I am tired of making disclaimers for everything I say.
It feels like if I post anything without a dozen caveats, I risk starting an unwelcome avalanche of opinions. I rarely write a post or make a comment without first ensuring minimal margin for offense.
In a world that encourages patience and acceptance, people sure can be touchy, particularly some Christians. Too many times, we can be like over-eager watchdogs, sniffing out any morsel of what we deem as offensive, inappropriate or even “heretical.”
It’s gotten to the point where it’s almost become trendy to be offended.
Even with all of the qualifiers available in the English language, there is no way to prevent offending someone, at some point. We can only seek to be clear in what we say and not intentionally stir up controversy just for controversy’s sake.
But, when you do come across a tweet/blog post/article/sermon/fill-in-the-blank that you think is offensive, here are a few key questions to ask yourself before getting up in arms about it:
Does It Really Matter?
There are times when speaking out against an idea is important. We should get mad about injustices, and there are effective avenues for helping to make things right. But there are also a lot of petty disagreements and personal opinions that aren’t really worth spending time arguing about.
By fixating on the things God finds valuable, we lose patience for unnecessary offenses. We should pause and think about what truly matters in the eternal sense of God’s Kingdom. What really counts? There are immense moral obligations that come with being a Christian, but there are also trivial items of discussion.
Is It My Fight to Take On?
Just because a fellow Christian is involved doesn’t make it your circus. Sometimes Christians approach all disputes between brothers and sisters or churches like they’re obligated to get involved and take a side.
Do you have a personal relationship with the person in question that allows you space to correct or rebuke them? In a case of a person publically misrepresenting your values or your faith, remember we will all individually answer to God. He’s the ultimate judge, not us. In an era of constant media saturation, we shouldn’t feel like we have to always announce who we think is right and who we think is wrong in every theological or political discussion.
Am I Seeking Humility?
Paul writes to the bickering Philippian church: “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.” Sometimes, there may be something about a conflict that brings up an issue in your own heart, or underscores your personal own agenda or some selfish priorities. Recognize when you are in the wrong, and be willing to repent.
Sometimes you truly are in the right and they are in the wrong. This can be especially difficult when the other party is simply doesn’t recognize it. But before getting offended and escalating a conflict, be willing to humbly ask, Does your correctness add value to the state of eternal affairs? and Are you elevating yourself as a judge for humanity?
What Don’t I Know?
Just as your life has led you to the place you are and to develop the opinions you have, each person has their own unique story. Each of us endures unique pains and joys. There’s always more than meets the eye, and a person may truly be in a painful season of life or be in the middle of working through something difficult. Try giving people grace and the benefit of the doubt before you point out everything that’s wrong with their opinion.
We don’t need to make excuses for bad behavior, but it is safer to assume we don’t have the whole picture. Proverbs 26:11 talks about a fool returning to his folly right before mentioning the danger of claiming oneself as wise.
Once in a while you will be met with an offense that matters—a fight you should get involved in with an offender you know well. It is imperative that you approach these situations with these last questions:
Can I Change This?/ Should I Change This?
If you’ve wrestled long and hard with a burden, you’ve prayed and sought humility, you’ve weighed the options, you’ve found a Biblical basis for offense; it might be OK to confront what needs to be confronted.
Offense can be torturous and misplaced, but every once in a while there are some important toes being stepped on. When you come to a place where you have an insight or find an issue which is truly important to you, it is time to present your case to your offender. As Christians, we must seek to correct in gentleness. Our offense must be full of grace in the case the correction is not well received.
The world (and especially the Internet) is full of things that can potentially offend you. But you can choose to carry that offense or to move past it. If we avoid dwelling on offense we avoid the self-righteousness and burden of law that Jesus so often pointed out in the hearts of the Pharisees—those men who were so tightly bound to their beliefs they didn’t know the Messiah when they saw Him.
I don’t want to be so caught up in debates and arguments, blinded by my opinions, that I can’t see Christ when He walks into the room. Because, at the end of all things, we will see God—that is what really matters.