ON BEING OFFENDED

Aug
2017
19

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“Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.” (James 1:19)

While channel surfing recently, I came across a documentary tour of one of America’s state capitol buildings. The narrator included descriptions of the gold painted rotunda and the large entry doors. But what took my eye were the many references to God, etched into the walls of the amazing facility. I thought to myself – “I wonder how long it will be until some person or group takes issue with those statements, claims to be offended by them, and petitions for their removal?”  After all, it wasn’t that long ago that religious displays in public schools and engravings of the Ten Commandments in government buildings were challenged in the Supreme Court. And later on, statues of historical figures were toppled because intolerant persons were offended by what those folks once represented. Imagine desecrating artifacts or memorials with no allowance for any kind of human frailty as a basis to be offended.  It would be almost certain that no statues remain, as our lessons from history begin to fade.

It seems like it doesn’t take much anymore for persons to claim that they have been offended. Once we might have said that these individuals were “thin-skinned.” But these days, the wrong comment or a perceived inappropriate act may instantly evoke sufficient anger and toxicity to set the stage for potential violence. Those who allow for such activities might consider the words of Solomon: “The person who strays from common sense will end up in the company of the dead” (Proverbs 21:16). At the very least, it is not uncommon to find yourself surrounded by those who allow a wound to fester rather than attempt to promote its healing. The late American philosopher Wayne Dyer subscribed to a different philosophy as he stated, “When you are spiritually connected, you are not looking for occasions to be offended, and you are not judging and labeling others. You are in a state of grace in which you know you are connected to God and thus free from the effects of anyone or anything external to yourself.”

Often times, those who become intolerant and easily offended have cultivated within themselves a degree of “moral smugness.” They are commonly referred to as the self-righteous and assert that their own beliefs and actions are of greater virtue than those of the average person. Jesus warned against this as He communicated this parable: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people–robbers, evildoers, adulterers–or even like this tax collector.  I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’ But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted” (Luke 18:10-14).

The Apostle Paul tells his readers that if righteousness could come from our own actions, then Jesus died “for no purpose” (Galatians 2:21). He also stated: “A servant of the Lord must not quarrel but must be kind to everyone, be able to teach, and be patient with difficult people. Gently instruct those who oppose the truth. Perhaps God will change those people’s hearts, and they will learn the truth” (2 Timothy 2:24-25). One must consider that act of being offended is a choice. The Reverend Joel Osteen put it this way: “Every day we have plenty of opportunities to get angry, stressed or offended. But what you’re doing when you indulge these negative emotions is giving something outside yourself power over your happiness. You can choose to not let little things upset you.” As Christians, there are times we must respond by speaking out. At other times, it may be pertinent to engage in some self-reflection asking why we are offended or if we have a right to be offended . . . and just maybe need to get over ourselves.

REFLECTION: As Christians, what should offend us? How should we act when others are offended? Think of a situation recently where you were offended. What could you have done differently? Why is judging others sometimes both necessary and right? When is it wrong? How can we know the difference?

A NEW LOOKUP  DEVOTION IS UPLOADED EACH WEEK. THE NEXT WEEKLY POSTING WILL BE ON SAT., AUGUST 26, 2017.  COMMENTS ARE WELCOMED.

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