To Not Offend

I preached on forgiveness this past Sunday and I had planned a post on what to do when reconciliation is not possible with someone. I just feel that is poorly timed with the news of the last two days. I will post that later.

How to not Offend when you are Offended

Emotions run deep and emotions run high. There are issues that get you fired up and ready to fight and there are issues that do not. Some issues are worthy of such a response, others, are not. They are simply the pet issues of a generation or day.

Emotions run deep and high when people are murdered because of racial and/or religious views…and those emotions are appropriate. How do we respond to offense without offense?

Jesus did not offend when offended…he forgave. Father, forgive them for they know not what they do. Those soldiers did not deserve such love and grace. The Pharisees did not deserve such love and grace. And thus was the purpose of Christ…to give his life as a ransom for many.

The position of forgiveness, however, is not a position of weakness nor of silence. Jesus had not been silent about the wrong in the world. Jesus was not weak in the face of offense. He was the opposite. Jesus spoke up and he spoke out…and did so without offense.

The difficulty of our choosing to not offend in the face of offense is there exist social issues that deserve and demand attention. The key to speaking well into such issues is to be “quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry.” This applies even in your use of social media. It has been evident to all of us that many people have yet to consider this reality as they respond to racism, transgender issues, differences of opinion about marriage, police/community relations, and other recent social issues.

Some key thoughts about not adding offense to offense:
1. What is the good in it?

Not what is right behind it…what is good in it? Right does not always mean good.
You can be right about the truth you speak and horribly wrong about how you say it.
2. Who is your audience?
If you need to have a conversation with a particular person, go talk to them face to face, please.
3. Do you know what you’re talking about?
Honestly. Do you know all the facts? If not, be slow to speak.
Religious people, do not speak like you are the voice of God, especially if you are not quoting God. Just because you do not want something to be wrong does not mean it is not…and just because you want something to be right does not mean it is.

4. Is what you are sharing spoken in the same type of language and spirit you would speak it?
If not, do not share it. You will never honor Christ (nor make a difference) in a meaningful discussion by sharing someone else’s profanity-laced or racially-insensitive or bigotry-accusing article or post.
5.  Is it time to talk or time to think?
Thinking is a good thing…I promise.

So in response to the terrible news of the last 2 days, I want to say I am praying for this church and this community. I am outraged that such issues exist today in our culture and country, but I am not surprised.

The racial issue in particular is one that bothers me deeply in a season where I have personally dealt with racism in a church (not mine) and in a culture and country I recently visited. Today I ask God to do in others the type of work he has done in me. I was never a racist at the level we have observed in this inexcusable action, but I was, at one time in my life, very different than I am today about race. So today I praise God for the classmates, teammates, friends, co-workers, and mentors of other races he put in my life along the way. You have changed how I see all of us. I am very grateful for that. I am grateful that my position about race is no longer defined by the fact that I do not “hate,” but that I “love.” I am so grateful that God did not allow indifference about racial relations to define my position. Thank you God for not allowing me to live in a white world…I truly love the variety and creativity you created.

I can say the same about religion. I am personally very conservative about and committed to my beliefs, but God has allowed me, through beautiful relationships, to have the ability to appreciate and deeply love those I sincerely and whole-heartedly disagree with. Sure I pray that God saves their souls, for this is what I believe, but I can love them today while disagreeing with them. Thank you God for such friends.

So I pray that today in our world, God will put in your life someone who does not look exactly like you. And that God would put someone in your life that completely disagrees with your beliefs. And I pray that you will love them.

I also pray that God will put before you (and me) those who do not love those who look different than them and do not love those who disagree with them. I pray that we will love them too. For I find those people (who often look like me and who unfortunately and inaccurately quote from the same sacred Scriptures that define my life) much harder to not hate…much less love.

Love your enemy…God does.

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