“Blessed is the person who is not offended by me.”
~ Matthew 11:6
To be offended means to stumble or trip. The Scripture tells us that Jesus is a rock of offense . . . or a rock of stumbling . . . to the disobedient (1 Peter 2:8). In His earthly days, the Lord Jesus was constantly offending the religious establishment.
But in the above text, Jesus has someone else in mind. He’s speaking to His followers: “Blessed are you, my followers, when you are not offended by me.” The context bears this out.
John the Baptist was utterly loyal to Jesus. He walked a life of total self-denial. He gave everything up for his God. And now he finds himself in a cold prison.
We have no record that the Lord ever visited him there. So John is questioning and doubting. He’s probably thinking, “Was it really worth it? I lived my whole life to pave the way for the Messiah, and now I’m in prison. The kingdom hasn’t yet come.”
John is wondering and wavering; he’s tempted to stumble at his Lord. So he sends word to Jesus asking, “Are you really the one who was to come? Or should we expect another?”
Again, Jesus doesn’t visit John. He instead sends this answer to him via his disciples:
“Go back and report to John what you’re seeing. The deaf hear; the blind see; the lepers are cleansed; the dead are raised; the good news is being preached to the poor . . . and happy is the person who is not offended in me. Peaceful is the man who doesn’t stumble over me. Blessed is the person who doesn’t fall away on account of what I do or not do.”
Over the years, I’ve watched Christians take offense with the Lord. Some of them were passionate followers of Jesus in their youth, but later ended up renouncing Him. Why? Because they chose to be offended by Him.
“Blessed is the person who is not offended by me.” This is the forgotten beatitude.
In this post, I want to share three reasons why Christians become offended by their Lord. In part two of the series, I want to discuss the issue of Christians being offended by others. The two are distinct, but not separate.
Reason 1: He demands too much. In John 16:1, Jesus tells His disciples that He’s sharing “all these things” so they won’t be offended by Him. Some of those “things” were stern warnings that they would be hated by the world and persecuted (John 15:18ff.). Jesus made clear that following Him won’t lead to a bed of roses. Suffering and loss are involved.
Unfortunately, some present a gospel that leaves these parts out. The result: Christians get offended when they realize what they’ve gotten into. But Jesus lets us know up front what following Him entails. Even in His own day, some of His followers stopped walking with Him because they regarded the cost too high (John 6:53-59).
Reason 2: He doesn’t meet our expectations. The Lord often works in ways that we don’t understand. I’ve heard some Christians say, “My life would have been much better today if I didn’t follow Jesus in my youth. Look where it’s gotten me.” In Finding Organic Church, I talk about the Catch-30 crisis. There comes a point in all our lives where we reassess the major commitments we’ve made in early adulthood. And we either dig in deeper or we abandon ship.
Isaiah says that God’s ways are higher than ours (Isaiah 55:9). The Lord works on levels that we cannot fathom. Paul says that God works all things for our good (Romans 8:28). “Why hasn’t God answered this prayer? Why didn’t He fulfill this promise? Why did He let this happen to me? Why did He let this happen to him/her? Why is God silent when I need to hear Him most?”
These are the questions that plague the mind of the serious believer. If you’ve not yet met the God who refuses to meet all your expectations, you will. And how you react in that day will reveal whether you are worshiping Jesus Christ or Santa Clause (see John 6:26). It will show whether or not you love God more than His promises (or really, your interpretation of those promises).
Jeanne Guyon once said, “I will still serve Him, even if it sends me to hell.” Job said, “Shall we receive good from the hand of the Lord and not evil?” Recall the three Hebrew children. They had lived a life loyal to their God. And the pagan king said to them, “Worship my golden image or else you’re going to die in my fiery furnace.”
Their answer is telling: “We’re not going to worship this image or serve your gods. The Lord is able to deliver us, and He will deliver us from your fiery furnace. But even if He doesn’t, we’re still not going to bow down to your false gods.”
What an attitude. What a posture. What faith. “God will deliver us. But even if He doesn’t, we will still follow Him.”
Those words contain thunder and lightning for every child of God.
If I can use an illustration, we mortals are living on pages 300-400 of a 2,000 page book. Only God can see the whole book. And He’s only given us the ability to see pages 300-400. We have no capacity to understand what’s in pages 1-299 or pages 401 to 2,000. We can only speculate and assume what’s in them (hence we create all sorts of intricate theological systems to explain mysteries we don’t understand).
Here’s a lesson to learn: Life always comes down to trusting in the Lord rather than trying to figure out His ways via our finite, limited understanding. Yet together, we can better discover and understand what’s in pages 300-400, and thereby learn to live more effectively within them. (I hope blog posts like this contribute to that goal.)
Reason 3: He doesn’t show up on time. He works too slowly. He reacts too late. His deliverance takes too long. God’s clock is a lot slower than ours. We can text or email our prayer to God, and He doesn’t text or email back when we expect. In fact, sometimes we never hear back from Him at all. The screen is blank.
Sometimes we’ll pray for an important matter in our own lives . . . . or we’ll pray for someone else . . . for years. And the dial doesn’t move. Waiting on the Lord can become weary. And it can lead to offense. But God always keeps perfect time.
To sum up, here’s how NOT to offended by the Lord:
- Remember that He demands everything, and He has promised suffering and tribulation along with blessing and eternal life. So don’t sell out for a cheap, easy gospel. Such is not the gospel of Jesus Christ. He told us what we were getting into and exhorted us to count the cost ahead of time (Luke 14:26ff.).
- Remember that His ways are higher than ours, and He doesn’t always show us what He’s doing or why. We may not always understand what He does or allows, but He can still be trusted. This is the nature of walking by faith rather than by sight. Even when His grace isn’t sufficient, it is always sufficient.
- Remember that God is always on time, but His clock ticks differently from ours. He’s a Lord who sometimes shows up long after the hour of healing has passed and we are dead for four days. Just ask Lazarus.
- Being offended by God is a choice. You can choose to take offense at the Lord and stumble over that which you don’t understand. Or you can “trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not unto your own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5).
“Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments, and His ways past finding out!” (Romans 11:33)
The Forgotten Beatitude: Part II - Being Offended by Others