Learning to Offend
We live in a world that is constantly offended. This becomes particularly humorous in light of the socially current post modernist viewpoint that we should “be tolerant of everything” (especially immorality). Yet, no matter how tolerant the world pretends to be, it is constantly calling foul against those with whom it disagrees. The NFL kneeling scandal exemplifies this—some are offended at the silent protest of others, while those protesting are offended by those who disagree with their “stand.”
The LGBT community is offended by those who would want to refuse them their “constitutional rights,” often name-calling and lambasting their opponents as unloving, uncaring, and un-“Christian.” On the other side of the issue, the anti-LGBT crowd is offended by such “loosing living” and frequent immoral displays in parades and on mass media.
War. Race. Abortion. Gender roles. Politics. You name it—people are offended in mass.
We, as Christians, must navigate this highly offended culture with wisdom. We must be ready to give answers for our faith and hope with gentleness and reverence (cf. 1 Pet 3.15). We must balance exposing evil as evil (cf. Eph 5.11), while also not judging the outsider (cf. 1 Cor 5.9-13). Somehow, we must work to live like Christians in a world that is offended by us, if we visibly imitate Christ in our morality, godliness, or righteousness.
The best way to combat this culture is to learn what the Bible says is offensive. The Bible clearly prohibits offending our fellowman, but we must understand this as the Bible teaches it. While the world proclaims we should not defend morality because that is offensive, or that we should not teach righteousness because it bothers their sensibilities (or lack thereof); the Bible teaches something different. Consider these verses:
We are not to offend children (cause them to sin) – Luke 17.2-4
We are not to put a stumbling block in other’s way – Romans 14.13
We should not hinder anyone’s faith lest it be blamed on our work for God - 2 Corinthians 6.3
In each of the passages that mention offending others, it is clear what God considers offensive is causing others to sin. So let’s look at this concept of offending others the way God thinks of it. The world tells us that if we speak of our faith or live like Jesus, we are acting and speaking offensively. God says if we do not speak of our faith and let others continue in sin, we are offensive. God says if we choose to sin and fit in with our culture instead of standing with Him, we are offensive.
When we choose to not teach our neighbor, friend, or coworker with the excuse that we don’t want to offend them, we have it backwards. Instead, by not teaching them, we are offending them according to God. We are allowing them to continue in sin and live without a God who could save them. We must stop offending people!
The reality, when it comes down to it, is that we should offend every person on earth before we would risk offending our God. This seems to also be the approach of Jesus.
12 Then the disciples came and said to him, “Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this saying?” 13 He answered, “’Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be rooted up. 14 Let them alone; they are blind guides. And if the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit’” (Matthew 15.12-14).
Jesus had it right. Instead of worrying about those who were offended by truth, He continued to teach the truth. He felt compassion on the lost world around Him. He wants all to be saved, as does His Father. He delivered truth with clarity, gentleness, and reverence. He didn’t let “offending” others deter Him from truly “offending” them, because they lost their chance to know His Father. We shouldn’t either.
At the risk of being offensive, let me encourage you to go on the offensive this week with your faith. Offend people with truth and love, with righteousness and grace, with God’s high standard of holiness. Offend them with gentleness and reverence; but never offend them with the wrong attitude. If you love someone, offend them with the message of salvation Jesus bought for them with His blood, confess His name before a world who needs Him, so He will not be offended by your silence. Let’s change the oft-offended world with truth that will cause them to learn what life is really about—not rallies, protests, or personal agendas—but God’s redeeming, uniting, sacrificial love.