And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me. (Mt 11:6)
The birth place of false teaching is the offended heart. When you listen to those who have changed, twisted and perverted the gospel, you will find a root of offense somewhere in their hearts. The offense can be against a church, denomination, movement, doctrine, a person, or simple jealousy. The offense is an irritation of the heart that does not receive healing, but rather evolves into a bitterness. The object of the offense must be exposed, corrected or attacked in order for the offended one to feel justified.
Typically, the offended one must create a following of those who are like minded to achieve his goal. Paul recognized this in his farewell speech to the elders of Ephesus: “Even from among you men will arise speaking perverse things, to draw the disciples away after them” (Acts 20:30). Offense craves acceptance and does not care that division is a fruit of their ‘ministry.’
Doctrinal offenses can be emotional in nature (How could a loving God send people to hell?), or spring from bitterness because they were unable to receive from God as they had been taught (I prayed for someone and they died). Rather than seeking the Lord for more truth, offense takes root and the journey to attack the area of misunderstanding begins.
The fruits of a ministry born of offense can vary, but there are telltale signs. Condescension toward the ‘unlearned’ is normal. Extolling the virtues of their in-depth studies is typical. Speaking almost exclusively of their new revelation is common. Teachings that are fundamental and foundational for a successful Christian life are ignored and the emphasis is almost entirely on the area of offense.
Teachings that spring from offense often draw a crowd. Paul noticed this in Athens. (They) “spent their time in nothing else, but either to tell, or to hear some new thing” (Acts 17:21). The simplicity and power of the gospel becomes boring when a heart is offended. The desire will always be toward ‘some new thing,’ to entertain the unsuspecting.
It is so very important that we guard our hearts from offense. We must continually ask ourselves if we are seekers of Truth, or simply trying to defend our emotions, hurts and misunderstandings.
But if you have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, do not boast and do not lie against the truth. This wisdom descends not from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, and devilish. For where there is envying and strife, there is confusion and every evil work. (James 3:14-16)