YOU OFFEND ME
T. Pierce Brown
It is our judgment that the Bible teaching about “offending our brother” is misunderstood by many. The word “skandalizo” is used about 28 times in the New Testament, and in no case does it have reference to merely doing something that displeases another. We may use an expression like, “If you raise that window when I want it down, you will offend me.” But this is not related to the meaning of the term used here. It means, “to cause to stumble,” and refers to leading one to sin. We should be willing to compromise on anything that is not vital to the work of the Lord to prevent some person from being led into sin.
There are brethren who have said, “If you eat a meal in the church building, it will offend me, and you thus transgress the law of God.” The only way I can think of that my eating in the church building would offend you, in the Biblical use of the term, is that you are so weak that you would violate your own conscience and eat there just because you saw me eating there. Just the fact that you thought I did wrong by eating would not cause you to be offended.
Others have said, “I think we should all drink the fruit of the vine at the Lord’s Supper out of one container. If you have many cups, you will offend me.” Sometimes I reply to that kind of person, “If you think you should drink out of one container, please do so. That is exactly what I intend to do! But if I do not happen to drink out of the same one you do, and the Lord commanded me to, that is my sin, and not yours. How could that possibly cause you to stumble?” I admit it might make some persons angry if you do not do what suits them, but although it “offends” them in the ordinary present usage of the term, it does not “offend” them in the Bible use of it, for my doing something you do not like can not possibly cause you to do likewise, unless there are two bad things about you: 1. You have such a weak conscience that you will follow me in spite of the fact that your conscience condemns you, and 2. You respect me or my opinions more than you respect what you understand God’s will to be.
If I understand the Bible correctly, if I have a brother who is that weak and I know about it, I should forego any activity that is merely optional that would cause him to commit a sin by following my example. That is, if that activity would automatically cause them to do that which is sinful for them, and that activity is not necessary to carry out God’s command, then it should be left undone. If a person were convinced that it was a sin to stand and pray instead of kneel, they should not be forced to stand. But they should be taught and loved. However, they should not be allowed to make everyone else kneel just because of their opinion. I remember when cranks were necessary to get the T. Model Ford to run, but I do not know of any time when it is appropriate to let “cranks” run the church. Paul expressed the basis of this idea very well in 1 Cor.8:13when he said, “Wherefore, if meat make my brother to offend (remember that this means `to commit a sin’), I will eat no flesh while the world standeth, lest I make my brother to offend.”
I would urge that each one of us try to demonstrate the love that would mark us before the world as disciples of Christ, and make special efforts to act in such a way that weak brethren not be caused to stumble. However, we should not allow some weak brother to control the work of the church.