to be my savior and Lord. I’m glad people didn’t quit sharing the good news with me, before that day. I’m glad the gospel offended the enemy on my behalf!
Here are some definitions:
(1) H4383 – mikshowl; a stumbling, fall; means or occasion of stumbling; i.e. put a stumbling block in someone’s way.
“Great peace have they which love thy law: and nothing shall offend them.” Ps. 119:165.
(2) H816 – asham; be offend, do wrong; be guilty.
(3) H898 – bagad; act treacherously, transgress, deceitful, covertly, unfaithful.
(1) G4624 – skandalizo; put a stumblingblock in someone’s way; entice to sin; cause a person to distrust one he ought to trust; cause to fall away; cause one to judge unfavorably or unjustly of another.
“But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.” Matt. 18:6; this passage is found in all three gospels.
“Woe unto the world because of offences! for it must needs be that offences come; but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh!” Matt. 18:7
“As it is written, Behold, I lay in Sion a stumblingstone and rock of offence: and whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.” Romans 9:33 – refers to Isaiah 8:14. I Peter 2:6-8 refers to the same Isaiah scripture, speaking of Jesus, the chief corner stone, a stone of stumbling and rock of offence to those who are disobedient.
(2) G4417 – ptaio; to cause one to stumble or fall; to err, make a mistake, sin.
“For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.” James 2:10.