We all get offended at one time or another. And, very likely, we have offended someone ourselves. What does God want us to know about offenses?
One of the meanings of the word “offense” is “being annoyed or feeling resentment towards someone who has insulted or disregarded us.” People say or do things that hurt and anger us, whether inadvertently or intentionally. Our feelings may range from annoyance to anger, from mild irritation to great indignation, or from resentment to rage. Likewise, our words and actions may arouse these feelings in others.
Some people are too easily offended, and being around them is like walking on eggshells, never knowing what might trigger them. Some seem always to be looking for something to be offended about. Those easily offended may be anxious, feel inferior, hold grudges, or be self-righteous, yet are vulnerable, insecure, and miserable. Determined to be offended, they may provoke a reason if they can’t find one.
This is especially true in our highly polarized society, divided by ideology, politics, race, religion, etc. It seems everybody is offended by everybody else. Some censure and punish others for their assumed thoughts and motives, posting hate-filled comments on social media platforms. Their outraged rhetoric seems to know no bounds.
What does the Bible have to say regarding being offended or offending others?
The book of Ecclesiastes 7:20–22 says, “For there is not a just man on earth who does good and does not sin. Also do not take to heart everything people say, lest you hear your servant cursing you. For many times, also, your own heart has known that even you have cursed others.” Yes, we are all guilty, and we shouldn’t let our feelings be affected—“take it to heart”—because chances are we all have offended someone at one time or another.
Proverbs 19:11 instructs: “The discretion (intelligence, wisdom, prudence) of a man makes him slow to anger (ever hear of ‘counting to ten’?), and his glory is to overlook a transgression.” The smart thing to do is reign in our anger, and overlook someone’s offensive comments.
Proverbs 12:16 says, “A fool’s wrath (indignation, provocation) is known at once, but a prudent man covers shame (disgrace, dishonor, reproach).” The English Standard Version translates this: “The vexation of a fool is known at once, but the prudent ignores an insult.”
We may want to smooth things over, be at peace, and restore a relationship, whether with a spouse, family member, co-worker, neighbor, or even a stranger. But when the other person doesn’t want peace and instead wants to hold on to their offense, what can we do? Proverbs 18:19 says, “A brother offended is harder to win than a strong city, and contentions are like the bars of a castle.”
Jesus taught: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven…” (Matthew 5:43–45).
Wow! Blessing those who curse us and doing good to those who hate us is a “tall order” (an idiom meaning something that is difficult to do)! That is not our human nature. But Paul repeats the sentiment in Romans 12:14, 17, and 19–21, “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.… Repay no one evil for evil.… Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath.… [I]f your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him a drink.… Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”
It may be hard to handle offenses as instructed by Jesus Christ, but those are His instructions. Were they really too much for our Savior to ask? Let’s show Him they weren’t.
Christ’s teachings are more than a religion—they are the true Way to life. To learn more, read What is a True Christian?