By Denton Ice
As a recent graduate from the University of Southern Indiana, I must say that post college life is pretty great. No homework, no tests, no tuition payments, what’s not to like! Yes I have to go to work everyday and no I do not get college discounts at restaurants anymore, but I thank God repeatedly for the joys of the phase of life that I find myself in right now.
Just like all other students at the university, I had to take an assessment and an evaluation during my last year. The assessment consisted of questions designed to gauge how far you have come from your first year. It was very straight forward; a way for the university to see and measure their success. The evaluation, on the other hand, served a very different purpose. About ten questions in I realized that the purpose of the evaluation was to ensure that the university, the faculty and all their proceedings were politically correct.
Now let me stop here and reassure you that this is not a political article. While I have plenty of opinions I could give on the matter of political correctness, that is not the purpose of my writing this article. The reason I bring up the evaluation that I had to take is because of a series of about six consecutive questions which all had the same choices for answers. Though all six of the questions were phrased slightly differently, the basic question they were all asking was “During your time at USI were you ever offended by a faculty member, teacher or classmate on the basis of any of the following: race, gender, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation?”
As I began to get through this series of questions which all had the same options to choose from, I realized that one thing that was not given as an option was to be offended on the basis of faith or religion. This made me think that either the university did not consider that Christianity was a basis on which someone could be offended, or that they did not care if such people were offended. Whether or not either of these was true aside, it has given me some food for thought.
How easily should we as Christians be offended?
It is clear that we are living in a society that is becoming more and more hostile towards those who hold to the true authority of the Bible. What this means is that it is very likely that Christians are going to regularly find themselves in situations that would give them reason to complain of being offended. The question is, should we?
Many in our society are often easily offended by what somebody said to them or how somebody acted toward them. However, I believe that as Christians, we have to understand that when we hold to biblical truth, we are going to be in situations where people say things to us that are rude or hateful and do things to us that are unkind and disrespectful. Jesus himself promised us in John 15:18-20 that if we follow him we would be hated and persecuted by the world just as he was hated and persecuted by the world.
So how did Jesus react when people insulted him and disrespected him? In John 8 there is a situation where Jesus was speaking with the Jewish leaders and they were becoming very angry at what he was saying to them (which is not uncommon when Jesus talks to the Jewish leaders). As they were talking with him, they began to cast insults at him, calling him a Samaritan (an insult they all would have understood) and saying that he was demon possessed. In response to these insults Jesus did not shriek back in disgust or go about complaining about how rude and unfairly he was being treated, in other words, Jesus did not get offended when insults were hurled at him. Instead, he continued to preach the truth about who he was and the hope that was being offered through him. He was completely unaffected by the way they spoke to him, but continued to reason with them and expose to them the way of salvation.
Jesus was living out the mandate that he gave us in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5:38-48 when he commanded us not to seek retaliation, but rather to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. For Christians, this means that when we face those who ridicule or disrespect us, we are called by God to overcome the temptation to fall into self-pity and whine about how we have been offended. Instead, we are to return their ridicule with love and kindness. After all, we have been given the very same response from our Father in heaven who looked at us, even when we were hostile toward Him and hated Him, and chose to pour His love and His grace upon us lavishly, saving us from the punishment we deserve, namely eternal suffering in Hell.
The Bible clearly helps us understand that Christians are not to be offended the same way our culture understands what it is to be offended, yet, I do believe that believers are called to be stand with purpose against certain things. The difference between taking a stand as a Christian and how people in the world are offended can usually be understood by asking, “am I angry because something happened to me, or because something happened to others?” This is usually where the distinction lies, and it all stems from the sin of pride; being overly concerned for ourselves.
When we understand this we begin to see more clearly exactly what kind of things we ought to be concerned about, such as sin in the church. God has given us clear warnings in His word about the dangers of sin corrupting the church (1 Corinthians 5). This is something that the Lord takes very seriously as should we.
When we begin to focus less on how we have been wronged and more on how others are being wronged, it should lead us to be outraged by the injustice in the world. Not the injustice of an insult that is hurled at us, but the injustice that we see happening to others in our communities and around the world. We ought to be outraged when we hear of the horrors of slavery and human trafficking that is taking place around the world today. We ought to be outraged when we think about the 60 million unborn human beings who have been legally murdered in the womb because of abortion. We ought to be outraged when we hear about the countries full of people who live under the tyrannical rule of a dictator who is willing to gun them down simply for saying a word against him. The outrage we ought to feel for these types of injustices should dwarf any feeling of being offended by how a coworker mocked us during lunch.
The culture around us ought to never view the Christians as the people who complain about work environments or complain about hurt feelings at college. The culture around us ought to know us by the way we care for orphans, by the way we serve the poor, by the way we fight for those in bondage. The truth is that the culture around us ought to know us by our love.
Yes there will be hard times in our lives when we have to face slander and criticism, and I pray that you will not read this and hear me trying to take anything away from any trials or hardship that you may be going through right now. However, it is my hope that we will be able to overcome our fear of man, caring not for what the world thinks of us, but what God thinks of us, and that we will take every bit of slander, abuse and mockery that the culture dishes out to us and, by the power of the Holy Spirit, return it with love, compassion and the Gospel. Stephen gave us an example to live up to at the end of Acts chapter 7 while he was being stoned because of how he boldly proclaimed the good news to the Jewish leaders. As the stones were being thrown, with his dying breath, Stephen prayed that God would forgive these men that were stoning him. We would do well to remember Stephen’s example the next time we are offended by how the culture treats us. Like Stephen, and like Jesus, we should strive to be unoffendable.