The Blessedness of the Unoffended

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This pamphlet was taken from the May-June 1969, “A Witness and A Testimony.”
Reprinted: 2010
This pamphlet is available free upon request by writing to:
Emmanuel Church
12000 E 14th St
Tulsa, OK 74128-5016 USA

Some years ago a much-used servant of God (J.S.H.) gave a series of messages
which have been a great help to may Christians. From that series, we have
selected the following, believing that it will help many at this time.

The Blessedness of The Unoffended
“Blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in Me” (Matt. 11:6).
“These things have I spoken unto you, that ye should not be offended”
(John 16:1).

One of the greatest perils of the Christian life lurks in the common pathway of
discipleship. It is the peril of being offended in Christ. The fellowship to which
the Gospel summons us inevitably brings a constant new and humiliating
discovery of self; an unvarying disturbance of established order in our lives, as His
will corrects and opposes our own; and a ceaseless effort to attain to the ideal;
that is, to make our lives as followers increasingly correspond with His as
And the danger is that we are apt to break down under the test and training of
it all, to go back and walk no more with Him, to become, in fact, offended in Him.
It is always possible, despite every sincere profession of the soul, that what God
meant for blessing should become blight to us by our misconceptions. It is always
perilously possible that the light of today may become deep and impenetrable
darkness tomorrow, by our failure to obey and keep step with Him, by our lagging
behind or turning aside from the compelling guidances of Christ’s companionship.
Men have, in this way, unconsciously and imperceptibly put themselves far out of
the range of Christ’s ordinary influences; and have become, like the derelicts of
the ocean, occasions of danger and disaster to countless other lives.
But Christ, with that absolute frankness which is a large part of His
attractiveness to men, cannot be held to blame for such pitiful defections, for He
never disguises the otherwise unthought-of possibility. In His Evangel He
combines welcome with warning as none other has ever done. His Word, while it
opens the very heart of God to our consciousness, opens also our own hearts to
us. By Him we come to know the Father, and by Him also we come to know
ourselves. He reveals the entire faithfulness of God to us, but He reveals also the
instability of our own wills, and the untrustworthiness of our own emotions. He
treats us not as ideal but as real men; and forewarns us of the destruction that
wasteth at noonday, as well as of the pestilence that walketh in darkness. Hence
it is that to the most earnest and self-convinced of us all He says: “Blessed is he
whosoever shall not be offended in Me.” The implicate is obvious and ominous.
But the reality and richness of His grace is the sufficient and silencing answer to
every one of our fears. The blessedness of the unoffended, despite all the danger
without and the weakness within, is the possible acquisition of each one. And it is
blessedness indeed.
Now it is necessary to remember the meaning of the word “offend.” In its
original form it is the very word we frequently use-scandalize, and has the force of
causing to stumble. So we may translate and expand this saying of Christ as
being: “Blessed is he who does not find in Me any cause of stumbling; who can
keep his feet in My ways; who is not tripped up by any obstacles in the path into
which I have directed him.” He uses the word quite frequently in this sense; as,
for instance, when He speaks of a man’s hand or eye being the stumbling to him,
when He denounces those who cause little ones to be offended, and when He
declares that in the day of His glory all things that offend shall be rooted out of
His Kingdom.
But He never uses it so surprisingly as when He declares the possibility of men
finding occasion of stumbling in Him. We are prepared to find it in the world, in
the opposition of the devil, in the proven insincerity of others-but in Him! This is
surely the most startling of all His warnings. For in Him we have already found life
and salvation, guidance and peace, inspiration and satisfaction. And now to
contemplate finding in Him also any cause of offence fairly staggers us. Had this
word been applicable to men of the world, it would have occasioned little, if any,
surprise. For instance, we are not greatly taken aback when those who knew Him
so familiarly should treat Him so contemptuously and say: “Is not this the
carpenter’s son?” Nor are we entirely unprepared to find that the Pharisees were
offended in Him when He spoke to them of the evil thoughts, adulteries, murders,
and the like, which proceed from the hearts of men; for His words convicted them
of sin. We are not much surprised that He should be a rock of offence to those
who are avowedly disobedient to His demands. But that His own friends, those
who really know Him, and have been admitted into the intimacies of fellowship
with Him, should find cause of offence in Him is passing strange. And its very
mystery warns us to take heed to ourselves.
The setting of the first of these gives us the key to their significance. John the
Baptist was languishing in prison on the shores of the Dead Sea as the outcome of
a life of the utmost faithfulness. He had been tremendously loyal to Christ,
splendidly in earnest concerning his mission, wonderfully courageous in giving
forth the message committed to him, and yet it had all ended in a dungeon.
What a test for such a man!
It seemed as though his faith, his self-restriction, his willingness to decrease
that Christ might increase, had all been unrecognized and unvalued. His
experience so entirely contradicted God’s assurance, that it is easy to understand
the perplexity of mind which led him to send his disciples to Christ with the
pathetic query: “Art thou He that should come?” For here is One who has
avowedly come to deliver captives, and yet He does not deliver the man who,
more than all others, seemed to have claims upon Him. He has proclaimed His
own mission in terms of sympathy and love for the heartbroken, and yet here is a
crushed and heartbroken man of whom He apparently takes no notice.
Is it to be wondered at that at last doubt overcomes faith, so that he sends the
messengers to Christ in the hope that He will declare Himself plainly, and
interpret such utterly inexplicable and contradictory experience to the one who
had at immense cost to himself maintained a devoted loyalty to the Son of God?
Christ’s only answer to these messengers is an exhibition of His sovereign power
over the forces of destruction and death, and an injunction that they should tell
John what they had seen, and give to him this message which calls for a new
triumphant trust on his part: “Blessed is he whosoever shall not be offended in
Me.” For it means that in the pathway of blessing the providence of testing will
always be experienced. Its implication is that there is true peace only for that
man who will trust Christ when he has no external aids to faith, who believes Him
when he sees only the seeming denial of his confidence, and who holds to his
loyalty without stumbling when His treatment tests his endurance to the
The second of these words of Christ helps us to understand how his message to
John applies to ourselves: “These things have I spoken unto you, that ye should
not be offended.” Spoken as they were on the eve of His departure, when the
fierce tests of discipleship were about to be experienced by His followers, they
imply that they will need to stay their souls on the things He has told them
concerning His purpose and power, if they are to avoid the peril of stumbling and
going back from Him. For they are bound to come into experiences of test and
strain as they carry out their consecration vows; and “in those days,” says Christ,
“be true to your own best experience of Me. Rest on that which no man can take
from you-the personal knowledge you have of My grace. Hold to those things I
have spoken and shown to you. Be loyal to Me. Trust Me entirely, despite every
unexplained mystery and seemingly unnecessary tribulation. And you shall not be
stumbled but strengthened by these very things which are all of My ordering.”
Now it is not disloyal to Christ to say this: that He not only masters men but
mystifies them also. While He blesses them He bewilders them too, so
incomparably higher are His ways and thoughts than ours. He persuades us to
love and loyalty; but He puzzles us too, often to the point of distraction. He
certainly answers the questions of our hearts; but at the same time He arouses
even more than He answers. And in the life of every true follower of Him, there
will always be, as there was in His own, some great unanswered “Why?” None of
us will ever be exempt from the need of acquiring by faith and patience the
blessedness of the unoffended.
For think of an ordinary and typical instance of offence. It is not commonly a
matter of open backsliding, of heartless renunciation of the truth, or of bitter
denial of past experience. Rather does it begin with the disappointment of some
hope, the failure of an expectation, the weariness of an unanswered prayer, or
the ache of a heart which seems to evoke no sympathetic answer from God. All
this generates an unspoken and almost unspeakable distrust; and as we brood
over it, a sense of injustice grows; a feeling that we have not been treated quite
fairly by Christ, which becomes positive resentment. Until, after a while, His yoke
becomes irksome; we challenge His right to control our lives so; and it all ends in a
secret repudiation of His mastership, and often in an outward renunciation also of
all spiritual interests and aims. This is a typical cause of offence in Christ. And
how many there are all around us of whose lives it is a true description! From
small beginnings of distrust the largest disasters grow. If two parallel lines are
produced into infinity, there will never be any variation of the distance between
them. But let them diverge at any point by only a hair’s breadth. Then the
farther they are produced, the wider the divergence becomes, until at length
there is a universe of distance between them. So with our fellowship with Christ;
the smallest distrust or disobedience is charged with the potentiality of the
infinite; and if undiscovered and unchecked, will eventually put an eternity of
distance between the soul and the Saviour. If, therefore, we can estimate some
of the unchanging certainties of discipleship; explore some, at least, of the
perilous causes of offence in Christ; and at the same time also establish a new
relationship of implicit trust with our Lord, we shall be saved from this
threatening peril. And this is surely the aim of His forewarning Word.
There is first of all the severity of His requirements. When we first come to
Christ the pathway seems to be strewn with roses, and the air seems filled with
sweet and soothing perfumes. For while Christ is absolutely frank with us, and
veils nothing of the hardships and conflicts we must endure, our own powers of
apprehension are so limited that we see but one thing at a time, and that one
thing is that Christ meets all the need of which we are then immediately
conscious. Hence we march to a glad strain with which our hearts are in tune.
But before long we discover that the conditions of companionship are severe. For
instance, we find that a real separation from the world in spirit and purpose is
entirely necessary to the maintaining of fellowship. We find that we cannot
march to two tunes at once-and the world’s strains are seductive indeed. We
learn that we cannot keep step at the same time with Him and with popular
opinion, with Him and the world, nor always with Him and the outward professing
And when this discovery is made, it often means that men are offended in Him.
For His demand involves a costly disturbance in the regulation of home and
business and social life, according to His order. It means possibly for some the
relinquishing of a kind of popularity which exists only because of shameful silence
regarding Him. It involves others in the severance of ties which have become a
large part of their life, and the sacrifice of material prosperities which partake of
the nature of unrighteousness. It means for all the end of self-indulgence, a
crucifixion in order to a coronation, a dethronement in order to an
And when all this comes to be clearly apprehended, then it is that men are
offended in Christ. When He says: “Cut off thy right hand; pluck out thy right
eye; forsake all that you have; take up the cross and follow Me,” then comes the
test which determines everything. Then too often men go back to walk no more
with Him. Not because they do not understand Him, but because they have come
to know Him too well! When He comes to be recognized, not only as the Christ of
the sympathetic heart, but also as the Christ of the steadfastly set face; then great
is the blessedness of the unoffended.
Then there is the mystery of His contradictions. It often seems as though
Christ were unsympathetic with our best desires, with those desires which have
originated in our fellowship with Himself. You want, for instance, to do some
great service and to fill some great sphere; but Christ’s answer to your longing is
to set you down to face the difficulties of a small work in a place where there is
little, if any, recognition of your toil You ask for spiritual service, and all that has
been granted is a monotonous round of secular duty. And you are in danger of
being offended in Him, just because there seems so little justification for His
treatment of your high aim.
Or, you have asked the gift of rest, and claimed His great promises on this
head; but the answer has come in the necessity for stern and continuous conflict.
The fires of temptation blaze around you, not less, but far more fiercely than
ever; and you are both puzzled and provoked at such a fulfillment of the Word
upon which you have hoped. Or, you have desired to have a life less burdened
and strained, but His only response has been to impose other and heavier
burdens upon you. And you are well-nigh offended in Him. The mystery of it all
baffles every serious purpose, and the temptation to distrust is at times almost
too much.
Now it will help us if we remember the simple fact, that He knows and does
just what is best both for the development and repression of our lives. In reality,
He is only unsympathetic with our egotisms. He only seeks to destroy within us
anything savouring of self-love, self-pride, and self-sufficiency, and to reproduce
in us something of the beauty of His own character. In His contradictions rightly
apprehended we may always see the expression of His perfect wisdom with
regard to our own highest interests, and the interests also of the Kingdom in
which He has given us a share. Then “blessed is he whosoever shall not be
offended”; who accepts the direction of Christ as His love, and trusts Him, “when
to simply trust Him seems the hardest thing of all.”
Beyond these causes is yet another in the slowness of His methods. We come
to Him and put our lives under His control, expectant of immediate realization of
a deliverance which shall lift us beyond all concern regarding temptation and
opposing forces. But how disappointingly slow is this realization; and how hardly
won are our victories even when we are re-enforced by His Spirit.
Quite early we find that life is not a song, but rather a strife; that the grace of
Christ is not a mere ecstasy but rather an energy which works painfully for
righteousness in us; and that it takes all the watchfulness of which we are capable
to occupy the ground already conquered, as well as to conquer fresh territory.
And the slowness of Christ in this matter of our own spiritual conflicts is often the
cause of offence to us. For it disappoints our hopes, and contradicts our
misconceptions as to anything like a passive and easy victory over our strong
enmities. But in reality, this method, slow though it may seem to us, is the only
one He could possibly pursue, having in view the greatness of His purpose and the
contrariety of our nature. And every experience of victory, however small and in
significant, is prophetic of an ultimately complete triumph.
If you go into the Observatory at Greenwich you will see there a delicate
instrument, by means of which the astronomers measure the distances of the
stars, as well as their magnitude. Upon a sensitive mirror is reflected the light of
the star points; and a measurement of the angles at which any two of the rays
meet furnishes sufficient data for all the astounding calculations of millions of
miles. And so it is in our lives. By estimating what Christ has already done we are
assured of His unvarying purpose. Every bit of experience of His power to
sanctify, to cleanse, to redeem, to deliver, is prophetic of the whole- “that He
Who hath begun the good work will perfect it.” And if we cling to this fact, we
shall find it an inspiration to the steady continuance of faith, and shall not be
offended because He works so slowly-and surely.
The same is true also in regard to the progress of the Kingdom whose interests
we are called to serve. How often we find in the slowness with which spiritual
results are achieved a cause of offence in Christ. We begin by expecting that
when we lift up Christ we shall immediately see crowds flocking to Him. We
imagine that we have but to work faithfully in the service of God and man, and
results are certain to be apparent. But how different is the realization! How
hardly souls are wooed and won! How true it is that tares grow up with the
wheat! How certain that he who goes forth bearing precious seeds must needs
weep as he goes!
And the difficulty of believing that God is on the field when He is most invisible
is too much for many who commence to work for Him with high hopes and valiant
beliefs which seem all unjustified. Like the disciple, they think that “the Kingdom
of God should immediately appear”; and in the discipline of their enthusiasm, and
the conversion of their consecration into continuance, they are apt to be
“offended.” Now it would not be difficult to bring instance upon instance to
prove that, in spiritual work, when results are least visible they are often most
real. The worker who will go on without the stimulus of outward success, who
will continue His witness even when he is met by cold indifference, who will carry
out Christ’s work in the unfailing inspiration of knowing that it is His work, is the
one who gets the blessedness of the unoffended. And part of it is in the certain
harvest of all his sowing, and the sure reward of all his service.
But perhaps over and above these suggested causes of offence in Christ is the
unreasonableness of His silences. I have every sympathy with John the Baptist in
his perplexity: “If this is really the Christ, why does He not act as Christ? Why does
He do nothing to deliver His captive herald, or to bring peace to his troubled
heart?” One visit from Christ would have changed his prison to a palace. One
hand-clasp from Him would have transmuted his gloom into glory. But He did not
give it. Just so was it also at Bethany, when He left Martha and Mary to their
sorrow for two long and weary days. I sympathize with them in their utter
inability to understand His delay in the light of His love; and in the implied protest
of the word with which they at length greeted Him: “If Thou hadst been here, my
brother had not died.” His silence seemed so entirely unreasonable. And still
does it seem unreasonable when He apparently pays no heed to our prayers, and
we cry as to a silent heaven. Who does not know this bitter experience and the
subtle temptation lurking there? You have prayed for the conversion of loved
ones, but they are apparently today as unyielding and impenitent as ever. You
have prayed for temporal things which seemed entirely necessary, and no answer
has come. You have sought relief from some pressing burden, but no lightening
of the load has been given; and today it is heavier than ever. And the thought
that Christ’s silence is unreasonable is never very far away. Loyalty to Him
strained sorely, almost to breaking-point. It is almost excusable to be “offended”
in Him. But as with John in prison, and the sisters at Bethany, and hosts of other
in all ages, He is not unmindful, however His silence may seem to pint to it. He is
training them, and us, to undaunted faith, to live in the realm of the unseen and
eternal; to walk in His own steps. Sometimes what we call unanswered prayer
proves beyond question a greater blessing than the desired answer could possibly
have been. When Christ responds to our requests in the negative, we may be
certain that the positive would have been for our undoing. He withholds
secondary mercies to teach us the importance and value of the primary. His
denials are our enrichments, not our impoverishments. For His purposes are
vastly bigger than our prayers; and while His speech may be as silver, His silence is
as gold. “Blessed is he whosoever shall not be offended in Me.”
“These things have I spoken unto you; that, despite the severity of My
requirements, the mystery of My contradictions, the slowness of My methods,
the unreasonableness of My silences, ye should not be offended.” What things
were these? What will secure His people against the peril of defection? What are
the permanent securities of our faith? In a word, the sureness of His way before
us- “I came from the Father,” “I go unto the Father,” “I am the way.” Then the
certainty of His love towards us- “The Father Himself loveth you.” And the
constancy of His union with us- “Ye in Me and I in you.” These are the germ-truths of all His forewarnings. And their expansion is in the lives of His people.
Blessed is he who, resting upon these facts of God, makes them the factors of his
own life; and goes on unoffending and unoffended, always radiant with “the
peace that passeth all understanding, and increasingly becoming part of the
world’s illumination as he reflects his Lord.
But let us beware of putting any undue value upon our mere perception of this
truth. Let us beware of over-estimating the strength of our own resolves and
resources. Let us beware of saying anything like: “Though all men should be
offended because of Thee, yet will I never be offended.” Rather, in a sensitive,
humble dependence on Christ, which always expressed itself in iron devotion and
loyalty to His Word, let us seek to live as men of manifested faith. For this is the
condition which governs all the blessedness of the unoffended.
Books and Pamphlets are free upon request by writing to:
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