In today’s world, we seem to offend people rather easily. We’ve possibly offended or hurt someone’s feelings, whether it was intentional or not; sadly, people sometimes say and do things that are careless, blunt, insensitive or even mean-spirited. While we can’t control the intentions or behavior of others, we can determine how we will act. We can choose not be offended.
One familiar example from Scripture of an offense is the eating of food that had been sacrificed to idols. Paul says, “But for us, There is one God, the Father, by whom all things were created, and for whom we live. And there is one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things were created, and through whom we live.
However, not all believers know this. Some are accustomed to thinking of idols as being real, so when they eat food that has been offered to idols, they think of it as the worship of real gods, and their weak consciences are violated. It’s true that we can’t win God’s approval by what we eat. We don’t lose anything if we don’t eat it, and we don’t gain anything if we do. But you must be careful so that your freedom does not cause others with a weaker conscience to stumble.” (1 Corinthians 8:69)
Some Christians believe certain things should never be said while others believe they can say them. For example, what would happen if I was with a person who believed we should never say the word retarded, and I used it? I would have defiled that person’s conscience. In other words, I would have offended that person by being an obstruction. Based on Scripture, we need to be wary of becoming an obstruction to others (Luke 17:14). Still, some go further on to say we should never offend our weaker brother.
Another way to offend is by getting non-believers mad, not only at us, but at Christianity. For example, imagine driving and accidentally cutting a non-believer off in traffic. The person cut off would probably get mad. Additionally, if the car had an Ichthys emblem (Jesus fish), or a Christian bumper sticker, the person might also get mad at Christianity. As Christians, we need to strive to have the utmost integrity in all areas, including driving (Titus 2:7).
In both cases, the offense was not deliberate, but unfortunately, someone was still offended. Some people use these or similar examples to support the idea that we should be careful never to offend anyone; we should keep these biblical examples in mind to avoid offending people.
How do we as Christians not become offended at the numerous things that bombard us from a non-believing world as well as our fellow Christians? Chances are you have been offended by something someone said, or perhaps did. You aren’t invited to a party you know that everyone else is going; your friends, or other church members, become quiet when you come around; people just oddly stare at you when you are talking to them; you work hard within the church only for all the credit going to the pastor’s children. It can be difficult to overlook some of these annoyances, however, we must.
The Bible warns us not to be oversensitive: “Do not take to heart everything people sayyou may hear your servant curse you. For you know how often you yourself have cursed others.” (Ecclesiastes 7:21-22).
In 1 Corinthians 13:5, we’re told that a very important aspect of love is to not be easily provoked, or stirred to anger. Those who are Christian and understand His Word will not allow small annoyances to drive a wedge between others and themselves. They know how easy it is to cause others offense. Proverbs 11:12 says, “It is foolish to belittle one’s neighbor; a sensible person keeps quiet.”
These verses are not telling us we should never confront another person about a serious problem. There are times when we do need to go to our brother, as commanded in Matthew 18:15-17. Facing others should not be something we are doing on a regular basis. You don’t want to be infamous as one who is always offended, always ready to tell others off and put them in their place. No one wants to spend time around someone like that.
Some people aren’t confrontational, but may get just as offended. Rather than fight with the offender, they bottle up what the person said or did, suppressing negative emotions. That’s no good; these kinds of feelings can grow and aggravate, and turn someone into an angry, bitter, unhappy person. It can also lead to animosity. The fact of the matter is offenses are going to come our way. When they do, it’s okay to admit that it hurts. We don’t have to get upset about it. We can choose not to be offended. Colossians 3:13 says that we should “Make allowances for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.”
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