Tripping Hazards: The Offender

Last week, we learned about the tripping hazard of offense. We learned that although Jesus said that it is impossible to live life without being offended, He also said that offense is one thing that is sure to put us in danger of the fires of hell. He literally spoke of it this severely.

We learned that offense comes from the Greek work skandalon, which literally translated is part of a trap to which the bait is attached, hence, the trap or snare itself. It is quite literally the bait of Satan to trap and ensnare us. It keeps us in our past and prevents us from running with full perseverance the race that Christ has purposed for our lives.

We know all too well of the dangers of offense. Offense causes church splits, causes members to leave churches, keeps nations at war, divides nations, separates close friends, shatters families, makes employees loath their jobs, keeps customers away from businesses, causes mental illnesses, and on and on. Offense is the root cause of all sorts of issues and sins. It divides us not only from the person whom offended us, and whomever agrees with them in their offense, but it also divides us from God, Himself.

So, what is the solution for this problem. If offense is so dangerous and yet we will all certainly take the bait in our lives, what are we to do?

To begin to unravel this mystery, this morning, we are going to look at what scripture teaches about the one who is the offender, the one who causes offense. After all, Jesus said:

Luke 17:1 (NKJV)
It is impossible that no offenses should come, but woe to him through whom they do come!

Matthew 18:6-7
6 “If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea. 7 Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to stumble! Such things must come, but woe to the person through whom they come!

The more serious side of offense is not the person who is offended, but rather the person who offended the other. Jesus literally said woe to us who offend others, that it would be better for us to have a large millstone hung around our necks and to be drowned in the depths of the sea because we offended someone. That’s pretty clear and serious language that Jesus chose to use! Jesus didn’t say, “Woe to whom is offended. They should just suck it up and learn not to be so easily offended!”. Jesus said, “Woe to whom offenses come through!”

This is especially alarming because what causes one person to stumble may not cause another to stumble. What offends one person may not offend another. When we offend someone, we may very well not understand why they would be offended.

In most cases, this is not a black and white matter. Although we may believe firmly because of our convictions that they are, the reality is that they are not. What Jesus convicts me of may not be a conviction for someone else because of the simple fact that what causes me to stumble into sin may not cause another person to stumble into sin.

Does scripture teach us how to deal with these specific issues and teach us how not to be offensive? After all, none of us want to be on the ‘woe’ side of Jesus!

What does scripture teach specifically about these issues that are not black and white?
DON’T BE A BLOCKHEAD!!!
Well, to be more Biblically accurate, don’t be a stumbling block!

Romans 14

Accept the one whose faith is weak, without quarreling over disputable matters. 2 One person’s faith allows them to eat anything, but another, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. 3 The one who eats everything must not treat with contempt the one who does not, and the one who does not eat everything must not judge the one who does, for God has accepted them. 4 Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To their own master, servants stand or fall. And they will stand, for the Lord is able to make them stand.

5 One person considers one day more sacred than another; another considers every day alike. Each of them should be fully convinced in their own mind. 6 Whoever regards one day as special does so to the Lord. Whoever eats meat does so to the Lord, for they give thanks to God; and whoever abstains does so to the Lord and gives thanks to God. 7 For none of us lives for ourselves alone, and none of us dies for ourselves alone. 8 If we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. 9 For this very reason, Christ died and returned to life so that he might be the Lord of both the dead and the living.

10 You, then, why do you judge your brother or sister? Or why do you treat them with contempt? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat. 11 It is written:

“‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord,
‘every knee will bow before me;
every tongue will acknowledge God.’”
12 So then, each of us will give an account of ourselves to God.

13 Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister. (DON’T BE A BLOCKHEAD!!!) 14 I am convinced, being fully persuaded in the Lord Jesus, that nothing is unclean in itself. But if anyone regards something as unclean, then for that person it is unclean. 15 If your brother or sister is distressed because of what you eat, you are no longer acting in love. Do not by your eating destroy someone for whom Christ died. 16 Therefore do not let what you know is good be spoken of as evil. 17 For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, 18 because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and receives human approval.

19 Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification. 20 Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. All food is clean, but it is wrong for a person to eat anything that causes someone else to stumble. 21 It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything else that will cause your brother or sister to fall.

22 So whatever you believe about these things keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the one who does not condemn himself by what he approves. 23 But whoever has doubts is condemned if they eat, because their eating is not from faith; and everything that does not come from faith is sin.

In this matter, I really don’t even need to expound. Let arguable matters remain arguable matters and most things are exactly this! If someone is doing something under the conviction that the Holy Spirit has lead them to do it, then allow Jesus to sit on His throne of judgment and don’t try to kick Him off of it and look down on them. After all, if you do so, you are not judging that person, but you are actually judging and condemning Jesus, Himself!

In the end, there is only one Judge and no jury. That person, as well as yourself, stands only before Jesus and gives and answer to Him. Don’t be a blockhead! Choose not to be a stumbling block to anyone, choose not to place a stumbling block in front of anyone, and choose not to destroy the work of God! We are called to be builders in the Kingdom of God and not a self-proclaimed judges nor demolition crews in the Kingdom of God!

However, what if we can share scriptures which defend our offense and reveal that we were right and the offended person was wrong? What if they just don’t know what scripture teaches yet?

1 Corinthians 8
1 Now about food sacrificed to idols: We know that “We all possess knowledge.” But knowledge puffs up while love builds up. 2 Those who think they know something do not yet know as they ought to know. 3 But whoever loves God is known by God.

4 So then, about eating food sacrificed to idols: We know that “An idol is nothing at all in the world” and that “There is no God but one.” 5 For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”), 6 yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live.

7 But not everyone possesses this knowledge. Some people are still so accustomed to idols that when they eat sacrificial food they think of it as having been sacrificed to a god, and since their conscience is weak, it is defiled. 8 But food does not bring us near to God; we are no worse if we do not eat, and no better if we do.

9 Be careful, however, that the exercise of your rights does not become a stumbling block to the weak. 10 For if someone with a weak conscience sees you, with all your knowledge, eating in an idol’s temple, won’t that person be emboldened to eat what is sacrificed to idols? 11 So this weak brother or sister, for whom Christ died, is destroyed by your knowledge. 12 When you sin against them in this way and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ. 13 Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother or sister to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause them to fall.

Again, we are called to build up others, which is what love does. Knowledge puffs up and causes us to stand in opposition to God instead of working in cooperation with God. Love covers a multitude of sins while knowledge judges and condemns a multitude of sins. Love brings peace and unity, knowledge brings strife and division. When you find yourself being a stumbling block to someone, choose the weightier and better option – LOVE!

After all, when you cause someone to stumble into sin by offending them, you are not just sinning against that person, you are sinning against Christ! Now, we begin to see more clearly why Jesus uses such strong language when it comes to offending someone! Now, we begin to see more clearly why Jesus said that we are in danger of the fires of Hell! When we offend someone, we cause them to sin. Causing that person to sin by offending them is not sinning just against that person. Scripture reveals that we are sinning against Jesus, Himself! Now remember, that this is even in the context of arguable matters, not even in the context of black and white moral matters!

However, what about black and white matters that cannot be compromised? What about matters such as Jesus being the only way to salvation? What about salvation by the grace of God through our faith alone and not through works? What about these rock solid doctrinal stands that stand true and yet cause offense?

Scripture teaches us to do this:

2 Timothy 2:22-26
22 Flee the evil desires of youth and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart. 23 Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. 24 And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. 25 Opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, 26 and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.

Even in black and white matters, we are still called not to cause offense. We want to free people from the trap of the devil and not become the trap of the devil. We must pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace and keep a pure heart.

Unfortunately, many mature believers have become the bait and trap of the devil and cause others to stumble into sin – been blockheads – because of the first thing that we are called to pursue. We pursue righteousness, but not the righteousness that scripture is referring to here. We forget too easily that we are made righteous by the blood of Christ alone and not by our works. We pursue a righteousness that neglects and denies faith, love, and peace. God, forgive us in this matter!!!

You see, being righteous is not about proving ourselves right and someone else wrong. Righteousness is far more often about doing what is right and being what is right. A powerful display of righteousness is to humble ourselves and to ask those who we offended to forgive us instead of defending that we are right and that they are wrong in being offended. This type of righteousness blends together beautifully with faith, love, peace, and a pure heart that we are called to pursue, which is why it is precisely the righteousness that we are to possess.

Jesus, who is righteous in every way, manifested this type of righteousness perfectly. Although He was without sin, He chose the weightier matter of reconciliation over being right. He who was right paid the price of sin for all of us who are wrong in every way. He practiced the ministry of reconciliation at the price of His very life and has also called us into the ministry of reconciliation. He is asking nothing of us that He has not already done Himself.

For example, Jesus also spoke the truth in love. He spoke the truth in a way that appealed to people and drew them into God’s Kingdom. He spoke the truth and used it to gently teach and instruct the worst of sinners. However, there is also a way in which we can gently instruct and not be offensive with the truth. Of course, it is far easier for us to speak the truth offensively. For example:

Joe has a green shirt on. This is an undeniable truth.

However, I can go up to Joe and sarcastically say, “Nice green shirt, Joe!”. I can then go and proclaim this truth from the rooftops just as God has commanded us to. I can go to Sally and whisper, “Did you see that green shirt that Joe is wearing?”. I can then go to Bobby and after a good joke say, “Yeah, it’s sorta like that green shirt that Joe is wearing!” I can then go to my group of friends and sarcastically say, “Joe is wearing quite the green shirt!”

In every instance, I spoke the truth. However, I spoke the truth in an offensive manner that was intended to tear Joe down and to have others look down on him as well. I spoke the truth in a way that separated Joe and pushed him away. I’ve offended Joe.

Now from this practical example, we can begin to understand a little better just how easily and how often we take the truth of God, that green shirt, and offend people and push them away and tear people down and separate them from Christ. Jesus, forgive us!

God has called us to speak the truth, not to be quiet about it, but to tell everyone about it! However, we’re called to speak the truth in love. We’re to gently teach and instruct, to be kind to everyone, and to lead people to repentance. We’re called not to be quarrelsome and to have nothing to do with stupid and foolish arguments – especially not to light the fire of them and keep fueling them! We’re peacemakers and James 3:18 reveals an awesome reality for us. It is when we choose to sow peace that we reap a harvest of: RIGHTEOUSNESS!

We’re closing this morning with a challenge – a challenge to reconcile with those whom we’ve offended. Whether we are right or wrong, whether we agree with the offense or not, we simply cannot continue sinning against Jesus and being a blockhead any longer! We simply cannot move ahead into greater blessings, into greater glory, into greater revelation, or into greater ministry within the Kingdom of God as a church until this matter is settled.

A key in all of this is remembering who the true enemy is.  Ephesians 6 teaches that our battle is not against flesh and blood, but it lies in the spiritual realm.  Our enemy is not the person who I offended nor is it the person who offended me.  There is a far bigger picture that we cannot fail to see!  These traps of offense are set as part of the strategy of warfare in which Satan has waged against any who follow Christ.  We must understand this and rise up in the victory already provided by Jesus!  We must overcome in this matter!  We cannot give the enemy a foothold and especially stop providing him a stronghold in our lives and in our church!

In fact, this is such a weighty matter, that Jesus said that He would rather us not even come and bring our gifts and offerings to Him until these matters are resolved.

Matthew 5:21-24
21 “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ 22 But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.

23 “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, 24 leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.

Throughout this week, if you have been offended and are caught in this trap, I urge you to go and humbly and gently reveal that to the person who offended you (if it is possible). Regardless of how that person responds, regardless of how wrong they are, regardless of how badly they have hurt you, FORGIVE that person and look to God ALONE to bring healing and restoration in your life.

If you know that someone has something against you, I urge you to go to them, ask if you have offended them, humbly listen to how you have offended them, apologize and ask them to forgive you for offending them.

THEN come back together here and watch what God will do when our offenses are resolved and unity is restored!!!

In two weeks, we’ll continue our study on the tripping hazard of offense and learn about how to deal with offense if you are the one whom is offended. Until then, choose not to be a blockhead and choose to pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace, and a pure heart that Christ has set FREE!