Let me start today by asking you a question: Is it okay for Christians to be offended?
This is a little trickier question than it seems on the surface. On the one hand, we’d say, “Sure, we can have righteous indignation or holy discontent about a lot of things!” On the other hand, however, when you read scripture and especially one of Jesus’ commands, it turns out we should say, “No, we’re actually falling to our sin nature when we feel offended and must restrain ourselves.”
I want to explore the idea of offense today and argue that as Christians we must stop being offended as if we are just like non-believers living for this world.
I’m going to start in the obvious place. Jesus tells us in Matthew 5:39 this, “But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.” This concept is repeated in Luke 6:29, “If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them.”
Some have interpreted the whole “turn the other cheek” thing as a response to violence, but that’s not what culturally Jesus was talking about. In first century Jewish culture, if you wanted to insult someone you would either pull on their beard or slap them across the cheek with the back of the hand with restraint. It would be similar to all those movies we’ve seen where the guy takes off his glove, slaps his opponent, and challenges him to a duel.
Thus, Jesus tells us that when we are insulted we are to offer them the other cheek as well. In other words, allow them to insult you all they want but do not retaliate. We know this is the meaning because before Jesus tells us to turn the other cheek in Matthew 5:39 He says in Matthew 5:38, “You have heard it said, ‘eye for eye’ and ‘tooth for tooth.’” But Jesus gives us a new command – take an offense without reaction.
Like much of Jesus’ teaching, this is yet another time He is correcting the misinterpretation of scripture by the religious leaders. When God gave the command an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth He was declaring the equity of justice in the legal system. If someone broke the law they were to receive an equitable punishment for their crime – an eye for an eye. This one not a command for personal vengeance or retaliation.
Jesus taught us to love our enemies (Luke 6:27) and confirmed the rules set by God in Proverbs 20:22, “Do not say, ‘I’ll pay you back for this wrong!’ Wait for the Lord, and He will deliver you.” Or as we may better remember it, “Vengeance is mine says the Lord!” (Romans 12:9).
So why are so many Christians offended all the time? Well, in my mind we shouldn’t be but we all fall to our sin nature – pride, selfishness, lack of humility, and lack of love. Let me explore each of these just a bit.
I think this is the number one reason we get offended – someone steps on our ego and our pride gets bent out of shape. Someone calls you a name, critiques your abilities, gossips about you behind your back, attacks your integrity, questions your loyalty, and a hundred other transgressions against your character. Isn’t it true that almost immediately our pride reacts like a peacock spreading its feathers? God tells us that pride goes before the fall (Proverbs 16:18) and when you react with your pride in order to protect your ego you deny Jesus who commands us to turn the other cheek and not be offended at all.
When it comes down to it, isn’t all sin just selfishness? Isn’t sin us choosing to satisfy ourselves in some way instead of glorifying God? Us putting ourselves before God in our own lives? We feel offended because we are selfish – thinking of our own wants and desires and not putting God’s wants and desires first. In today’s world I see Christian leaders saying they are offended by some of the things happening in society. Really? Doesn’t God call us to love all His creation and not judge others even when they are doing things that challenge our sense of right and wrong? I believe that only God gets to be righteously indignant because only God is righteous. Our marching orders are simple: Love God and love each other. Judge not but let them know you are Jesus disciples by the way you love. To love like that we must all be self-less.
Lack of Humility
We get offended because we lack humility. Imagine if God treated us like we treat those who offend us! You do realize that your sin life offends God, right? I struggled with humility for a long time and God was gracious to me by giving me a life verse. Philippians 2:3-5 says, “3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.5 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus.” I repeat this verse to myself almost daily if not several times a day to remember what God requires of me. I must value others above myself and when I do I find that I’m not offended by others because I have agape love and compassion for others – even when they are acting badly.
Lack of Love
Which brings us to the biggie – lack of love. You will certainly be offended by people you don’t love. Jesus calls us to love everyone – those we like, those we don’t like, and even those who are enemies. It’s a really tough command, but a command all the same! Those who struggle with loving others are easily offended because a lack of love means sins are not covered (love covers a multitude of sins – 1 Peter 4:8). We love because God loved us first (1 John 4:19) so if you lack love in your life then you truly struggle with allowing God to love you first and you should work on that.
I have a lot of faults and one of them seems to be that I am pretty blunt when I talk with people. I don’t like sugar-coating things – I prefer straight shooters who tell it like it is and do my best to be one of those guys – my yes is yes and my no is no to quote Jesus. I try hard to be a truth teller with love and gentleness, but I apparently offend people with my bluntness. When that happens I have to admit my first response is, “Really??? You’re offended??? Grow up, you’re not that important!!!” Not very charitable. And I know that scripture tells me to reconcile with my brother if they have something against me, so I have to resist the urge I have to just plow into people who feel offended and explain to them that they have no right to be offended. Instead, I have to work on that humility thing and submit myself in apology.
But here’s what I really think about those Christians who are easily offended – you must do what Paul taught and learn to bear with one another. God commands us in Colossians 3:13 to do this: “Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”
Imagine if God didn’t bear with you the way he expects us to bear with one another! I know that I’d be a smoking heap of ash after getting smote for some dumb thing I did! But God loves us and He bears with us even as we transgress against Him! Can’t we do the same with each other.
So my message to Christians today is this: Stop being offended! Turn the other cheek for goodness sake! Bear with each other in love and compassion. Live a life in submission to God with love, humility and selflessness. Allow God to repay those who wrong you – he’ll do a better job than you could do anyway! Take a deep breath and forgive those who you feel have crossed you! And stop letting your fallen emotions determine your response to the world as if you were not a follower of Jesus Christ!