On Offending Others

by Jefferson David Tant

Did you ever offend someone? Have you ever been offended? I am quite sure we can all answer “Yes” to both of those questions. And while it should never be our intent to offend others, we know it does happen. Sometimes it is done unintentionally, while there are times when we do intend to offend.

Paul dealt with the matter of offending others with respect to eating meat that had been used as a sacrifice to idols.

"But if anyone says to you, "This is meat sacrificed to idols," do not eat it, for the sake of the one who informed you, and for conscience' sake; I mean not your own conscience, but the other man's; for why is my freedom judged by another's conscience? If I partake with thankfulness, why am I slandered concerning that for which I give thanks? Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. Give no offense either to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God; just as I also please all men in all things, not seeking my own profit but the profit of the many, so that they may be saved" (I Corinthians 10:28-33).

Paul urged the Corinthian Christians to be mindful of others who may not have the same knowledge they have that meat is just meat, whether it has been used in a sacrifice to idols or not.

So, while it should never be our intent to offend others, we must also recognize that truth does sometimes offend, and we should not sacrifice truth to keep from offending others.

We know that many were offended by Christ when he came into his hometown and was performing miracles. “And they took offense at Him. But Jesus said to them, 'A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown and in his own household'" (Matthew 13:57).

The truth is, the truth will offend at times, even if that is not our intent. “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 disappointed'" (Romans 9:33).

We would suppose that Stephen offended the Jews when they stoned him to death. Note some of his words to them: "You men who are stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears are always resisting the Holy Spirit; you are doing just as your fathers did. Which one of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? They killed those who had previously announced the coming of the Righteous One, whose betrayers and murderers you have now become; you who received the law as ordained by angels, and yet did not keep it." Now when they heard this, they were cut to the quick, and they began gnashing their teeth at him" (Acts 7:51-54).

We could cite other passages about Peter and Paul and other disciples who were imprisoned, beaten, and put to death. And why? Because they dared to speak the truth. Because some were offended by their message.

So, what about today? Has the truth changed? Has Satan’s influence changed? Are men’s hearts any different than in the first century? Do we need to soften the message so as not to offend?

Obviously, the answer is “No” to each of the questions.

Yes, we need to be careful about our attitude and the use of our words, but we cannot muzzle the truth in order not to offend.

Have I ever offended anyone with regard to spiritual matters? I suppose I have, although that was not my intention. In seeking to have a Bible study with a neighbor when we lived in New Mexico, I went to this young Baptist minister’s home across the street. He was not home, and his wife said she would tell him what I wanted when he came home. Sure enough, in time he came to see me. He said his wife told him what I wanted, but he was not interested. Before he left, I asked him one question. “You believe that we are saved by faith only, don’t you?” He replied that he did. I opened my Bible to James 2:24 and asked him to read it. “You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone.

He seemed offended. He closed the Bible shut, admitted he had never read that passage, and walked away. That was the end of our conversation and the end of any neighborly association. I was sorry that the truth seemed to offend him, but that’s what truth does at times.

Obviously, not everyone receives a correction or rebuke with a good attitude, but it must be done for the saving of the soul. Paul advised Timothy to “preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction” (II Timothy 4:2).

So, whether preaching, teaching a class, or simply having a discussion, let us use our words wisely, but let us not soften the truth for fear of offending the listener.

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