To be offended is to be resentful or annoyed, typically as a result of a perceived insult, injustice or impropriety. It often happens when we’re in denial about our own sin or unworthiness and someone exposes us. At it’s core, it’s an inability to reconcile ourselves with a moral demand, an unwillingness to accept it, an insistence that a moral standard be different than it is.
For example, when Christ came to His hometown of Nazareth and taught in the synagogue, revealing Himself to be the Messiah and providing evidence through His wisdom and miracles, His neighbors were astonished (Mt 13:54) and upset, as if it were somehow inappropriate for one they knew so well to be the Messiah.
When Christ explained how such a mentality had kept people from being healed and blessed in the days of the prophets (Lk 4:24-27), rather than admitting their error, they became so enraged they tried to murder Him. (28-29) They were offended in Him (Mt 13:57), as if they couldn’t bear the thought of having been so clueless that they’d missed their own Messiah while He grew up among them.
In a similar instance, as Christ explained to those He’d just miraculously fed that they were seeking the wrong kind of nourishment (Jn 6:26-27), and that He had come down from Heaven as their spiritual food (51), but that they couldn’t be fed because they didn’t believe in Him (36), the Jews complained (42) that His claim was absurd. (52) Even many of Christ’s own disciples found this so unreasonable they didn’t see how anyone could accept it. (60) Christ noted they were allowing themselves to become offended and He challenged them (61); they wouldn’t believe even if they saw Him ascend into heaven (62) – only those God enables can follow Him. (65) As Christ exposed this hardness and unbelief, rather than repenting, many of His disciples abandoned Him. (66)
Similarly, when we try to live for God and do the right thing, and it doesn’t go our way, when trouble and persecution come instead of blessing and comfort, if we’re seeking God’s blessings instead of God Himself we’ll be offended, as if He’s not properly honoring our service, and turn back from following Him. (Mt 13:21) It’s a refusal to acknowledge the goodness of God when He doesn’t personally bless us in the moment.
When we aren’t being treated as we think we ought to be, we’re either right about it or we aren’t. If we’re right, and a broken person is treating us wrongly, we can only be offended if we contend with them as if they’re treating us rightly, rather than dismissing their behavior as deluded and pitying them, knowing it has nothing to do with us and that God’s our Shield and Defender.
And if we actually are being treating rightly, then we should acknowledge this, repent, and not be offended. So, offences don’t come because of circumstances themselves, but due to our failure to properly interpret them, to align with reality as it actually is.
So, it should come as no surprise that God attributes the root cause of offenses to a lack of love for His law: “Great peace have they which love thy law: and nothing shall offend them.” (Ps 119:165) When we love God’s Law and align with it we can’t be misaligned with moral reality because His Law defines this reality.
When we feel an offense coming on, if we understand Torah and are submitting ourselves to it, we can check ourselves and realign with reality, and let the offense go rather than being overcome by it. In such a state, nothing offends us, and we can enjoy the amazing peace of God regardless of our circumstances. (Php 4:7)