‘Offense’ is everywhere!
A Pastor online took ‘offense’ to Starbucks not having Christmas decor on their cups, so he made a video and called for boycotts. Donald Trump got into the mix and encouraged a boycott too…and promised that “If I’m elected President, we’re going to be saying ‘Merry Christmas’ again.”
In Missouri at the UofM, a drunk college student used racial slurs against other college students. In another incident, a ‘swastika’ was allegedly put on a building on campus in human feces…and off campus, someone in a red truck hurled a racial slur as they sped down the road. Students demanded action on the part of the University to stop it, and when the actions weren’t enough, they called on the President and the Chancellor of the University to resign. They did. Now the students have made a list of demands, chief among them, the creation of a ‘safe place’ on campus where (presumably) no ‘offense’ will be given. In any way. Ever.
The campus police have actually told students to call to report any threatening, hurtful or offensive speech or behavior.
Seriously? Call the police if someone hurts your feelings?
At Yale University the President and Board sent out an email cautioning students last week from dressing for Halloween in any costume that ‘might be perceived as offensive’ to other students.
Seriously? Halloween costumes?
Another Professor at Yale disagreed with that and sent out an email saying that College Students are at the age where they can make their own decisions, and that they should be able to dress in whatever costumes they want, even if it might be ‘offensive’ to some.
Now there has been a major backlash against that professor and her husband, calls for their resignation by student groups who demand the right not to be offended!
Now, today I saw on the news–local and national–that Target is under fire for a Christmas sweater. It is red and has these words: “I have Obsessive CHRISTMAS Disorder”. Mental Health groups are calling for Target to apologize and cease selling the sweater, because it ‘makes fun of a very serious disorder (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder).
What has happened to us?
Have we become a nation of people so fragile that any real–or even perceived–slight or offense is a federal case? Have we become so ‘soft’ that we give other people so much power over our emotional state that any offensive (or perceived offense) they do is grounds for us to stop everything and demand a public apology, someone’s resignation, or maybe even a change in laws?
I will simply say…as one who has been offended and even hurt by people over the years…that I am very concerned about our culture. If this is what our future leaders are standing up for–the demand to ‘safe places’ where they can insure that they will Never. Be. Offended–I don’t think this bodes well for our future.
The reality, of course, is that people are going to disagree with me, you, and everyone else. Sometimes they are going to disagree in ‘disagreeable’ ways. Should you immediately call for their jobs, their apologies, or payment in some other way?
I propose something better.
Respectful, thoughtful, mature and controlled discussion of the things that are perceived as ‘hurtful’, and why the one doing the ‘offending’ should be more sensitive…AND why the who was ‘offended’ should chill out!
Sometimes we need to realize that there are times and places where you–your opinion, your politics, your religion, etc.–are not going to be accepted. Sometimes you may even be teased. Sometimes someone is going to say something mean to you.
Unfortunately, that’s life.
Should we work for tolerance, respect and diversity? Yes.
Can we DEMAND it by crowd vigilante-ism, policy and laws? No. It simply will not work. As we’ve often heard ‘you can’t legislate morality’. Similarly, we can’t legislate ‘beliefs’. We can’t legislate changes in the heart.
So…As A Christian, what are we to do in these situations? How should we handle ‘offense’? How should we encourage others to do so? Here are a few suggestions:
- Be Respectful: “As much as it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with all” (Romans 12:18). As Christ followers, we need to be loving and respectful of all people, even those who disagree with us. We need to realize that this world (and even America itself) is not a ‘Theocracy’ this is not ‘heaven on earth’. There will be times that things don’t go the way we think (based on the Word of God) they should. Speak your mind. Try to influence others to go God’s way…but do it respectfully. (See 1 Peter 3:15).
- Be Gracious: When others wrong you or you see a real-or-perceived ‘offense’, don’t immediately assume that the other person intended to offend. Check it out. Have a reasonable conversation. Talk to them (or at least ‘Message’ them privately). Seek to speak up for yourself and your point of view, but do NOT be militant or ‘demanding’. Show grace and patience. In that way you may win them over. “Bless those who persecute you. Don’t curse them; pray that God will bless them…Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all!” (Romans 12:14, 16)
- Be Forgiving: Frankly, there ARE going to be times when you are mistreated. Count on it. We live in a fallen, sin-sickened world that is bent on SELF. Therefore, people will be rude and insensitive to you at times. They may call you names. They may spit on you. They may do worse! But as a Christian, we know that we are ‘citizens of heaven’ more than citizens of this earth. We know that ‘this world is not our home’, and that we look to our Lord and Savior as our example. “For God called you to do good, even if it means suffering, just as Christ suffered for you. He is your example, and you must follow in his steps.
He never sinned,
nor ever deceived anyone.
He did not retaliate when he was insulted,
nor threaten revenge when he suffered.
He left his case in the hands of God,
who always judges fairly.” (1 Peter 2:21-23)
4. Be Reasonable: One of the many things this culture needs is good examples of people who can get along–not by ‘caving’ to pressure, not by pretending that they don’t have reasonable points, but who can be an example of ‘not taking themselves too seriously’. Learn to laugh at yourself, or others in your ‘camp’. I remember laughing at some funny skits about George W Bush on Saturday Night Live when he was in office–even though I supported him. Last week I saw a funny skit about what the Presidency under Donald Trump would look like–it was genuinely funny! Don’t be ‘one of those’ people who are perpetually offended. Get over yourself. Lighten up! “Don’t think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us.” (Romans 12:3) “Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves.” (Philippians 2:3)
5) Be Positive: Look, here’s the reality: There are a lot of crabby, offended, overly-sensitive people in the world. They are negative and want everyone else to be along with them. As those who have been redeemed from this world and it’s sin, and who have been given New Life in Christ, and the hope of heaven, YOU BE DIFFERENT! Share the Love of God and Shine the Light of Christ! YOU be the one to bring cookies to the office! YOU be the one to invite that coworker who’s ‘different than you’ to coffee! YOU be the one that tries to brighten up the day of the classmate, neighbor, or whomever. YOU be the ‘breath of fresh air’ in their lives! Philippians 2:14-16: “Do everything without complaining and arguing, so that no one can criticize you. Live clean, innocent lives as children of God, shining like bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people. Hold firmly to the word of life”.
You and I–as followers of Jesus–are called to live differently.
Don’t get caught in the ‘whirlpool of drama’ that is swirling around you…rather, be the one to help others get free from it!