Handling offences

This is probably the most undertaught subject for Christians – how to handle offences among fellow believers.

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    B357 - Be prepared for offences (they will surely come)

    Matt 18:7; Luke 17:1

    In Matt 18:7, Jesus said,

    ‘Woe to the world for temptations to sin! For it is necessary that temptations come, but woe to the one by whom the temptation comes!’

    In Luke 17:1, the same thing is said.

    The word for ‘temptations’ may also be translated into ‘offences’. The Greek word is skandalon or bait, a stumbling block, an offence. It represents the ‘cause for error’ or the trigger of a trap or an offence.

    KJV says,

    ‘Woe unto the world because of offences! For it must needs be that offences come; but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh.’

    In other words, offences are normal and they will come – from anyone, including of course our spouse. Everyone will be offended somewhere along our life’s journey. The question is, how do we deal with them?

    Hence, as long as we are alive, be prepared for offences.

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    B358 - Do not be offended by Jesus' 'difficult' teachings

    John 6:60-68

    Even Jesus, when he was on the earth, offended many people. Top on the list were the scribes and Pharisees.

    In Matt 15:12, his disciples came and told him,

    ‘Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this saying?’

    Then, in John 6:60-66, after Jesus mentioned that he was the Bread of Life, many of his disciples exclaimed,

    ‘This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?’

    Hence, they left and did not follow him. They were offended.

    Did they choose to follow their perceptions of the world or rather look at the facts?

    Here are other times when Jesus’ speech could have offended many of his close disciples.

    Like in Mark 7:18, when Jesus, out of frustration with his disciples lack of understanding, exclaimed, ‘Are you so dull?’ The Greek word for ‘dull’ is asunetos or unintelligent/ without wisdom/ unwise/ undiscerning.

    Jesus was, in effect, saying something like ‘Are you so dumb?’ in modern speak.

    Or in Matthew 16:23,  when Peter exclaimed that Jesus would not be killed, Jesus called him out with very strong words, ‘Get behind me Satan!’

    How many of us would be upset with simple corrections?

    Jesus said in John 10:38,

    ‘Even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.’

    Jesus had a lot of evidence and his close disciples recognized the presence of God in their mist.

    Yet some chose to disbelieve him because they could not reconcile his teachings to their own perceptions.

    How will we handle the teachings of Jesus? How would we respond to Jesus?

    Will we follow the footsteps of some of his disciples who were upset and said, ‘This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?’

    Or will we follow the example of the Apostle Peter, who despite all the reprimands, opined,

    ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed and have come to know that you are the Holy One of God’ (John 6:68-69).

    Bringing back to a practical element –

    1. Will you be offended by what the Bible has to say especially if it goes against our currently media-promoted worldviews?
    2. Or will you compromise by redefining sins so that they are more ‘palatable’ to the current narrative?
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    B359 - Forgive the person who offended us

    Mark 11:25; Luke 17:3; Luke 23:34

    In Mark 11:25, Jesus said,

    ‘And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trepasses.’

    Jesus then led by example. When he was being crucified and before he died, he echoed these words,

    ‘Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do’ (Luke 23:34).

    If someone has offended or sinned against us, believers’ first response should be to forgive, even if it is tough. We must be magnanimous; we have a Savior who forgave our sins. 

    1. We forgive because we are forgiven (Matt 18:21-35),
    2. We forgive because not doing so will affect us more than it affects the other party. 
    3. We forgive because it allows us to let go of our emotional baggage. 
    4. We forgive because if we don’t, our grudges will grow and grow.
    5. We forgive as long as they repent even if it is for the umpteenth time (Luke 17:4).
    6. We forgive so that our prayers are not hindered (Mark 11:25).
    7. We forgive because the Lord said so (Matt 6:12).

    See also B179  to B182, Forgiveness.

    Travel light; leave your (past) baggage behind.

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    B360 - Reflect if we are being challenged

    Matt 15:10-20

    In Matt 15:12, Jesus’ disciples asked him,

    ‘Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this saying?’

    Obviously, the Pharisees were mightily offended. Jesus reprimanded the Pharisees and scribes, the top religious echelon of his days, about their practices. He challenged them because their actions did not reconcile with their teachings. Was it the truth?

    What would happen if someone was to question our religious leaders or our leaders today?

    The Prophet Nathan was sent by God to confront King David with the truth when he committed adultery with Bathsheba (2 Sam 12).

    How could David had reacted? How did David ultimately responded? 

    David was the king of Israel. His word would be his mandate. If he wanted Nathan to be killed, he could have done just that. Or he could have reacted the way that the previous King (King Saul) did by offering excuses; The Prophet Samuel was late and Saul offered a sacrifice on his own which was a foolish thing (1 Sam 13:13).

    Instead, David chose to repent when he was confronted with his sin.

    How do we handle criticisms from other people, especially fellow credible believers? Do we reflect instead of being offended? Do we review the facts objectively?

    Jesus said in John 10:38,

    ‘Even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.’

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    B361 - Do not get offended if our culture is questioned

    Matt 15:26-27; John 4:18; Gal 2: 11-13; Titus 1:12-13;

    What if someone speaks the truth even if it is politically incorrect? The Bible has many politically incorrect speeches.

    In Matt 15:26-27, Jesus equated the Canaanite woman as a dog. He said to her,

    ‘It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs’, of which she responded, ‘Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.’

    In John 4:18, Jesus challenged the Samaritan woman and said that she had five husbands and the one she had then was not her husband. In the historical context, that was an offensive statement; it was politically incorrect.

    Again in Titus 1:12, Paul called out the Cretans as ‘always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.’

    And why should we, Gentile Christians, accept that the Jews are a special race of God? Why did not God choose China? Or Spain?

    In the current age and day, there will be a hue and cry among even church goers for being politically incorrect.

    Thankfully, the Bible has always called a spade a spade.

    Christians should not be affected by political correctness the way that the world is but should reflect whether the statement is true. Objective facts must override personal emotions.

    Unfortunately, the world has subtly developed a new generation of easily offended people. Hence, we are witnessing hate speech laws replacing freedom of speech. 

    In a seminar, the great Christian apologist, Josh McDowell, author of the famed all times’ best-seller, Evidence that demands a verdict, observed that our

    culture has gravitated away from the essence of truth to the emotion of the individual.’

    Christians, old and young, must learn not to be easily offended because of politically incorrect statements. Always check the facts against our emotions.

    See also B358, Do not be offended by Jesus’ ‘difficult’ teachings.

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    B362 - Reconcile with the person that you might have offended

    Matt 5:24

    The table is now turned. What if we offend someone?

    In Matt 5:24, it says,

    ‘if you remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.’

    The word from Jesus to us is always to keep short accounts.

    If we are praying and recall that we have offended someone, then take the initiative, go and be reconciled to the other person. There is no shame in saying sorry if we have offended someone unknowingly or knowingly, even if the ‘offended person’ might not recall the incident.

    Believers must keep short accounts.

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    B363 - Don't be offended if someone does better than us

    Matt 11:6; Luke 7:23; 1 Cor 3:4-7;

    In Matt 11:1-6, it relates to a passage when John the Baptist sent his disciples to ask Jesus whether he was the Messiah. Jesus did not answer the question directly but spoke about his miracles. He concluded by saying,

    ‘Blessed is the one who is not offended by me.’ 

    The same thing happened when the church was in its infancy. Some were saying that ‘I follow Paul’ while others voiced that they were followers of Apollos. The Apostle Paul instead directed them to God who gave the growth (1 Cor 3:7).

    Do Christians get offended even in the ministry? 

    Here, Jesus showed us a model – We should never be upset when someone else does better than us especially in the ministry. Instead, we should celebrate because it is God who gives the growth.

    When someone does better than us in the Lord, let us not be offended.

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    B364 - If offended, then confront, rebuke, and forgive

    Matthew 18:15; Luke 17:3; 2 Corinthians 2:5-8

    Matthew 18:15 says,

    ‘If your brother sins against you, go and confront him privately. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over.’

    This verse teaches us a process which we will discuss later. But the most important point is, ‘go and confront him privately.’ Again, this is when we are the offended party.

    Luke 17:3 says the same, ‘If your brother sins, rebuke him ….’

    In 2 Corinthians 2:5-8, the whole church actually acted in regard to an offence caused by an individual and the Apostle Paul had to remind the church to go easy on the person.

    It may not be the most politically correct approach in many cultures and with many individuals. In fact, most of us, because of our more accommodating personality types, really dislike the direct approach, equating it as being impolite and destructive.

    But our Lord instructed us to have a direct, face-to-face discussion with the other party. If we want to do it the biblical way regarding issues with other fellow believers, we might have to change and learn a new approach.

    The biblical way is likely to be quite different in many of our cultures and potentially even in corporate training schools.

    Christian leaders might even have to model and disciple their fellow believers in the use of this new process.

    While confrontation and being upfront is the model, it is also important to handle the situation with grace and humility – Please see B260, Engage in graceful conversation.

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    B365 - If someone offended you, handle this one-on-one (Step 1)

    Matt 18:15-17

     If someone (a believer no doubt) has offended us, there is a process in dealing with how to handle the situation. It is found in Matt 18:15-17.

    Matt 18:15 says, ‘If your brother sins against you, go and confront him privately. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over.’

    The first step is to

    ‘Go and confront him privately’.

    If someone offended you, handle this one-on-one, in person, and privately – just the two of you.

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    B366 - If reconciliation is not possible, bring a witness to establish and mediate

    Matt 18:15-17

    Step Two is found in Matt 18:16,

    ‘But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses.’

    If he listens, that is the end of that offence and reconciliation is completed.

    But if he does not, then bring along your witnesses. This is important. Allow these witnesses to establish a situation and work on reconciliation.

    Love should always be a big part of who we are.

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    B367 - If the person refuses to listen, then confront it at church level

    Matt 18:15-17

    Step Three is found in Matt 18:17,

    ‘If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church.’

    Obviously, this is a serious matter. That is, after having established the case with witnesses, this is the next step.

    The Apostle Paul did that with a believer who was having an affair with the wife of his father (1 Cor 5:1).

    Paul was very firm when he declared in 1 Cor 5:5 ‘to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord.’

    There is a progressive escalation process.

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    B368 - If there is no change of behavior, then dissociate with the person

    Matt 18:15-17

    Step Four is found in Matt 18:17 and it is the process of dissociation.

    ‘If he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector (i.e. someone despicable).’

    Disassociation is the final straw.

    In 2 Cor 2, the Apostle Paul related how this method was implemented and resulted in the sinner feeling severely afflicted. In this case, Paul invited to church to ‘forgive and comfort him or he may be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow’ (2 Cor 2:7).

    If we have followed Jesus’ steps in dealing with offences, maybe we will have less issues in churches. Jesus never encouraged us to avoid issues but rather to confront in love.

    The ultimate goal is reconciliation and forgiveness.

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