1) the movable stick or trigger of a trap, a trap stick
1a) a trap, snare
1b) any impediment placed in the way and causing one to stumble or fall, (a stumbling block, occasion of stumbling), i.e. a rock which is a cause of stumbling
1c) fig. applied to Jesus Christ, whose person and career were so contrary to the expectations of the Jews concerning the Messiah, that they rejected him and by their obstinacy made shipwreck of their salvation
2) any person or thing by which one is (entrapped) drawn into error or sin
"He who gives the offense, and he who receives it, are both exposed to ruin." ~Adam Clarke
There are so many offenses in the world. We can even unwittingly be used by the devil, as Peter was, even though we love the Lord (Matt. 16:23). How can we ever be sure we are not offending another? It seems overwhelming to think about.
Recently someone offended me. That person did not have any awareness that they did so. Yet I had to struggle through the hurt feelings it caused, the bitterness that was rising up, the feeling that I needed to somehow be vindicated, etc. None of us likes to be talked down to. Sometimes it is more the tone of a person's voice, or even their body language, more than what they say. I seem to be a person very sensitive to those things. Too sensitive I'm afraid. It's my struggle. But perhaps even through this, the Lord has enabled me more to understand others and be more compassionate and sensitive to them.
A brother offended is more unyielding than a strong city, and quarreling is like the bars of a castle. (Pro 18:19)
Let's try to remember what the Lord wants to accomplish when we speak to people and especially when speaking as a messenger of Christ. All it takes is the wrong tone or body language to become a tool of the enemy rather than a servant of Christ. Our hearts become like the walls of a castle and bricks of hurt and bitterness are so easy to build on top of each other, but so hard to tear down. It's the little foxes or offenses that spoil the vine or bring hard feelings in a church or on Facebook, or between friends or family.
This verse is referring to things that cause others to sin, specifically. We can try so hard to make someone see "the truth" or the "right" way of looking at our position, that we forget that we are representing Christ. We can build castle walls instead of helping them to see. What's our motive? To win an argument? To put them in their place? Or to bring them to see the love of Christ and His goodness and how He would have us do things? We forget love and mercy. We forget to be gracious. We forget compassion.
There are so many offenses in the church that go on unnoticed. People leave a church because of an offense and nobody knows why or understands. Maybe it was a harsh word spoken (or taken that way, whether or not it was meant), or maybe just a feeling they are not accepted and loved, or respected, or they even feel rejected, so they feel they cannot possibly receive from such, or find a place where they themselves can be useful in that church, so they go on, either looking for that somewhere else, or just altogether give up and stay home. You cannot tell that person he/she should not be hurt. Well, they are hurt, whether you think it is justified or not. They are left to struggle through it, to forgive, to try to go on, even though in your mind they may be hashing over something insignificant. To their hearts it was significant and unfortunately you cannot fix that by telling them they shouldn't feel that way.
Sometimes our hurtful words, our slighting another, our body language, or our neglect of people can cause them to sin. Oh yes, we are all responsible for our own sin, and as we stand before the Lord we will be judged alone for how we respond to others and whether or not we will take the offense to the Lord and act according to His Word through the grace and power of His Spirit in us. We must, however, be careful to not be the one causing that offense as much as it is up to us.
So Lord, what do I do when I find I am the one offended. In my flesh I feel like crawling up in my home and staying away, or reacting in anger and lashing out, hurting back. I need to protect myself. I feel like soothing my wound and justifying my bitterness. The enemy loves to feed it, as I hash it over and over in my mind, feeling all over again the hurt that it caused. It gets blown up out of proportion in my mind and emotions. How do offenses cause us to sin? It puts a wall between believers. I can no longer respect or receive from that person who hurt me, who will not see how they hurt me, and will go on thinking they are right, without considering how they made me feel. I can sin by going to others and talking about it, to try to find validation for how I am feeling. That will also cause them to look down on that person and take up my bitterness and distrust of them, maybe destroying the others' effectiveness for the Lord. A root of bitterness quickly grows in the body of Christ, and is like a cancer that eats away. The enemy loves it and uses it often to divide and destroy and isolate believers. It tempts people to put themselves first and their own needs above others. It tempts people to self-righteousness and pride. It tempts to gossip. It destroys fellowship with each other and with the Lord. It breaks communion with God. "And above all things have fervent love for one another, for 'love will cover a multitude of sins.'"(1 Pet 4:8, NKJV) . "Hatred stirs up strife, But love covers all sins." (Prov 10:12, NKJV)
We may think it a little thing when someone is offended by our actions or words. We may think they should just get over it. But cancer also starts out as a very small thing in the body. It is undetectable at first. It may even take a long time to grow to where it is noticeable and even longer before any symptoms or pain is felt from it. But it is there and it will surely grow and do its damage and bring death if not dealt with. The earlier it is dealt with the easier it is to stop. It gets to a certain place where it is terminal, and the damage to the whole body results to it until it brings death. We must put a stop to it in our own hearts before it gets to that place. We must recognize the schemes of the enemy and not become his tool. We must be careful not to be a cause of offense for someone else and if we have been we must go to them and make it right, with a spirit of humility. People can tell if you are genuine or not. Don't think you fool anyone if you aren't. You may justify yourself for thinking you did your part, but you left the cancer to continue growing.
Some offenses need to be confronted as in Matt. 18:15-19. But some need to be overlooked, forgiven, and you need to move on. Yet the enemy loves to stir it up in your heart and make you go over and over and over it. So it becomes hard to do. We are tempted to tell friends so they take our side and make us feel justified in our feelings. The enemy would love that. All things are possible with Christ. I can do all through Him Who strengthens me. That includes forgiving. Because Jesus forgave me when I hurt others, even unknowingly, and because of His love for that one who hurt me, and His purposes in their lives that is far beyond my purposes, and because of His love for the body of Christ, and His love in me, I can forgive - when I look away from me and look to Him, when I see Him as my all in all. When I quit seeking "self" and seek His face. I see all from His perspective. His grace is sufficient for me. In my weakness He is my strength. Will I take God's side, or the enemy's? Lord, enable me to always take Your side, not my own, and not the enemy's! We can know that if there is vindication needed, that in love, the Lord is able to do that - His way. We don't have to take matters into our own hands. We can trust the Lord to work in hearts and minds, and in the end as we submit to the Lord, He is able to work. As we submit to humility in our own hearts, He is able to bring that to others also. There comes a point where you have to give room for God to work, and go on, trusting all in His hands.
I think of the strong dispute Paul and Barnabas - good friends - brothers in the Lord - servants of Christ - had with one another over whether or not to take John Mark with them (Acts 15:36-39). They separated because they could not agree. Apparently somewhere along the way the Lord worked in hearts, and brought reconciliation, because later Paul asked that Mark be brought to help and that he found him very useful (2 Timothy 4:11). Offenses come, differences come, disagreements happen, yet through all we must take them before the Lord, allowing Him to work in our hearts to bring us to see His heart and act according to His purposes and not our own. We must put others before ourselves, and think of them before ourselves. We need to see how serious it is to offend one of those whom Christ shed His precious blood for. Through Christ, we are able to surrender our hearts in sincerity to Him, forgetting ourselves, and taking up our cross and following Him wherever He will lead us. It's about pleasing Him and not offending Him, but trusting in Him. Lord, enable me to come to the place where I am more concerned about what offends You than what offends me!
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