It seems like we live in a world where everyone is offended by something. They are offended by things you did in the past. Things you are doing now. And even who you innately are. They are offended by your words, by your actions, and by your choices.
And, just like a snowball that grows in force and speed as it rolls down a hill, so, too, this world where everyone is offended is growing quickly in epic proportions. (The snowball actually started a long time ago. We are simply watching it hurl towards the bottom of the hill now.)
But, as the church, are we really any different? It seems like we find the same dynamic there. People are offended because they weren’t asked to be on a committee or invited to a get-together. They are offended because the pastor doesn’t talk to them or didn’t say what they thought he should say. They are offended because something they donated years ago has been replaced. They are offended because the lady in the hat sings too loud.
It’s in families, where offended parties avoid each other. Where criticism reigns freely but grace is in short supply. Where differences of opinions about politics and religion and money cause chasms that can’t seem to be crossed.
It seems like anywhere we turn, people are just offended these days.
So how can we change this? Obviously there is little we can do. But there is a little we can do.
We can start with ourselves.
We can intentionally choose to not be offended. To let things roll. To give people grace. To stop being worried about ourselves and how we feel.
That’s the bottom line, isn’t it? Offended people are often consumed by themselves and how they feel.
Speaking from my own experience, when I feel offended, this is why. My pride or my feelings have been hurt and I am purely focused on myself.
But Christianity calls for the exact opposite of this.
God calls us to cast self aside and to esteem others better than ourselves.
Philippians 2:2-4 Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. 4 Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.
God asks us to treat others like we would want to be treated.
Luke 6:31 And just as you want men to do to you, you also do to them likewise.
God tells us to love our enemies and to pray for those who persecute and use us.
Matthew 5:44-47 But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, 45 that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet your[p]brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the[q]tax collectors do so?
God loved us so much that He sent His son to die for our sins. We are to respond to this gift with love–both for God and for others.
Mark 12:30-31 And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ [l]This is the first commandment. 31 And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”
We get a good description of this love in I Corinthians 13, where we read that it is long-suffering, doesn’t seek its own, and is not provoked (ESV version uses the word “resentful”).
I Corinthians 13:4-7 Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not [b]puffed up; 5 does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, [c]thinks no evil; 6 does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; 7 bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
In fact, loving our Christian brothers is so important that we are told that we are a liar if we say we love God but hate a brother. Think about the ramifications of that for a moment.
I John 14:20-21 If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, [d]how can he love God whom he has not seen? 21 And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also.
We also find in Matthew that if we don’t forgive those who trespass against us, God won’t forgive us our sins. That is a very indicting statement! This is how critical it is that we forgive others instead of our natural “old man” tendency to hold a grudge. This is an extremely big deal.
Matthew 6:14-15 For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
As we learn to respond to offenses in a manner worthy of being called a Christian, the wonderful effects of this will ripple out to our children and extended family. It will ripple out to our co-workers and church family. As we choose very intentionally not to be offended about every little thing or even about big things, we set an example that hopefully inspires others to do the same. As we choose to forgive instead of holding grudges, we help to create the warm and loving atmosphere that should be in every Christian home and biblical church.
We get to help instead of hinder.
We help to build our families and churches rather than tear them down.
This isn’t easy. And many are the times that I (personally) have to catch myself. I have to ask myself: Why am I so offended by this or that? When I take a moment to examine, it is always because of selfishness and pride. Oh, how ugly these things are. How much division and dissension they cause in Christian homes and churches.
As we face a world that is so offended all the time, may we true Christians stand out like beacons of light in the darkness as we choose to forgive and extend grace. And may this difference draw people to us and give us abundant opportunities to plant seeds for God’s Kingdom.
Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it[i] to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” 20 To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.