By Joel Settecase / 5-minute read
When Is It Right to Get Offended?
As we strive to be more like Jesus, we find ourselves confronted with the question, when should Christians get offended?
We can clearly see in the New Testament that some things did offend Jesus. In fact, some things that got him the most upset seem to be things that would be commonplace to us--nothing worth getting mad about. Other times, we see him resist reacting, or respond calmly (or not at all), over instances that would cause us to fly off the handle. How do we think biblically about our experiences, in order to respond the way Jesus wants us to?
Are Trigger Warnings Helpful?
In the interest of not offending students, professors started issuing trigger warnings at the beginning of lectures dealing with potentially-sensitive subjects. What began as a potentially-helpful practice has, over the last few years, grown into a cultural meme far beyond the halls of academia.
Today, the idea of “triggering” others has become a badge of honor for some who take pride in “melting” (offending, refuting, etc.) “snowflakes” (people who are just as unique and special as they are fragile). I (Joel) have been known to offend atheists, by making arguments like the ones in the episode, “Are You There, God? It’s Me, Science.” The offense was not intentional, but it happened nonetheless.
It is ironic that it is self-styled conservatives who take the most pride in triggering self-professed progressives (who are usually more accurately called Leftists), given recent history.
Going back about one generation, it was those on the left who were taking pride in offending conservatives and Christians. Their repeated refrain was a call for Christians and conservatives to be more “tolerant.” Today the roles seem to have flipped.
What Being Offended Really Means
When someone says they feel offended, they are really saying they have been wronged. In theological language, we might say they have been sinned against. They are the victims of an offense.
Do We Have the Right Not To Be Offended?
As Christians, our interest is not to be in defending our own honor. We are not to be those who seek to avoid becoming triggered at all costs. Like our Lord, we are to exhibit thick skins in the face of personal offense. Jesus, “was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth” (Isaiah 53:7).
We need to be seeking spiritual conversations (for help with this, see “How to Get Into Spiritual Conversations”). However, when we do this, we will inevitably encounter positions we disagree with. When that happens, we ought to look to the Bible as our guide for how to respond.
When we look at Scripture, we see that there are times when it is right to exhibit righteous indignation. Jesus became outraged when Gentiles and children were hindered from drawing near to God. In the latter case, he rebuked his disciples. In the former, he flipped some tables and got out a whip. He warned people sternly not to cause children to sin. He was angered by the Pharisees who closed the door to the Kingdom of God and refused to let anyone else enter.
As followers of Jesus, we need not be preoccupied with defending our supposed right to not be offended. However, when barriers are placed between repentant sinners and the love of God, then we are right to not only get offended, but to act accordingly until things are made right.
What does it mean to be triggered?
Where did trigger warnings come from?
Conservatives tend to enjoy triggering leftists
Historically things were the other way around, with liberals offending conservatives
“South Park” and “Family Guy” are examples of offensive media
Christians do not need to get offended when we are personally attacked
There are some things that ought to rightly offend Christians
We get our cues from Scripture and the life of Jesus
In the Bible, Jesus got offended when children were harmed or kept from coming to God
Jesus was also offended when Gentiles were taken advantage of in the temple
Christians should also get offended when the Gospel is impeded
Sometimes flipping tables is appropriate, but usually not
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