I’m going to blame social media for the influx of unique and individual expressions of offense in our current culture. Giving everyone a mic and platform to share their opinion can be a great thing, or it can be totally obnoxious and contribute to a national sense of hopelessness, division, and apathy. Ironically, I am using this platform to share something I’ve been pondering recently- but I hope that you will find that it is backed by truth found in Scripture!
Did you know that Jesus warns us about feeling offended? That’s because offense is not good for us.
The dictionary defines the word “offended” as a verb meaning, “to cause to feel upset, annoyed, or resentful” or “To feel displeased.”
The word “feel” is key here. But what is the thought that occurs before the feeling? And what is the behavior exhibited after the feeling? What I have found in my work with people is that generally:
What I think, leads to an emotion (What I feel).
What I feel, leads to a bodily sensation (Where I feel).
Where I feel, leads to a behavior (What I do/What I don’t do).
What I do/What I don’t do leads to a cognition (What I think).
And the cycle repeats. This cycle can be negative or positive! It’s just how we are wired.
In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus brings up the topic of offense… a word that we will dig into more deeply in order to understand it’s richer meaning. Here are a few places where we see this word pop up (I would encourage you to read the context around these verses to gain more perspective regarding what is taking place):
“…offences will come: but woe unto him, through whom they come!” (Luke 17: 1, KJV)
“And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.” (Matthew 11:6, ESV)
“Aware that his disciples were grumbling about this, Jesus said to them, “Does this offend you?” (John 6:61, NIV)
In all of these examples, the word “offense” in the Greek is “skandalon” which means: “the movable stick or trigger of a trap, a trap stick, a snare.”
This is hunting language! The Bible likens the enemy to a prowling lion, seeking someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8). Acting out of offense produces an “aroma” of sorts, and this scent makes the hunting easier for the powers of darkness. Being offended is a behavior that we cannot afford to allow into our day to day life! When we choose to take offense, we are missing the mark, missing God’s intended best for us in that moment; it is not good for us and can lead us to feel trapped.
To add another interesting layer… at it’s root, the word “skandalon” is “kamptō” which means: “to bend, to bow, as in worship.”
What is taking God’s position in our hearts when we choose to focus on what offends us, more than we focus on His presence? I’ve heard it said that an idol is “anything we check in with, before we go to the Lord.” Offense can become a strange idol in our lives.
So what am I saying?
Here are my main points and some connections for all of these dots…
- Feeling offended is, without a doubt… a choice. Therefore, not taking offense is also a choice, and a liberating one!
- Feeling offended without doing anything with the emotions tied to that feeling is not only unhelpful, but can be extremely dangerous.
- Offended people get caught in a snare, or a trap that can cause them to feel like they are victims and therefore adopt a victim mentality that can lead to a cycle of unhealthy and paralyzing thoughts, feelings, and physiological sensations that cause them to feel stuck and ensnared. They begin to believe the crippling thought that the enemy and his lies are more powerful than they are.
- “Stuck people” tend to turn to unhealthy escape mechanisms (i.e. porn, gambling, raging, over-eating, excessive drinking, gossip, excessive media consumption, over-exercising, etc…) that eventually lead to addictions that are very difficult to break. The natural consequences of these behaviors exacerbate shame and the feeling of being “stuck” or trapped.
- At it’s root, feeling offended is a choice to place something in worship above God. “Worship” simply means, “to ascribe worth to something.” In other words, when I am offended, I am bowing down and idolizing the thing with which I am offended, or what I believe is the appropriate response to the thing causing the offense. In my heart and mind, I am inappropriately assigning worth to something that is less worthy than God. I am spending more time in the presence of my offense, than in the presence of my Father.
Okay, so what is the solution?
Feelings such as: upset, indignant, annoyed, displeased, etc… are okay, as long as they are brief and we choose to do something constructive with them… to put them into action. As Ephesians says, Be angry… but in your anger, do not sin (4:26). What you may actually and more accurately be feeling, when you are tempted to choose “offense” are these softer, powerful emotions:
Hurt. Sadness. Compassion.
Compassion might say, “Wow, I am so upset/outraged/angry/etc. about ____________. I can’t believe that person/people group/organization/etc. is being treated that way. My heart hurts for them, and I want to do something about it.”
Compassion takes thoughts and feelings, and turns them into CONSTRUCTIVE ACTION. Compassion makes a donation, signs a petition, volunteers time, serves the least of these, helps with chores, listens and empathizes with stories, etc.
When we simply whine or complain in response to our feelings of offense, it is unhelpful. A group discussion with like-minded, offended people is often not constructive, but instead destructive and unbalanced… although it may feel “good” or “comforting” in the moment. Instead, please, join me in deciding to increase our awareness about what we’re feeling and turning it into compassionate action!
Pray with me: Lord, I confess that there are times when I get stuck in offense. I know that this is not your best for me! I desire your presence above all else. I desire to have eyes to see what you see, and ears to hear what you hear. I desire to break off anything in my heart that distracts me from giving you my worship. Help me to increase my awareness of what I feel and think, and help me to turn these into constructive action. I love you, Lord.