Is It Ever Okay for a Christian to Offend?

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This is a good question that I think we all need to ask ourselves in this culture we’re living in right now.

Is it ever okay for a Christian to offend other people? Namely other Christians?

Two women arguing

I believe this question is important, because we live in a culture where there are very clear lines drawn between factions in the body as demands are being made that you stand squarely in one camp.

Either you’re squarely in the camp that churches can and should be LGBTQ+ affirming, or not.

Either you’re squarely in the camp that all religions lead to God in some way, or you’re not.

Either you believe the church should engage more in social justice than bold preaching of the gospel, or you don’t.

But we’ve come to a point where you cannot ride the fence, and attempts to appease both sides are no longer acceptable.

If you take a strong stand on biblical principle, you are very often labeled as offensive, unloving, and intolerant; whereas those who preach a more inclusive gospel consider themselves more loving, open, and listening.

Who is right?

And yet, those who take a solid scriptural stance say they are, in fact, loving by offering a cure to eternal suffering.

Who is right?

Is It Ever Okay for a Christian to Offend?

As we study through the book of 2 Corinthians with our Good Morning Girls, we read about how Paul not only sent stern letters addressing their tolerance of sin, but also even visited them and personally delivered a stern warning.

But he uses word that are so interesting. He says, “We give no offense in anything that our ministry may not be blamed.” 6:3

And yet, in 7:8-9 he refers to having made them sorry – or sad – by his letter.

“For even if I made you sorry with my letter, I do not regret it; though I did regret it. For I perceive that the same epistle made you sorry, though only for a while. Now I rejoice, not that you were made sorry, but that your sorrow led to repentance. For you were made sorry in a godly manner, that you might suffer loss from us in nothing.”

In looking at the Greek words he uses here for the words offend and sorry, we come to understand what God expects of us as Christians in our inner-church relationships; especially in a culture such as ours today.

Offense versus sorrow

The Greek word Paul uses in 2 Corinthians 6:3 for offense is proskope, and it means a stumbling block.

To cause someone to stumble.

“Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather resolve this, not to put a stumbling block or a cause to fall in our brother’s way.” Romans 14:13

In other words, even when we’re speaking truth and standing on God’s Word, if the manner in which we do it is rooted in pride, arrogance, or judgementalism, we’re being a stumbling block, not a stepping stone.

We can be right, but if we’re not loving we’re still wrong. 1 Corinthians 13.

Conversely, if in our efforts toward inclusivity and tolerance we encourage and even teach anti-biblical doctrine, we’re also being a stumbling block.

We’re leading God’s people in sin.

“But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were drowned in the depth of the sea.” Matthew 18:6

However, when we examine the Greek word for sorrow in chapter 7, we see Paul uses the word lypeo, which means to grieve, to sorrow, to bring heaviness.

And in verses 8 and 9, Paul says that initially he regretted making the Corinthian church feel this way by his letters and visit, but later stopped regretting it because he saw that their grief led them true repentance.

The one action (offense) leads to sin, the other action (grief) leads to godly repentence.

This is important, because there are times when Christians will grieve other Christians, so as to guide them to a place of godly sorrow that leads to true repentance.

1. Not everyone in the church was saved

Paul opens up 2 Corinthians 6 by urging them to not reject the grace of God, but to recognize that now is the day of salvation.

One can only conclude that there were those in the Corinthian church who had been rejecting God’s grace and resisting salvation because these words were directed to the church; not to the world.

2. There were those who were still joined to the world

Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever? And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God.” 2 Corinthians 6:14-16

We often hear this passage in the context of a marriage between a Christian and an unbeliever, but it is equally relevant for

  • Business partnerships
  • Intimate friendships
  • Mentorships and counseling relationships
  • Inner-faith relationships

Any time we’re entering into a relationship that requires us to share a life-path with someone, we must examine whether it is a path that can be equally shared.

If not, must remember 6:17:

Come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, And I will receive you.”

The promise is unlocked when we choose to obey the command:

“I will be a Father to you, and you shall be My sons and daughters, says the LORD Almighty.” 6:18

Also, remembering James 4:4 “Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.”

3. We don’t fight against people, we fight against spiritual forces

“For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ, and being ready to punish all disobedience when your obedience is fulfilled.” 2 Corinthians 10:3-6

These weapons do four things:

  • Pull down strongholds
  • Cast down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God
  • Bring every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ
  • Punish all disobedience – once obedience has been fulfilled

They pull down, cast down, make captive, and then punish.

This is very aggressive warfare – but it is warfare enacted in the spiritual realm, and not against people.

And this is very important for us to remember when we engage with people – especially Christians with whom we disagree.

Even when their beliefs violate Scripture, because ultimately we’re not in conflict with them, we’re in conflict with arguments and high things that are exalting themselves against the knowledge of God!

These arguments and high things are allowed to take root in their hearts because of strongholds in their life.

And they can only take these high thoughts captive to the obedience of Christ (Scripture) when they recognize how their own disobedience deeply offends Christ and have been made sorrowful with godly sorrow to the point of true repentance.

This isn’t something we can do on our own.

Paul didn’t bring the Corinthian church to godly sorrow on his own through his letters. If he had, these letters wouldn’t be considered cannon; they’d be considered simply the words of Paul.

His words were first birthed in prayer, intercession and spiritual warfare.

Paul first fought this battle in the Spirit, and then the Holy Spirit spoke the words to Him that he should write to the church.

It was the Holy Spirit that brought the Corinthian church to a place of godly sorrow.

But it always first begins in prayer on our knees in spiritual battle.

Dear sisters – there are times when we may need to speak a difficult word in love that brings sorrow; but this should never be done glibbly.

The battle over our own flesh is first conquered in prayer, and then we can go to battle in the Spirit for the soul of the person in error.

Only then can we clearly hear the words of the Spirit to speak to their hearts, as we continue to pray and intercede that their hearts will be moved to godly sorrow that leads to repentance.

Any other words born of any other source will only be an offense that will be a stumbling block.


This post is part of the Blogging Through the Bible series with Good Morning Girls

Other posts on 2 Corinthians:

3 Important Truths for the Suffering Christian

Rosilind
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