Proverbs 18:19 -- A brother offended is harder to win than a strong city,
The year isn't quite over, but 2015 has already been dubbed "the year everyone was offended by everything." An Alabama army officer was inspired by this trend to write a Facebook post he dubbed "I am offended that everyone is offended by something." It went viral after he posted it, and he was even featured on Fox News. In the article, he pointed out some social injustices and important issues that need to be addressed. Here area a couple of examples from Jordan Thompson's post:
I'm offended by people who vote for a person based on the party they represent, the race or gender, age or a religion of a candidate... instead of how the candidate proposes to address each issue, respectively.
I'm offended by people who aren't open minded and think they're always right, no matter what.
I get what he was trying to say, but I think that we should consider what it really means to be offended. Some things irk me, but I am not necessarily offended by them. For example, it seems incredible to me as well that people will vote a straight party ticket instead of considering each candidate's views and positions. It troubles me, but it doesn't offend me. Like Thompson, I am often frustrated, when someone isn't willing to see something from another perspective and consider other options, but I am not offended. When I think about being offended, I think of something personal that hurts my feelings, makes me feel de-valued, disrespects me or someone I love, or insults my character or the character of someone I love.
The dictionary lists several definitions for offend. One is to hurt or cause pain to. Another is to irritate, annoy, or anger; cause resentful displeasure in. A key word in that definition is resentful. These are things that people say or do which really get under our skin and incite an immediate reaction. In other words, it will get a rise out of you, and that's where we get in trouble. For example, if someone treated me differently or unfairly because I am a woman or addressed me with a derogatory name, I would be offended by that, and rightly so. If I weren't offended hurt, annoyed, irritated -- by this unkind treatment, something would be wrong with me. We have a standard of what is socially acceptable interaction with others (and even that varies among groups of people), and when someone crosses the line, it affects us. We can't control what others say or do, but we can control how we respond to the offensive remarks or treatment. Our first reaction may be to blow up on the person and let loose with our own name calling and expletives. Others take the more passive approach by internalizing their feelings and allowing resentment and bitterness to grow within them. The better options are to address the matter directly, in a non-confrontational way if possible, or to just walk away and let it go. One of the Fruits of the Spirit from Galatians 5 is longsuffering, the long and patient endurance of injury, trouble or provocation.
Ephesians 4:26-27 -- Be angry, and do not sin": do not let the sun go down on your wrath, nor give place to the devil.
I am not saying that you shouldn't stand up for yourself or your beliefs, just that you should pick your battles. Sometimes the best thing to do is walk away and pray for that person and the situation. Recently, someone made a snide comment to me that did hurt my feelings, and I was offended. I mean it really burned my behind. It wasn't the first time it has happened and it probably won't be the last. I started speaking and then stopped myself, because I knew I was too angry to be saying anything. Much as I wanted to let this person have it, I employed the fruits of self-control and longsuffering and bit my tongue. I knew it would do no good to respond and there would be no "talking it out". I stewed over it all night, tossing and turning before I finally just gave it over to the Lord. I realized the next day that the person had certainly not thought another second about it. That confirmed what I already knew -- I had to forgive and move on.
Ephesians 4:31-32 -- Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.
Another definition for offend is listed as: (in Biblical use) to cause to fall into sinful ways. In Luke 17:1-2 it says: Then He said to the disciples, "It is impossible that no offenses should come, but woe to him through whom they do come! It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were thrown into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones." The word offense in this passage is from the Greek work "skandalon", which was the trigger of a baited trap or a stumbling block. Jesus is saying woe to those who cause others to stumble and sin. This is why preachers and teachers are accountable to God for every word they speak. This is why it says "If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men" (Romans 12:18). This is why our mothers used to tell us if you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all.
Romans 12:17 -- Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men.
Jesus acknowledged that offenses will come and it should not come as a surprise when it happens to us. How we respond to an offense is directly related to how far we are in our relationship with Christ. It will reveal the condition of our heart, for out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks (Matthew 12:34). If we let an offense get to us, then we may have a reaction that causes us, and perhaps others, to sin. Two wrongs do not make a right. We either rise above the situation, or we sink to the same level (or lower) as the person who has offended us. We have to put on the armor of God every day, using our shield of faith to deflect those fiery darts and yielding the sword of the Sprit to bring the word of truth to the situation. These moments actually give us an opportunity to live what we believe and share the love of Christ. A kind and loving response will likely be unexpected and will certainly leave the person something to think about.
The things that have offended people in 2015 have cause great division among the people of this nation. We've seen black vs. white, straight vs. gay, gun lovers vs. gun haters, Republicans vs. Democrats, rich vs. poor, cops vs. citizens, Christians vs. non-Christians. In Matthew 12:25 it says: But Jesus knew their thoughts, and said to them: "Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation, and every city or house divided against itself will not stand." We have to get away from political correctness and being so easily offended. The more we are divided by issues, big or small, the weaker we become as a nation. Offenses will come, but woe to those through whom they come!