We live in a world of words. Everyone has something to say; everyone wants to be heard. And behind the protection of a computer screen, some people use freedom of speech as an opportunity to malign, mock and make fun.
People are mean sometimes. But a reality often overlooked in culture is that people have always been mean. Documents across the centuries prove that men and women have been writing nasty notes about one another, from Shakespeare to the Founding Fathers of the USA. Offensive words are part of our world because of sinful human nature. Even the ancient book of Proverbs warns us against them:
There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing. (Proverbs 12:18)
Offensive words are never justified. However, there is something to be said for having thick skin. In today’s culture of moral relativity, making any objective statement is considered discriminatory and unfair. As Christians, our first concern should not be whether or not someone is offending us. Our first concern should be to speak the truth.
This might not seem fair—offensive people getting away with their actions—but the Bible says that God Himself is our justice and defense (Psalm 5:11). In cases of repeated offense, we should address the issue personally with the offender (Matthew 5:21-24), but we also need to remember the nature of the world in which we live. Being easily offended by people is not the example Christ set for us, and it’s not how we should live our lives.
Here are three reasons why we should stop being so easily offended.
1. Jesus wasn’t easily offended (Luke 6,11, 20; Matthew 26).
If anyone had reason to be offended, it’s Jesus. The One who sat at God’s right hand, participated in the Creation of the world and shared in the glory, honor and power of the Lord descended to our sinful, humble earth—and people scorned him. He was mocked, derided and ignored. The Pharisees continually found fault with Him and His work. But Jesus did not try to justify Himself or make people respect Him. He simply spoke the truth about God’s plan. For Jesus, ministry was never about His rights as the Son of God. His heart was to do God’s will. He was too busy doing God’s work to be offended by personal attacks.
2. Jesus wasn’t afraid to offend (Matthew 15:12, 1 Peter 2:8).
Jesus didn’t fear offense, whether it was aimed at Him or if His words implied it. The painful truth about the gospel is that it will offend people (1 Corinthians 1:18). Jesus knew people wouldn’t like the truth. He knew some would get angry and want to kill Him for it. But He gave the gospel anyway because emotional discomfort is worth saving a soul.
It’s important to note that it wasn’t Jesus’s manner that was offensive, but the exclusivity of the gospel. Jesus wasn’t rude, brash or hurtful with His words. He didn’t seek to offend people or look for reasons to be offended. He allowed God’s truth to speak for itself, but wasn’t afraid of upsetting people with that truth. He is our example for evangelism—both in person and online.
3. We should be more concerned with whether or not we’ve offended God than whether or not people have offended us.
Like Jesus, we should be more concerned about the work God has given us than whether or not we’re receiving the honor we deserve. All of us are sinners, and as such, we have offended God more than anyone could ever offend us. But even in our sinful state, God offered forgiveness for our offense. He offered mercy. He offered Jesus.
The very least we can do as followers of Christ is to set aside our rights and our feelings for the sake of the gospel. We are strong enough to look past Facebook comments, online arguments and passing jabs by “frenemies” to the heart of our mission on earth. In choosing to overlook an offense, we receive more honor than we could have ever attained by seeking justice for ourselves.
Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense. (Proverbs 19:11)