When we look at the idea of being offended, we must ask ourselves one very important question:
What does it mean to be offended by something someone does or says?
The first thing that you need to understand is your own heart. Were you hurt by what they said? Or were you offended? This is a very important distinction. If someone does or says something that hurts your feelings, then you need to own that. Sometimes it’s easier to say that we were offended than to say that we were hurt by what they said. It’s like saying “I’m frustrated” rather than “I’m angry.” Using the terms “offended” and “frustrated” allows us to save face and maintain a stronger position. It keeps us from looking vulnerable to others. Saying that you were hurt or it made you angry takes courage because it does make you vulnerable. It reveals to others that you are indeed imperfect. You’re vulnerable because you got your feelings hurt.
One of the areas of my life that I have been working hard at is to speak my feelings in simple, honest terms without hiding them. It is very hard for me though because I don’t like to look vulnerable to others. When someone does or says something that hurts me, I need to tell them that I was hurt. We all need to do this. Our feelings are our feelings, and no one can tell us how to feel. Whether the person meant to hurt us or not does not change the fact that we were hurt. So we need to just tell them, simply and honestly, without an expectation of an apology. When we tell someone how we feel, we tell them because we want to be known by them. We let them see us as we truly are, and we let them be who they truly are (sorry or not).
One thing that I’ve noticed is that Christians are especially quick to use the word offended. There were many Christians who were “offended” by Beyonce’s Superbowl halftime show. Many are “offended” at how the liberal media reports the news. Many are “offended” by the commonality of swear words in today’s culture. The list of things that Christians seem to find “offensive” is extremely long, never-ending, and quite varied. I think the important question that we need to ask is “What offended Jesus?” After all, Jesus is the example of the person that all Christians are supposed to try to be more like.
Was Jesus offended when they flung a partially dressed woman caught in adultery at His feet? Was He offended when He ate in the home of Zaccheus the tax collector? Was He offended when Simon the Pharisee had Him over for dinner and didn’t properly wash His feet? Was He offended by the rough life of His fisherman disciples who sometimes didn’t wash their hands before they ate? Was He offended when the disciples tried to turn away the little children? Was He offended when the friends of the paralytic man destroyed private property to bring their friend to Him? Was He offended when the woman at the well asked Him theological questions, all the while avoiding Jesus’ questions?
Of all the people who ever walked this earth, Jesus who is the perfect, unblemished, holy Son of God, had more reasons to be offended by the unrighteous filth of our world than anyone else. The funny thing is that none of these things were things that offended Him. None of these things could diminish or tarnish or take away His righteousness. An unclean woman washing His feet with her tears and hair didn’t make Him any less righteous. The Pharisees, however, criticized Him for letting her touch Him. They would never let her unrighteousness come near to their righteousness out of fear that she would tarnish their holiness. They failed to understand that righteousness is a matter of the heart, not something you maintain on the outside.
Jesus’ harshest words were reserved for the Pharisees found in Matthew 23. He said “Woe to you!” seven times in this chapter, directed at them. He called them hypocrites and fools. It seems that these were the people who “offended” Him the most. These were people who valued their righteousness more than justice, truth, and love. They treated righteousness as something to be earned, deserved, and protected. It would seem that we fall into the same trap when we rant and rave about all the things that are offensive to us. Typically, people are offended when their sense of rightness is betrayed. They fear that what they’ve seen or heard will tarnish their own righteousness.
The truth is, we are righteous not because of what we do or don’t do. We have been declared righteous when we make the decision to trust Jesus’ perfect righteousness to cover all of our unrighteousness. Therefore, we shouldn’t get offended by the unrighteous things of this world. The world and the people in it are simply acting according to their nature. Jesus’ righteousness was not offended by all the unrighteousness of this world. Rather, He was moved to compassion and love for the sick and dying, those headed toward eternal damnation.
My hope for myself and all of us is that when someone in this world acts according to their fallen nature that we won’t be “offended” and judge, but rather that we would be moved toward compassion and love towards that person. If we can’t learn to do that, we are no better than the Pharisees and are being truly offensive to the One that we love.