What is the spirit of offense? How do you know if you have it? Why do so many churches use this phrase against people to control them?
The phrase "spirit of offense" is not found in the Bible. People can cause offenses by their behavior, but using the phrase "spirit of offense" implies that it is an outside force that is responsible and not the person.
Truthfully, no phrase can "control" people. People allow themselves to be controlled by others. Me? If someone tried telling me that I had a spirit of offense, I would laugh and ask them to define "offense." It seems few people really know what an offense is and confuse it with the idea of being insulted or just not liking what another person says.
The word "offense" is a translation of the Greek word skandalizo (verb) and skandalon (noun), which means a trap or a snare. So the young man who is snared by a harlot (Proverbs 7:23) was technically offended by her. Idol worship can be a cause of offense or a snare (Psalms 106:36). Wealth can be an offense (I Timothy 6:9). As Christians, our duty is to lead people to Christ – not to drive them away into sin. It is the wicked who cause others to stumble (Romans 14:20-21). "We give no offense in anything, that our ministry may not be blamed" (II Corinthians 6:3).
Yet, despite our best effort, we will at times cause offenses. "It is impossible that no offenses should come, but woe to him through whom they do come! It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were thrown into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones" (Luke 17:1-2). We all sin at times and in our sin we may cause another person to stumble.
Yet, even living righteously can be a snare for another. Jesus never sinned, yet he was a rock of offense (Romans 9:33). He did no wrong, but he forced people to make a choice between righteousness and wickedness, and many chose wrongly. "Therefore, to you who believe, He is precious; but to those who are disobedient, "The stone which the builders rejected Has become the chief cornerstone," and "A stone of stumbling And a rock of offense." They stumble, being disobedient to the word, to which they also were appointed" (I Peter 2:7-8). People did get offended at what Jesus said (Matthew 15:10-12). Take a look at the article "The Offensive Christ" for more details.
Being offensive, that is, snaring a person in sin is wrong. But not all offenses are the same. Being a person who knows what is right and causing people to face the problems in their own life is not wrong, even though they are forced into making a choice. We should look to give offense, but as Christians, we should not take offense either. Nothing should come between the Christian and his God -- including his own sins.