The right to be offended
Generally, I’m not someone who is easy to offend. This last week proved me wrong. It got me thinking: How often do we take offense unnecessarily? How often do we miss the point? How often do we miss an opportunity to demonstrate love because we’re so selfish and proud and stuck-up to let small things slide? How often do we negate the love of Christ by our need to satisfy that “I’ll show you what happens when you offend me” voice inside? I think, it probably happens more often than it ought to.
This last week I was playing some music in the office. As it goes, one album after the next, we landed up at Flyleaf. I’d left the room to go do something and as I came back in, the song called “So I thought” was finishing. The lines toward the end of the song are “All these twisted thoughts I see, Jesus there in between.” The advertising industry is one of diversity and often an apprehensive approach to anything Jesus related. This saddens me and gives me hope.
“They singing about Jesus, hey? So now you’re trying to force your ideology down our throats?” was the sarcastic, snide, yet somewhat serious chirp that was shot at me upon re-entering. Unprepared for this kind of encounter responded with a quirky “That’s how I roll, you know,” and then said “Sorry, I forgot about that one.” But I was offended. Bam!
I don’t know exactly what it was that got to me so much, and in all honesty, as joking and sarcastic my words were in response, there was also a hint of seriousness there. I may have even been upset with myself – I was apologising on behalf of the gospel. That is not something we should ever have to apologise for – it should be, unashamedly, the thing we are most confident about in any context.
The next thing that crossed my mind was this: would Jesus have been offended by this situation? Was Jesus ever offended? Do we even have the right to be offended on behalf of Jesus? Like we’ve got to protect Him or something. I’ve wrestled with this, because we think we’re doing a good thing by being offended. It’s a kind of “mess with my God and you mess with me” kind of mentality. How amateur! How small minded! How pathetic! Do you have any idea how big God is? (I’m lecturing myself here.)
We’re not doing anyone any favours by being offended. We’re called to love. We’re called to love as Jesus did. John 13:35 says “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” That’s inclusive of Christians and non-Christians alike. Get over yourself! I need to get over myself too!
When Jesus died on the cross, he took our right to be offended. He covered it there and then. Done. Finished. Klaar. Overs. Offense is an issue of pride, an issue of not being completely surrendered to the work and will of God in every moment. According to Matthew 5:9, if we are peacemakers, we will be called children of God. What does that mean? If you’re offended, work it out by the grace of God and live at peace with yourself and with others.
I’m not sure exactly what the ideal response in that situation should have been, but I do know that I was wrong. I got on my high horse (kind of like a stallion’s height) and trotted about like I owned the place.
When we give up our right to be offended, we gain the opportunity to speak deeply into the hearts of those around us – not always in words, but by our actions, our responses, our heart attitude and the way we love. Give it up – it’s worth it.