"Woe unto the world because of offenses! for it must needs be that offenses come; but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh!" (Matthew 18:7).
The word translated "offend" (in verses 6 and 8) is the Greek, skandalizo, and "offense" is skandalar, from which we derive our English words "scandal" and "scandalize." The basic meaning of these words is "to cause to sin" or "to ensnare." It is bad enough to commit an act of sin, but even more scandalous in God's sight is the act of causing someone to sin. It is especially dangerous to lead children into sin. "And whosoever shall offend one of these little ones that believe in me, it is better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he were cast into the sea" (Mark 9:42). What a solemn judgment awaits those teachers and counselors who lead their pupils to doubt or disobey the word of God!
Yet, despite these and many similar warnings against "offenses," we are also told that Christ Himself is "a stumbling-stone and rock of offense" (Romans 9:33). There is a very real "offense of the cross" (Galatians 5:11); the apostle Paul says: "We preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock |same word as 'offense'|" (I Corinthians 1:23).
There is no contradiction, of course. The preaching of Christ and the cross is profoundly offensive to sinners, and they will often react angrily, and sometimes violently against it, thus compounding their sin. When we bear witness of Christ, our message is necessarily offensive, for it must condemn and convict before it can save. Nevertheless, it is profoundly important that, in any other respect than this, we never cause others to sin by bringing an offense. Our message may offend, but the context of life and word in which it is given should be without offense, if we would be faithful and effective in our service for Christ. HMM