Tuesday, August 1, 2017
Matthew 18:7 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! (KJV)
Matthew 18:7 "Woe to the world because of its stumbling blocks! For it is inevitable that stumbling blocks come; but woe to that man through whom the stumbling block comes!" (NASB)
In today's post, we are going to begin addressing one of the most diabolical schemes of the Enemy used against Christians and non-Christian alike. This spiritual malady that Satan uses to afflict the human race is responsible for crippling pastors, tearing apart marriages and churches, wrecking societies and causing wars. This weapon of the kingdom of darkness begins seemingly small and almost hidden. To the unsuspecting person, it seems right to have and appears to be useful - but in the end it destroys the person using it and the intended targets. What is this weapon of which I speak? Three words summarize it: "taking up offense".
What it means to "take up offense"
What is Jesus referring to when he warns about "taking up offenses" or "stumbling blocks"? The Greek word used for "offenses" and "stumbling blocks" in this passage is the word "scandalon", from whence is derived our English word "scandal". Offenses are those events or words that hinder or greatly diminish belief in the Lord. To take up offense means to perceive the crossing of a line in a response of anger or bitterness. "Offense" or "stumbling blocks" find their root in the realm of our emotional life, and particularly our responses. To "take up offense" is another way of saying: "I retain resentment, bitterness or a grudge rather than forgiveness".
When a person takes up an offense, the heart's responses to spiritual truth will be affected. When the heart of a person is ruled by a grudge, rather than grace, the end result will be a limited ability or no ability to appreciate Christ and His word. As Proverbs 18:19 reminds us - "A brother offended is harder to be won than a strong city, And contentions are like the bars of a citadel."
In what circumstances do offenses occur?
A stumbling block or offense occurs when a misplaced word or misunderstanding of a person's actions results in you and I being bitter rather than forgiving. Take for instance a situation in which people are walking into a church building on a Sunday morning. The sun is shining and you see a friend across the parking lot. You proceed to wave at your friend, even shouting his name. The expected return of a friendly wave or perhaps him coming over to meet you doesn't occur. Instead, your friend walks into the church building - with eyes fixed straight ahead. How you and I respond in such instances will define whether we are taking up offense or giving our friend the benefit of the doubt (i.e grace). Perhaps they were late for their Sunday School class or had their mind on something else or they might had been simply caught up in the beautiful morning, not hearing your voice or seeing your friendly wave!
Taking up offense is addressed by Jesus is warned about in the New Testament. In the next post we will explore this teaching further so that we can be equipped to guard against it.