Offense is a powerful strategy in spiritual battles. It proves our faith and makes us strong. It is not designed to bring defeat, but to cement our faith. Jesus used the power of offense to reveal the hearts of those listening to Him. He called the Pharisees whitewashed tombs, blind fools, and hypocritical. He called the Samaritan woman a dog, unworthy of God’s power. Jesus waited until his dear friend Lazarus was dead before he responded to the urgent call from Lazarus’ sisters. He left His cousin John the Baptist in prison and didn’t help him escape; and didn’t even visit him. He ate with unwashed hands, broke the Sabbath rules, and ignored the disapproval of those who watched Him as He ate with taxpayers and sinners. Our loving and gracious Savior spent much of his time here on earth offending people.
“Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness. Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because ye build the tombs of the prophets and garnish the sepulchres of the righteous,”
Matthew 23:27-29 KJV
Interestingly, Jesus himself was not easily offended; however, when He was, He did something about it. He used His offense to make a point and draw attention to the situation. When He overturned the money changer’s tables, He wanted everyone to know that His Father’s house was a House of Prayer. It was not a house of deceit, abuse, or selfish gain. No one who saw Jesus flip over the tables had any doubt that He was offended. Coins and scales flew across the temple as everyone watched. The sound of sheep bleating and the feathers of birds as they fluttered about testified of the power of Godly offense.
Evidence proves a thing to be true or untrue. In the same way, offenses demonstrate our faith. Our response to offense becomes the evidence, or proof, of either our faith or of our lack of faith. Without offense, there is no proven faith. Faith is not faith until it has been proven, and it is not proven to be valid until it is offended and still believes.
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
1 Peter 1:7 KJV
…so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. ESV
I was just thirty-eight years old when I got the call telling me I had cancer. Shock, confusion, disbelief, anger, and fear all tormented my mind. For two days, I sat in my recliner and cried. I couldn’t process the information my doctor had given me. I couldn’t understand how God had allowed this to happen to me. Had I done something wrong? Was there sin in my life? Did I have some curse that I hadn’t broken that was attacking me? Was God angry at me? Why was this happening? Over and over, my mind spun out of control. I was a Christian, and bad things like cancer weren’t supposed to happen to me. What went wrong?
In the middle of my turmoil, a voice shouted at me, “This is how God rewards those who serve him!” Over and over, that voice tormented my mind. My mouth refused to work, and tears flowed down my face. Thoughts of my son without his mother, my husband, without his wife caused my heart to break. My faith was being challenged and offended. Would it prove to be stronger than cancer?
Suddenly, it was as if a page had turned as the shouting voice faded into the background and disappeared, and a new voice began to whisper. “Trust me,” it said. I knew this was the voice of God. Like an echo reverberating in the atmosphere, Jesus was speaking, and his voice silenced all the other voices. Soon it was the only one I could hear. When He had my attention, He said the same words He had spoken to Peter, “Will you go too?”
My mind immediately knew what he was asking me. Jesus had said some hard things to the crowds that followed Him, and many were offended by what he had said. After those who were offended walked away, Jesus turned to Peter and asked, “Will you go too?” I knew that was what Jesus was asking me. Was I also offended like those disciples, and would I give up and walk away from Jesus, too? My answer was the same as Peter’s. There was nowhere else to go.
I said that I wasn’t going anywhere and that I wouldn’t walk away. I knew, in my heart, that I would believe in Jesus and His healing power, no matter what happened to me. Like the three Hebrew men (Daniel 3), Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, I had a choice. I could deny my friend Jesus, or I could face the situation head-on and not allow this offense to steal my relationship with God. I chose God. It was at that same moment that the clouds in my mind blew away, and with absolute clarity, I heard God say, “Now you have faith.” Before I could utter a response, the voice continued, “Faith is not faith unless it is tried, and it is not proven until it is offended and still believes. My faith had been offended, and yet I always believed.
Daniel 3:16-18 KJV
“Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed–nego, answered and said to the king, O Nebuchadnezzar, we are not careful to answer thee in this matter. If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king. But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.”
When a couple gets married, they do so before witnesses, and they declare their love and desire to enter a marriage covenant. In most ceremonies, the couple makes promises or vows that go something like this, “For better or worse, richer or poorer, in sickness or health, and with theses promises, I declare my faith.” Most couples say those words, never realizing they are promising how they will respond to future offenses.
What they are saying is this, “I will not be offended at you if we succeed or fail. We may become successful or lose everything, but I will always choose you. I will not be offended, and will not leave you no matter how bad things get. It doesn’t matter if you lose your health or your beauty, I am going nowhere. I promise that I won’t be offended and I won’t leave.” (Please do not misunderstand or confuse this with situations where your life is in danger or where forces beyond your control force you to separate from a person or situation).
After studying the many times Jesus offended people, and thinking about offense in general, it isn’t hard to see that people who are offended often fall away or leave the person who offends them. In seven different passages, Jesus talked about falling away, deserting, or abandoning one’s faith. In doing so, he used the word offense or the Greek word skandalizo for scandal. It means to entice to sin, desert, fall away, distrust, be displeased with, become irritated with, or walk away. As you can see, both words, offense and scandalize, can be used interchangeably. When someone is offended, they often become displeased, irritated, and walk away from the offender.
Jesus used offense as a tool, not only to give us a glimpse into who He is, but also to show us who we are. How do we react to an offense? Do we fall away? Do we give up? He was teaching His disciples something about himself, but also something about them. This is especially true when we look at some stories where Jesus purposefully offended people.
Look at the story of John the Baptist (Matthew 11). John sent his disciples to ask Jesus if He was the Messiah that they had all been waiting for. John was in prison, waiting for the king to decide what to do with him. While he was waiting, he sent his disciples to talk to Jesus.
Matthew 11:2-6 NLT
“John the Baptist, who was in prison, heard about all the things the Messiah was doing. So he sent his disciples to ask Jesus, “Are you the Messiah we’ve been expecting, or should we keep looking for someone else?” Jesus told them, “Go back to John and tell him what you have heard and seen— the blind see, the lame walk, those with leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised to life, and the Good News is being preached to the poor.” And he added, “God blesses those who do not fall away because of me. ””
It’s easy to read between the lines. John wanted to know if Jesus was, in fact, the promised deliverer, the Messiah. John already knew the answer to this question, as he was the one who baptized Jesus. He saw the Spirit of God, in the image of a dove, come and land on Jesus and he heard the voice from heaven saying, “This is my beloved son in whom I am well pleased.” John asked, purposely implying, “If you are the ‘One’ we have been looking for, come get me out of prison. You are my cousin, my own flesh and blood. Help me.”
Matthew 3:16-17 KJV
“And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him: And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”
Jesus replied, “Tell John that the blind see, the lame walk, lepers are healed, the deaf hear, and the dead have come back to life. Tell him about all the miracles you see me doing. When you are finished telling him of all the miracles you have seen me do, tell him this. Blessed is he who is not offended with me.”
Jesus wasn’t coming, and He wanted John to understand this. He warned John not to be offended. Offended, the same word that says, “Don’t walk away from the truth. Don’t give up hope. Don’t give up your faith.”
It was as if Jesus said, “I’m not coming. I know this isn’t what you wanted to hear. I am the one you have been waiting for, but right now, something greater than you and your situation is going on. Don’t be angry, and most of all, don’t lose your faith.”
That moment was the proving ground for John’s faith. It was his most significant defining moment. Would he believe even while suffering? Would he stay the course, or would he be offended and look for another Messiah?
As I faced my battle with cancer, I realized I was in the same place John the Baptist had been. The healing power of Jesus was something I believed in, and I wanted Jesus to get me out of my situation. I didn’t realize that I was still in the hands of God, and that, like John, I had a choice. I could deny my friend Jesus, or I could face the situation head-on, and trust Him with my future. Like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, I would stand in my faith, knowing that God could deliver me, but even if He didn’t, it would not diminish my faith. If anything, it would only strengthen it.
So why do we need offense? Because it proves our faith. It strengthens us and establishes our position in relation to the forces of evil. It reveals who we are inside and the level of confidence we have in our relationship with God, as His children. Offense is a tool used both by God and the devil. Your reaction to the offense can steal your future and destroy your health, family, and finances, or it can build your faith, define your relationship with God, and bring healing to every situation. You choose.