When have you felt offended?
Years ago, I was helping organize the yearly women’s retreat at our church. I love teaching at women’s events and conferences, and during one of our planning meetings, another woman brought up the possibility of asking me to be the speaker. I was thrilled when everyone seemed excited about it. But a few weeks later, the team decided to ask someone else from our congregation to teach instead of me.
My initial response was to feel hurt. Over the next few days, that hurt blossomed into anger and offense. Who did they think they were, choosing this other woman over me? She was younger—and less experienced!
But as I prayed about everything swirling in my heart, the Lord showed me that underneath all my hurt and anger was pride. I was hurt because I felt rejected—an understandable emotion. But I was angry and offended because I felt entitled; I thought I was great and should be rewarded with an invitation to teach.
Pride Takes Offense
Opportunities for offense—and pride—are constant in our relationships with others. At work, we might become offended because a manager chooses a coworker’s idea over ours, or because our boss is stingy with praise. At home, offense may creep in when our spouse doesn’t show gratitude for all we do to keep the family functioning. We can feel offended by a friend whose political views clash with ours, or by the neighbor who constantly expects us to do things for her without ever returning the favor.
We become offended because we don’t believe we’re getting what we think we should have.
Sometimes, the actions of others are sinful—and we have been legitimately wronged. But just as often, we become offended because we don’t believe we’re getting what we think we should have, especially if it’s something someone else is getting instead. And it rankles.
Often, offense is undergirded by the ugly truth of pride. We may think we’re better than the person who’s offended us—either because we’re smarter, or because we work harder, or because we’re more spiritually or emotionally mature.
In Mark 10:35–45, we see the realities of offense and pride on full display in the relationships between the disciples. James and John asked Jesus for power and position based on their own perceived spiritual standing: “And they said to [Jesus], “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory” (Mark 10:37). As those close to Jesus, the brothers felt they deserved places of honor next to the Lord. But it gets worse: “And when the ten heard it, they began to be indignant at James and John” (Mark 10:41).
Jesus’s response to these offended, bickering disciples is the same reminder we need to hear today: “But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:43–45).
Christ points to the need for his people to serve one another in humility while simultaneously pointing to his death on the cross as the only way to finally overcome the greatest offense there is.
The Gospel Overcomes Offense
The truth is, as sinners, no matter how smart or mature we are, what we actually deserve in this life is wrath and condemnation—because our sin offends the Holy God. Instead, through Christ, we receive immeasurable grace from our heavenly Father:
But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus. (Eph. 2:4–6)
This good news is miraculous and incredible—God has removed our sin and therefore our offensiveness to him.
When we see ourselves rightly, the offense we feel from others can start to melt away.
But still, the gospel doesn’t always penetrate how we see and interact with the people who offend us. Any time we find ourselves thinking, “How dare she!” or, “Who does he think he is?” it’s a flashing light for us to look into the mirror and reconsider who we really think we are. We must view ourselves with humility, not considering ourselves as more important than we are (Rom. 12:3).
When we see ourselves rightly—as desperate sinners in need of a Savior—the offense we feel from others can start to melt away. Jesus brings peace between those who are offended, because he asks us to look to him as our standard, rather than at each other.
Peace comes when we acknowledge and repent from our pride so we can approach God and others with humility through service. That’s the place of true greatness that James and John were searching for—and the way to have a soul at peace with both God and others.