Here’s the biggest difference between offense and provocation: Offense shuts out, isolates, and flees from, while provocation runs toward, invites in, and opens up.
An offended brother is more unyielding than a fortified city, and disputes are like the barred gates of a citadel (Proverbs 18:19 niv).
I wonder how the scene in Acts would have changed if Paul had become like a fortified city; if he had been unyielding and refused to engage people who lived a lifestyle that was contrary to his own. But he did not retreat. He did not bar the gates and keep others out. No, he worked hard to reason with those around him to convince them of the truth of Jesus.
Offense is counterproductive to the gospel. It builds walls too high for people to climb. When we focus on offense, life becomes more about a set of rules and regulations— doing this and not doing that. The gospel is all about relationships:
Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification. Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. All food is clean, but it is wrong for a man to eat anything that causes someone else to stumble. It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything else that will cause your brother to fall.
So whatever you believe about these things keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the man who does not condemn himself by what he approves. But the man who has doubts is condemned if he eats, because his eating is not from faith; and everything that does not come from faith is sin (Romans 14:19-23 niv).
Ironically, this very passage that is so often used to condemn behavior that many Christians find offensive is really dealing with a relational reality of not leading other believers into sin. The offense then, in this context, is directed toward God. Paul is not talking about offending someone else or being offended by the actions of another, his is speaking to these believers about how they are to love one another.
Love each other. Don’t lead, intentionally or unintentionally, another person into anything that will offend God.
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