From the Word
2 Now when John heard in prison about the deeds of the Christ, he sent word by his disciples 3 and said to him, “Are you he who is to come, or shall we look for another?” 4 And Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: 5 the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. 6 And blessed is he who takes no offense at me.”
Matthew 11:2–6, RSV
There are two kinds of offenses, one of doctrine, and the other of life. The offense of doctrine comes when one believes, teaches or thinks of Christ in a different way than he should, as did the Jews, teaching that Christ was other than he really was, expecting him to be a temporal king. Christ and Paul always dwell upon this offense, scarcely mentioning any other. It is not without reason that men are admonished to remember this. Under the reign of the pope this offense has been hushed entirely, so that neither monk nor priest knows of any other offense than that caused by open sin and wicked living, which the Scriptures do not call an offense. They teach the people to believe that the mass is an offering and a good work, that by works men may become pious, may atone for sin and be saved, all of which is nothing less than rejecting Christ and destroying faith.
The offense of life is, when one sees and teaches an openly wicked work of another. It is impossible to avoid this offense, inasmuch as we must live among the wicked, but it is not so dangerous, since everybody knows that such offense is sinful, and no one is deceived by it. There is no disguise nor deception. But in the offense of doctrine there may be the most beautiful religious ceremonies, the noblest works, the most honorable life, so that it is impossible for common reason to censure or discern it. Only faith through the Spirit recognizes that it is all wrong. Against this offense Christ warns us, saying: “Whoso shall offend one of these little ones, which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.”
Whosoever does not preach Christ, or who preaches him otherwise than the gospel teaches, namely, as one caring for the blind, the lame and the poor, teaches us how to become unhappy and stumble in Christ. It is truly a great blessing not to be offended in Christ, and there is no other help or remedy than to look at his works and compare them with the Scriptures. Otherwise it is impossible to keep from being offended at Christ.
Luther, Martin, and John Sander. Devotional Readings from Luther’s Works for Every Day of the Year. Augustana Book Concern, 1915, pp. 438–39.