It can be difficult knowing how to react when you are offended or have offended someone. You may wonder if you will be seen as too sensitive or argumentative if you address the offense. Or you decide to ignore it and wonder if you just opened yourself up to being a punching bag that will get walked all over.
The topic was brought up several times over the past week. Initially, I didn’t think it was personally relevant to me, as I am not dealing with a particular issue of being offended or offending. However, after it popping up so much, I decided to reevaluate myself in that area and reconsider my notion that it didn’t apply to me. I started with a quick search on offense online and in the Bible and here is what I found.
The Merriam-Webster dictionary offers the following definitions for the word offense.
Going to the Source- What Does the Bible Say about Offense?
Though offense occurred with the first sin, the actual word first appears in Genesis 20. In this chapter, Abraham was traveling with his wife Sarah, who was quite beautiful. He feared that someone would kill him in order to get her. In an act of self-preservation, he asked her to say she was his sister. In saying that, King Abimelech of Gerar, took Sarah for himself. Before he acted inappropriately with her, God appeared to him in a dream and said, “You are as good as dead because of the woman you have taken; she is a married woman.” Abimelech pleaded his case, saying he had not gone near her yet and was acting on false information given to him. God’s response was for him to return Sarah and have Abraham pray for him.
Now I don’t know about you, but the only thing that would be going through my mind would be killing him! Abraham set him up and now the burden is on him to make it right? And let’s not even talk about how Sarah may have been feeling! I am sure she was much more humble and holier than I, but she still had to have felt some kind of betrayal or disregard. In order to protect himself, he threw her to the wolves. This was not the first time, either! Twice now, Sarah is left vulnerable in the hands of a strange man because Abraham was looking out for himself. My, oh my!
Nevertheless, Abimelech obeyed the Lord and also gave Abraham sheep and cattle and male and female slaves. He offered his land, saying that they could live wherever they would like. Then he told Sarah, “I am giving your brother a thousand shekels of silver. This is to cover the offense against you before all who are with you; you are completely vindicated.”
What Can We Glean from this Story?
1. If we are truly innocent, God will keep us safe and honor us.
God told Abimelech that he held him back from touching Sarah to keep him from sinning. Though Abimelech was considered someone who did not fear God, God honored his innocence and stepped in on his behalf.
God also honored Sarah and kept her safe in the vulnerable situations Abraham got her into.
2. Whether we want to admit it or not, holding on to an offense will hurt us more than the offender.
Had Abimelech refused to give Sarah back to Abraham, he would have died. But in offering peace, he received Abraham’s prayers on his behalf. This also brought healing upon him, his wife, and his female servants.
Sarah held onto her faith and was finally blessed with a son of her own at the age of 90. (And I can’t even imagine being pregnant now at 33!)
3. Letting go of offense and seeking peace opens us up to a better future.
Abimelech’s response to Abraham also put him in a position of favor, which led to a covenant between his people and Abraham’s people in Genesis 21:22-34. Abimelech could have held onto bitterness and gotten defensive when Abraham confronted him about a stolen well. Instead, he sought peace and denied any knowledge of it. In return, he received sheep, oxen, and seven ewe lambs from Abraham.
Sarah went on to live to the age of 127 (Gen. 23) She was richly blessed and she became the mother of many nations and kings.
4. None of us are above offense.
Abraham, the Father of many nations, who was chosen by God, was guilty of offenses. Let’s not be so blind or arrogant that we cannot see our own faults and shortcomings. Instead, let us pray for our eyes to be opened to our offenses and seek reconciliation, first and foremost.
5 More Scriptures Pertaining to Offense
“I have swept away your offenses like a cloud, your sins like the morning mist. Return to me, for I have redeemed you.” Isaiah 44:22 (NIV)
“Because they consider all the offenses they have committed and turn away from them, that person will surely live; they will not die.” Ezekiel 18:28 (NIV)
If a ruler’s anger rises against you, don’t leave your post; calmness can lay great offenses to rest. Ecclesiastes 10:4 (NIV)
Do not take to heart all the things that people say, lest you hear your servant cursing you. Your heart knows that many times you yourself have cursed others. Ecclesiastes 7:21-22 (ESV)
Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. For you will be treated as you treat others. The standard you use in judging is the standard by which you will be judged. “And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own? How can you think of saying to your friend, ‘Let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye? Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye.” Matthew 7:1-5 (NLT)
1. How do you react when someone hurts or offends you? Do you retaliate, distance yourself, or stay quiet about it?
2. Have you ever been called hyper-sensitive, easily offended, or told you can’t take a joke?
3. What have you ever gained from holding onto offense? Was it worth it?
4. How do you react when you are the offender? Do you apologize, try to make restitution, or do you defend your position to the end?
4. What is one step you can take when offended or as an offender to lead a healthier, happier life?
I would love to hear your thoughts in the comment section below or via email at [email protected].