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Are You "Offended"?

It’s no secret, and therefore should come as no surprise, that people sometimes use words differently than the Bible does.  “Offend” is just such a word.  Many use “offend” to mean: I disagree with you, therefore your statement “offends” me; I disapprove of your conduct, therefore it “offends” me; or, You hurt my feelings, therefore I am “offended.”  I didn’t consult a common dictionary, since they sometimes define a word by its common usage more than its true meaning.  However, since this is intended to be a bible-based article, I did do some research into the biblical (NT) meaning and usage of the word “offend” and some of its derivatives….

When Paul urged the Corinthians NOT to “give no offense” (cf. 1Cor.10:32; 2Cor.6:3), the word translated as such is asprokopos, which literally refers to a smooth road, or having nothing to strike against; as in not leaving or placing a stumblingblock over which one would (spiritually) stumble and fall into sin.  Thus, giving offense is, by specific actions or general mode of life, causing another to sin.  But what about being offended?

The other NT word sometimes translated as “offend” (or “offence”) is the Greek term skandalizo (skan-dal-id-zo).  Obviously, it bears resemblance to our word scandal, and shares somewhat in meaning also.  Skandalizo appears 29 times, and carries the idea of either being caused to fall/sin, or causing another to fall/sin, by word, deed, or manner of life. 

What does this mean to/for us?  Primarily, that either when we offend or are ourselves offended, some word, action, or lifestyle has caused sin/apostasy to occur, e.g. Matt.5:29,20; 13:21; 18:6,8,9; 26:31,33; 1Cor.8:13; 2Cor.11:29.  Thus, if we are to use “biblical words in biblical ways,” when we are or have been “offended,” another’s words or deeds have caused us to sin.  Likewise, if we “offend,” we have, by our words or actions, caused someone else to sin.  The biblical words do not, in contrast to common usage today, mean that someone got their feelings hurt, or simply disagrees, and therefore disapproves. 

I’m NOT suggesting that a Christian cannot use the word “offend” to mean something other than what it means in Scripture.  I AM suggesting that we should be more careful how and when we use the term.  If someone says or does something that hurts your feelings, and you feel they should know as much, say so.  Likewise, if you disapprove of what another has said or done, and feel they should know as much, say so.  And, if you disagree with what another has said or done, and feel they should know as much, say so.  But can we please stop being “offended” by everything?  If we weren’t caused to stumble and/or led to sin, then we weren’t really “offended,” we probably just disagree, disapprove, or got our feelings hurt.  

Since every effect has a cause(s) adequate to have produced it, why are we so easily offended these days?  I’ll proffer a couple possibilities and you can decide their relative validity and worth:

  1. We use the word, even in a spiritual context, without really knowing what it means.  Such is unwise and even dangerous, 1Pet.4:11
  2. We are too easily provoked and perhaps are even seeking to take into account  wrongs suffered, both of which are contrary to living by divine love, cf. 1Cor.13:5.
  3. We’ve succumbed to a culture of “victimhood” that sees benefit in being offended in as many ways and as often as possible.

What should we do instead of the above?  When speaking of being offended or offending in a spiritual context, use it correctly or utilize other more appropriate terms.  If it didn’t lead someone to sin, they probably just got their feelings hurt.  Toughen up.  We live in a sinful world.  If we spend all our time and energy being “appalled and offended” by every sin, we’re a lot less likely to see and utilize ways we can influence others for truth and righteousness, cf. Matt.9:10-13.  Stop playing the Christian “victim” card.  It just makes you look weak, and remember that “God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline,” 2Tim.1:7