Give no offense either to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God; 1 Corinthians 10:32 NASB
Give no offense – Read this verse again. Then ask yourself, “How is this possible?” How can I give no offense. The Greek word is aproskopoi. That the verb proskopto combined with the negative particle a. It’s actually a much stronger verb than our usual understanding of “offense.” In today’s politically correct environment, to give offense can mean something as innocuous as using the “wrong” description (e.g. illegal alien instead of undocumented worker). Frankly, we are a pansy nation. It is rare to find anyone who is willing to tell it like it is. And if you do, you can be assured of being punished for your “offense.” Paul, on the other hand, had no compunction about speaking the truth. That’s why he uses the verb proskopto; a verb which literally means “to cut against.” An offense in Paul’s vocabulary is something that cuts to the heart. That implies something important, something vital and necessary. We aren’t speaking of forgetting which fork is for salad and which is for meat. We are speaking about personal insults that question character and commitment.
What would be such an insult to the Jews? Well, how about denying Torah as the code of life’s conduct? Do you suppose that this would be offensive to a Jew? How about suggesting that God no longer favors the Jews; that God is done with them and has moved on to the “church”? How about claiming that Christianity has replaced Israel and that God’s covenant promise to Abraham no longer applies? Do you think that cuts to the heart? How about “The Jews should be punished because they killed Jesus”? Would that hurt? Paul says, “Don’t be offensive about these things.”
And what about the Greeks? What sorts of things might cut to the heart of a Greek (Gentile)? How about, “God has condemned everyone outside the Church and they are all going to hell”? How about, “Because you are a sinner, your mental capacities are corrupt and you can’t even think straight about God”? How about “Nothing you can do has any merit with God. All your works are as filthy rags”? How about, “I must keep separate from you pagans because you have rejected the truth. I can’t have anything to do with you”? Maybe you could add a few more.
Finally Paul says, “Don’t cut into the heart of the church.” Of course, that isn’t exactly what he said. The word ekklesia needs to be translated correctly. “Don’t offend the assembly of believers, the qehelah of God.” How might I do that? What if I said that everyone who doesn’t believe as I do is theologically stupid, mistaken and condemned? What if I refused to associated with those “others,” like Catholics or Pentecostals or Pro-life Baptists (or Pro-choice Episcopalians, maybe)? What if I claim that only my theology is the right theology? What if I can’t have a glass of wine with a fellow Christian because I only drink grape juice (and Jesus never drank wine anyway)? I am sure you could find a few more ways to offend.
We don’t read this verse often, do we? Maybe that’s because it requires such a wide scope of tolerance. It makes us uncomfortable to think that we don’t know it all. Maybe the first step of fellowship is aproskopos – not cutting to the heart.
Topical Index: give no offense, aproskopos, 1 Corinthians 10:32