“Happy is the man who is not easily offended.” I’m not sure who said that, but it’s an adage every Christian should abide.
Is it just me or are Christians far too easily offended?
Not long ago, in a comment thread, a writer took me to task for questioning a Christian brother’s sensibilities. Certain words offended them and I should respect that. In my uniquely callous way I suggested some people’s claim of offense was a means of smokescreen. Rather than be secure in themselves and tolerate people’s quirks, lifestyles, or opinions, they could control others by claiming to be offended.
- Your language offends me.
- Your appearance offends me.
- Your politics offend me.
- Your bad habits offend me.
- Your affiliations offend me.
- Your taste in art offends me.
And the list goes on.
Let me just come out and say it: I am suspicious of Christians — especially “mature” Christians — who get offended easily.
Yes, Jesus warned about putting “stumbling blocks” before the “little ones” (Luke 17:1-2 NASV) and the apostle Paul said,
Be careful, however, that the exercise of your freedom does not become a stumbling block to the weak. (I Cor. 8:9 NIV)
But there’s a big difference between a growing Christian who is learning the limits of freedom and grace, who is battling to overcome an addiction or a destructive lifestyle, and an older saint who is entrenched in their “preferences” and imposing them on others. In my experience, the majority of Christians who express being offended are not “little ones,” they are these “older saints.”
Joe Aldrich, in his terrific book Lifestyle Evangelism, makes a helpful distinction. When it comes to controversial issues — watching R-rated movies, smoking, drinking alcoholic beverages, getting tattoos, gambling, certain styles of dress — Aldrich describes four main types of Christians:
- Professional Weaker Brother
- Susceptible Weaker Brother
- Nonparticipating Mature Brother
- Participating Mature Brother
A Professional Weaker Brother is a Christian who has a strong objection to something and believes others should share that objection. In other words, since drinking is wrong for him, it is wrong for everyone. He tends to be critical of those who disagree, legalistic and manipulative, and eventually will separate himself from his “sinful” bretheren. A Susceptible Weaker Brother is sensitive to a particular sin, but understands that it may not be a sin for every Christian. However, due to naivete or lack of discipline, he often vacillates, succumbs to his weakness and struggles with a guilt-free conscience. A Nonparticipating Mature Brother knows what’s sin for him and does not participate in it. Furthermore, he does not project his convictions upon others but respects individual parameters of freedom and demonstrates grace to those who differ. Finally, a Participating Mature Brother believes he has the freedom to indulge in a particular area that could be considered sin to another. Nevertheless, he is cautious to not cast a stumbling block before his weaker brothers, nor to abuse his liberty. However, in the end, his participating freedom has the potential to hinder or harm the genuine weaker saint.
Maybe it’s unique to my experience, but those Christians who are most easily offended are not new to the faith, neither are they genuinely “susceptible” to a particular temptation — they are Professional Weaker Brothers. These Christians have institutionalized their offense, turned their preferences into across-the-board commandments. They have no real desire to spread “liberty” but to enforce a set of guidelines and ideals which cocoon them in their own morality.
No, I’m not suggesting we wink at sin. There is a time to close our eyes, to plug our ears, and to flee from evil. There is a time to express being hurt or troubled by something. But if we get offended by every little thing, how will we ever interact with others, much less reach the world?
My suggestion: Let’s stop being so easily offended.
Just think of it– being un-offendable has repercussions for ourselves, and for our neighbors. Happy is the man who is not easily offended… and even happier are the people around him.