“Lest we should offend.” (Matt. 17:27)
How truly was our Lord Jesus “harmless” because he was “undefiled.” In him was no sin. That his Gospel should have been an offense to the scribes and Pharisees, and that his cross was an offense to the world, is no marvel. It was so then, it is so now, and it will be so to the end. But our Lord never, in any one instance, gave needless offense. His heart was too tender, his disposition too kind, his nature too holy, maliciously and thoughtlessly to wound the feelings or offend the ‘innocent sentiments’ of others. Maligned by his enemies, misunderstood and neglected by his friends, yet on no occasion did he retort, revile, or wound; but, with the harmlessness of the dove and the innocence of the lamb. He opened not his mouth. Let us learn of him in this holy feature of his character, study it closely, and imitate it faithfully.
A desire to avoid offense does not demand a compromise of our Christian faith or profession. On no occasion did it in the life of Jesus. When he might have avoided a snare, or warded off a thrust, or escaped a wound by concession, conciliation, or compromise, he stood firm to his own truth and his Father’s honor, unswerving and unswerved — and yet the “sword” with which he fenced and foiled his foes was, “bathed in heaven.” (Isa. 34:5) Thus, O my soul, learn of him. Let this be your guiding precept, as it was Christ’s, “speaking the truth in love.” Offenses will come. For, since “the offense of the cross is not ceased,” we cannot maintain its great distinctive and essential doctrines purely, faithfully, manfully, and not evoke animosity against us; nor the hostility and offense of the world.
And yet the Christian law, “giving no offense, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the Church of God,” is unrepealed; and the Christian precept, “that you may live pure and blameless lives until Christ returns” is still binding upon all true followers of the meek and harmless Savior. “The mind that was in Christ Jesus,” dwelling in us, will lead us to respect the convictions, to be tender towards the feelings, and to be charitable towards the infirmities, and to honor the consciences of other Christians differing from us in things not essential to salvation. “It is good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor anything whereby your brother stumbles, or is offended, or is made weak.” (Rom. 14:21)
“Lest we should offend.” What instructive words, O my soul, are these! How much evil in the world, dissension in the Christian Church, and alienation in families would be avoided and averted were the holy precept taught in these words of Jesus more fully observed. Let us, then, pray and watch against every least violation. Let us be careful of our words, our motives, and our actions, lest, wounding and offending one of Christ’s little ones, we offend and wound Christ himself. Oh never give needless cause of offense to a weak believer, to a conscientious Christian, to a tried, tempted child of God — to one who, in his own way and sphere, is seeking to serve his Lord and Master. Let us deny ourselves any and every gratification, and allow any and every loss involving not disloyalty to Christ and compromise of his truth — rather than hurt the feelings, wound the conscience, or put a stumbling-block in the way of one who loves Jesus, and for whom the Savior died.
Oh, how seldom we remember, how faintly we recognize, the perfect oneness of Christ with his people! That it is utterly impossible to do an injury to, or confer a favor upon, a true believer in Jesus, and not be brought into personal contact with Jesus himself — “He that touches you touches the apple of my eye.” (Zech. 2:8) “Inasmuch as you have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, you have done it unto me.” (Matt. 25:40) Lord, help me more and more clearly to see You in Your saints; and in conferring upon them a kindness, or in inflicting on them an injury, to see Jesus only!