I write as one who has given a lot of offense in my time, and I think it could be profitable to discuss this for a little bit. Obviously I believe that it is high time for us to address an aspect of this that is too often neglected. We really have to come to grips with how taking offense is a sin, and a pretty destructive one.
I offer, as a case in point, how this introductory paragraph was probably offensive to many.
Can We Talk?
Now we have to begin with the local garden variety of this sin, which is the way it has spread through our entire society, and has become so widespread that it can now be routinely used as a devastating cultural and political weapon. The local variety is how it has spread through families, churches, and various other communities. Someone says x, and someone else takes it as an affront, saying that they are hurt and offended by it, saying so by saying y. What I am pointing to is the near universal fact that everyone assumes that x has to be the wrong, and y is the mere result of the wrong. X is the slashing knife, and y is the bleeding wound.
Now I am talking here about taking offense. Taking offense is a sin. However, I am not saying that when an objective wrong (as defined by the law of God) is committed, that it is a sin to be wronged and to know that you have been. There really are people who do things prohibited by the law of God. That being the case, it naturally has destructive effects, and these destructive effects can be noticed and taken into account without sinning. I am not talking about that scenario. When a woman deserts her husband and family, the results really are destructive.
What I am talking about here is when people take offense over the fact that I used an example of a wife deserting her family, instead of saying, as I ought to have done, “when a man deserts his wife and family . . .” Now I know perfectly well that men and women both commit this sin, and when you use an example you have to pick one. And whenever it occurs to me, I try to pick the one that I know will result in offense.
Of course it would be a sin for me to wrong someone just to get them to sin in response. But it is never a sin to say something perfectly innocent, even if you know that a person is going to take offense from it. The reason for this is that it illustrates the precise nature of our modern captivity to feeeeeellllingsss. Whenever we start modifying our normal behavior in order to avoid giving offense, you can depend upon it, we are being worked, played, manipulated. In fact, I believe it is a sin knowingly to allow yourself to be manipulated in this way. And by the way, please make a point to remember my use of that word normal.
Then There Was That Time . . .
Let me tell you a story. One time a couple decades back the League of Women Voters sponsored a panel discussion over a referendum here in Idaho that denied granting special rights to homosexuals, and I was asked to be on the panel. When we got to the event (about half an hour early), the place was jammed with homosexual activists, all of them with signs, who had been flown in from some other non-Idaho planet. One of the signs read No Hate Here, which figures into the story later. During the course of the evening—which was fairly rambunctious—I was prepared for anything. In fact, I pre-wrote a note to call the cops in case I had to slide it over to the moderator. Not surprisingly, I was heckled with no little enthusiasm when I tried to talk. One time I began an illustration in a fashion something like this. I said, “Look, suppose you were the manager at Arby’s . . .” This was too much for one gent, who burst out, “Arby’s! Why Arby’s, Doug?” And I replied with something like, “Look, I know that we disagree on an awful lot, but it does seem to me that I should be able to say something like ‘Arby’s’ without causing a problem.” The capstone of that evening was when the event concluded. This same gent, who was in possession of one of the No Hate Here signs, stood up in utter disgust, hoiked up his sign with one hand, and gave me the finger with the other. We didn’t have iPhones with cameras in those days, but I still treasure that image in my memory.
He actually took offense (or pretended to) when I said Arby’s. We will come back to this issue of homosexual perversion shortly. This is a process—we began by normalizing homosexual practice, and we will end by outlawing the very category of normal. And we will do it by taking constant, unremitting offense at every expression of the “normal.”
Ungodly But Nice
But the reason we have gotten into this sorry state of affairs is because of our ungodly niceness. Let me return to our near universal assumption that “x has to be in the wrong.” He is the one who gave offense, and it is (in our calculation) a sin to give offense, and so he should apologize.
We are in this basketball game where there are no refs and so we are all calling our own fouls. The Christian team has an ironclad conviction that it is a sin to foul anyone, and we are playing a pack of lying pagans, who know how to flop like they were Belgian soccer players. Charging! They also know how to writhe in pain on the court. Whenever this happens, every five minutes or so, your Christian teammates take you aside and say that you should apologize.
Why? Because it is a sin to give offense. The person who claims to have been offended always has the upper hand. He or she is the one who must be mollified, appeased, placated.
A New Thought
But what if taking offense is actually the real sin? There is the lying and manipulation involved obviously, and to the extent that the offendee believes her own act, there are also the hard heart and bitter feelings to reckon with. In such circumstances, it is a sin to be offended.
And it is a sin that has taken deep root in the church. It is very common for “peacemakers” in the church to exhort an innocent man or woman to “just apologize.” “You are the one who ruffled the feathers, you smooth them.” And there is no future in arguing the point. “Actually, I don’t think I ruffled any feathers. I . . .” That is when you hear a sibilant hiss. “Just apologize.” Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall tell lots of lies.
“The vexation of a fool is known at once, but the prudent ignores an insult” (Prov. 12:16, ESV).
If this is the case with a real insult, how much more should it be taken to heart when the insult was merely imagined? If it is imprudent to take offense at a real insult, how much more imprudent to take offense at things you are making up in your very own head? But the hypersensitive have been flattered for years, and the blunt brethren have been lectured for the same amount of time.
So the pious wing of the church has been in this kind of “training” for decades. And we are now being given elephant doses of God’s reductio. So if the offended person is always automatically in the right, we have gotten to the point where people can pick up behaviors that are calculated to shock and outrage normal people—say a couple of guys in feather boas humping on a parade float in San Francisco—and when normal people are shocked and outraged, as per the plan, the organizers of the parade profess themselves entirely baffled by the inexplicable hatred . . . and truly offended. Checkmate, nice evangelicals. They were offended more profoundly than you were. Ow, ow, ow.
Why It Matters
It has been a long time coming, this “long march through the institutions.” The Gramscian and Alinskyite practices that have insinuated cultural Marxism into everything have been intended, from the very start, to make “the normal” unspeakably offensive. The very idea of normal has been made to stink.
This is because the abnormal cannot really be defended by argument. It can, however, be successfully defended (against cowards) by pitching a fit.
“For the ruthless shall come to nothing and the scoffer cease, and all who watch to do evil shall be cut off, who by a word make a man out to be an offender, and lay a snare for him who reproves in the gate, and with an empty plea turn aside him who is in the right” (Is. 29:20–21, ESV).
The prophet Isaiah tells us that in the new covenant, certain kinds of men will be overthrown, defeated, undone. The tyrant will come to nothing. The scoffer will be done. Those who invent evil will be cut off. And how are those inventors of evil described? This is remarkable, because Isaiah not only lived 700 years before Christ, he lived 2800 years before the invention of watch blogs on the Internet. These people are those who “by a word” make a man into an offender (“I am offended”). If someone takes a position in the gates of the city, honestly reproving sin, they lay a snare for him. And if someone is in the right, they turn on the smoke machine of their empty pleas in order to turn that man aside.
And there is a bad cop/good cop thing going. The bad cop does something outrageous, and you say so in the city gates. Then the good cop, the respectable evangelical activist, sidles up alongside you and tells you that you are hurting the cause. You really should apologize for your language of dismissal, which gave considerable offense. Yes, not only so, if that considerable offense is not enough for you, we can always gin up some more. As long as you are resolved to be obedient to them taking offense at some level, they can certainly arrange to get it up to that level.
What is the solution to all this? The solution is the divine gift of not caring what they think. But of course, not caring at all is apathy, and that is also a sin. Caring is another inescapable concept—not whether, but which. It is not whether your conduct will be approved, but rather which group will approve it. It is not whether you care if your conduct is approved, it is rather which group’s approval you care about.
And fundamentally, this a decision that has to be made in your heart before Jehovah God. We must care what God thinks, and if that is settled, the approval of the world can fall where it may.
“For not he that commendeth himself is approved, but whom the Lord commendeth” (2 Cor. 10:18).
“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15).
“How can ye believe, which receive honour one of another, and seek not the honour that cometh from God only?” (John 5:44).
The reason we give way before our adversaries is that we care way too much what they think. The reason there are millions of us who are easily dismissed by them is that there are millions of us who don’t dismiss them.