“And blessed is he whosoever shall not be offended in Me.” Jesus Christ, via Matthew 11:6, KJV
Jasmine’s next-door neighbor, Jessica, is a hoarder. She collects random bits of everything, even in her yard. Since there is no HOA in place and the neighbor lives outside of the city limits, there are no ordinances that require her to keep her space a certain way. Jessica is perfectly content with her eclectic yard and sees no reason to change it.
Meanwhile, Jasmine is sick and tired of seeing her neighbor’s “junkyard” so she decides to fence her yard in with 15-foot walls. With a sigh of relief, Jessica’s unsightly filth no longer bothers her. However, she also can’t see the beautiful koi fish pond on her other side that she always took comfort in, nor can anyone see her prize winning flower garden.
Such is the nature of offense.
Offense is an “annoyance or resentment brought about by a perceived insult to or disregard for oneself or one’s own standards or principles,” (American English Dictionary). Notice that even in the definition of offense, the one most affected by offense is the recipient and not the offender. In Matthew 11:1-19, we see Jesus Christ approached by disciples of John the Baptist and later He’s preaching about that encounter. The Bible doesn’t explicitly state that what I’m about to say happened this way and I am not adding to the Word of God. Just flow with me as I attempt to share some things that could have been occurring behind the scenes.
We know from Scripture that John the Baptist was imprisoned because he spoke out against Herod Antipas’ adulterous relationship. We can also gather from history that imprisonment during that time had to be discouraging due to deplorable conditions and especially since, in this case, John was coming against the Jewish king. Perhaps it was in this season of affliction that John was beginning to feel like Job and started to pose questions because the Word that he preached needed to become his encouragement. Could it be that his imprisonment and torture was trying to plant seeds of doubt about the very One he knew was the Christ?
I love Jesus’ response to this dilemma. Although John the Baptist served the Lord faithfully by wholeheartedly fulfilling his calling, Jesus did not appease his flesh in his moment of weakness. He reminded him of what he knew, and He sent word to John that the one who chose not to be offended in Him is blessed. You see, there is a price attached to being faithful to the Lord and doing whatever He has called us to do. The thing is, in our serving, we are not to become offended because of whatever sufferings we endure for the sake of the Gospel.
Back to our story of Jasmine and Jessica. Jasmine had absolutely no control of what Jessica did with her lawn but she did have choice regarding her response and attitude towards her. Instead of erecting a wall, what would it have looked like if bit by bit she began to befriend Jessica and share some light and love with her, free of judgment, while maintaining the beauty and splendor of her own yard? Since hoarding normally signifies a deeper issue, how could things have gone better had she inquired of the Lord to reveal to her how to pray for Jessica’s deeper issues?
If Jasmine didn’t fence herself in, her flower garden would have continued to be a peaceful, restful place for others to enjoy even in passing. Now, no one can see her labor of love because she has chosen to hide it. What’s the point of a flower garden if its beauty isn’t visible or experienced?
This is exactly how offense works. It hinders us from operating in our calling as well as from using the gifts and talents the Lord has given us to maximum capacity. We think we’re hurting the “offender” by being offended (and we might to some degree), but the primary damage is self-inflicted. Receiving offense is nothing but another step towards deception, and it gives place to the devil. Don’t be offended because you feel slighted by something you think someone did to you. Don’t be offended because Christianity doesn’t give you a free pass from suffering. What is true in the Old Testament is true today: Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the LORD delivers him out of them all.
I don’t know about you but I’ve decided to count the cost and to endure to the end. When the storms of life come to try and shake me, I can be at rest and peace—not because of what I’ve done but because my life is built upon Jesus Christ and I refuse to get offended no matter what I have to go through for the sake of the Gospel. The Lord has already said that we make it through the other side.
I pray you are encouraged and strengthened to endure to the end. Finish your course with JOY and don’t be offended because the sufferings you encounter for your faith in Jesus Christ. We are on the winning side! Take comfort and be blessed in the Lord!