The Unforgivable Sin: Offending Someone
Why is everyone SO easily offended nowadays? You can’t spend two minutes online without reading about someone who is offended about something. And how do we stop being so offended ourselves?
WE ARE SOFT
Morning. David Sorn. Lead Pastor here at Renovation Church.
If there’s one thing that’s true about Americans in 2016, we are offended about a lot of things.
I mean A LOT of things.
I preparation for this message, I polled a number of people in my life and asked, “What do you think people get offended by in our culture today?”
You want to know the most common response I got?
Everyone said, “Where do I even start?!”
And then they all said, “Just look at Facebook”
We could go back a few weeks right to find some ideas…
Certainly people in our culture are offended by different political beliefs.
Your “friend” (and I use that term lightly) on your Facebook NewsFeed shares their beliefs, and we’re offended…by their ignorance.
You can just go to any news site (of any persuasion) and see that we’re offended by 10 new things every week.
Things we didn’t even know were going to offend us a week ago.
Every week there are new campaigns on social media to fire someone for saying something offensive or doing something offensive.
I’d share some examples for you from the news from the past few months, but some of you might get offended J
We get offended when people talk about money
We get offended if someone in our House Group talks about how to raise a child different than we do.
We get offended that people say Happy Holidays or Merry Christmas or the red “holiday” cup from starbucks.
We get offended when pastors give messages about being offended.
You can do a lot of things in this culture and not make people mad, but the unforgivable sin in America…is to offend someone.
Now, of course, there are some horrible things out there that should make you mad…or upset…as they truly are unjust.
But what I want to talk about today is the other 90%.
The 90% that should just be water off our back, but instead, we run to our computers with daggers in our fingers.
And certainly that’s part of the problem, right?
The internet age has emboldened the offended.
Where we once would have been afraid to say we were mad, we now feel brave, behind the illusionary anonymity of a keyboard, telling everyone how mad they’ve made us by sharing their views on Essential Oils or the Environment or you name it.
WHY ARE WE SO EASILY OFFENDED?
But let’s go even deeper than the rise of technology.
Why is it…that we are SO easily offended?
Let’s see if we can figure this out.
Here is what I believe is perhaps the cornerstone of the issue, followed by some of its neighboring and foundational bricks.
Most of society nowadays was raised on the cultural belief that we each get to determine what’s right…for ourselves.
Therefore, we’re each right.
And if I’M right…and you’re right…you should have no business telling me what to believe.
But by living this way, we’ve actually created an incredibly soft and wimpy culture
An entitled culture. One that’s never challenged.
See, if I’m constantly told whatever I believe is right…and people can’t tell me how to live…then I NEVER have to adapt my thinking…EVER!
And further, if someone has the audacity to actually challenge me (about politics, or how to raise kids, or you name it), I have no idea what to with that because I’ve never had to adapt my thinking.
Because I’ve always been RIGHT!
And on top of that…because we don’t have the framework for what to do when someone is challenging us to adapt our thinking, we often will take their intellectual challenge personally,
“OH…so you’re saying, I’M wrong?!?”
Because remember, my way is right…I can’t be wrong!”
And so I’m especially offended…because you must think then that I’M a bad person!
Can you see how emotions get especially heightened?
And it gets worse.
We start getting angry…and emotional…as we hear these different perspectives.
And what would get us out of that…would be if we could try and see the perspective from their point of view.
But that’s a learned behavior…that most of us have never learned.
Well, ironically, for as much as we value diversity, we’re not actually taught to truly understand other people’s perspectives
We’re taught to acknowledge that differences are good...that people different from us are also right.
But deep inside, we think, “I don’t need to take the time to learn how to understand how you might be right…”
“No! I’m already right.
“Why should I even bother trying to understand how you might be right?
“It’s completely irrelevant to me
BUT…then, say you’re at work, and someone challenges you by saying, “No, we’re doing it this way, not your way. Your way is wrong”
You’re in the break room saying, “Who does this guy think he is??!?”
And see, the challenge is, in a world where we’re ALL “right,” we never develop the skills to understand the perspective of others.
We just get offended and angry.
Civil discourse is becoming a thing of the past.
So we get mad that people have the audacity to tell us how to do things…to tell us how to live.
In fact, a recent Barna Poll says 89% of Americans believe we shouldn’t criticize another person’s lifestyle choices.
If that person spends their money that way, or makes certain moral decisions, who are you to say what’s right?
89% of us would say it’s not our right to say what’s right and wrong in another person’s life.
I think this more likely means that 89% of us don’t want anyone to criticize our lifestyle choices) J
76% of Christians even agreed w/ that statement by the way.
And yet our actions completely betray us.
As much as we’d like to, we cannot escape this moral compass God put in us.
We can’t live in a world where we all accept there is no real right and wrong.
Here again is what we said last week was the “Extraordinary Inarticulacy of Modern Culture”
On the one hand, we embrace these mantras of “Whatever I believe is true for me” and “therefore, you can’t tell anyone else what is right or wrong for them”
And on the other hand, we can’t stop criticizing people for all of the wrong decisions they’ve made.
Most of the time, when Americans talk…with our friends…our favorite subject is how someone else…made the wrong decision.
*89% of Americans don’t REALLY believe that they shouldn’t criticize someone else.
That’s just philosophical hogwash we tell pollsters sound we can sound like we fit in w/ today’s thinkers.
We have billion dollar industries whose sole purpose is to tell us, the viewers, how everyone is WRONG
We say, “You can live however you want,” but how many TV channels do we have exclusively dedicated to ripping people apart for their WRONG decisions?
TV and Radio Stations, blogs, websites, you name it…all dedicated simply to ripping apart celebrities, politicians, leaders, athletes, ANYONE, for how they were WRONG.
Their decision they made was NOT RIGHT (as if there is a universal right and wrong)
And secretly, we love to listen to it!
How else are these things so popular?
I think people must believe it’s a “breath of fresh air” in a confused world.
I read an article about two weeks ago about UFC Fighter Connor McGregor and the author stated McGregor’s popularity was in part because, “He just says whatever he thinks, and I think everyone respects him for that”
We love people who say whatever they think about how people SHOULD live…
We love them…on television.
But we hate those people in our personal lives.
For our culture, the “chair” for determining right and wrong, has no legs.
There’s no logical foundation to it.
If you’re going to be logically consistent, even remotely reasonable, you can’t say that “everyone can live how they want,” and then be offended when someone lives in a manner you think is wrong.
Because if you’re being consistent, you wouldn’t believe in a “wrong”
There isn’t such a concept for you.
And therefore, you actually have no basis to be offended.
There’s no absolute moral law that you can appeal to where you can say, “You have violated “this” and thus I have been offended”
If you’re consistent, you’d simply have to say, “That person is just simply doing what’s “right” for them…and thus their belief…or their action…is therefore right…so I can’t tell them what to do or to change.
But again, as I’ve been saying, our actual, everyday lives betray our stated beliefs.
And when we’re personally challenged, and someone says that we are wrong, I think a lot of Americans pop out these cultural mantras like “You can’t tell me how to live my life” more as defense mechanisms than well thought out philosophical constructs.
I think of them as rubber walls.
If I feel like you’re coming at me, and I’d have to maybe change my life, my thinking, or maybe take a hard look at my life because of what you’re saying..
If I don’t want to do that…Instead, I can just POP up this rubber wall and say, “You don’t have the right to say that…how I eat…what I do in my house…what I do w/ my family” is wrong!
“It’s up to me to determine what is right!”
And I can BOUNCE you off of me!
These rubber walls often don’t have a lot of substance to them, but they’re enough to bounce a person off, to deflect.
But they’re not logical.
Christian philosopher J.P. Moreland explains it this way:
He once had an encounter with a student at the University of Vermont.
He was actually in a dorm when a student told him, "Whatever is true for you is true for you and whatever is true for me is true for me. If something works for you because you believe it, that's great. But no one should force his or her views on other people since everything is relative."
True story, as Moreland left the dorm room, he unplugged the student's stereo and started out the door with it.
The student was offended, he got visibly upset. He said, "Hey, what are you doing? … You can't do that."
Moreland replied, "You're not going to force on me the belief that it is wrong to steal your stereo, are you?"
He then went on to point out to the student that, when it's convenient, people say they don't care about sexual morality or cheating on exams. We say it’s relative.
But people become moral absolutists in a hurry when someone steals their things or violates their rights.
In other words, the vast majority of Americans are actually selective moral relativists.
We say it doesn’t matter what you believe, unless it impacts me personally. Then it matters!
And can you see here why we get so worked up about being offended?
We’re supposed to live in this world where it doesn’t matter what we all believe, but our good instincts won’t let us accept such nonsense…
And then, when we’re challenged, we want to fight back, but we have no skills in how to actually engage in civil discourse.
And so we pop up these strange, illogical, rubber walls instead.
In fact, here’s another rubber wall:
The culture loves to bounce others off by saying, “Oh you can’t talk about that here. Keep your own personal views on what is right in private.”
But it’s just another defense mechanism that keeps us from having to examine our lives.
Let me give you an example of this:
About 4 or 5 weeks ago, I was listening to the radio in my car.
Normally I just listen to audiobooks, or music on my phone, etc., but it was just a short drive so I was channel surfing through the radio.
And I stopped because I heard one of the secular morning hosts say something about Christians.
The hosts were talking about how it’s hard for people to admit they’re Christians in today’s society.
And one of the hosts said, “I’ll say it, ‘I’m a Christian.’” (and I thought…this is riveting radio!!)
And the other hosts applauded her for saying. “That’s good, good for you!” (Applauding diversity…difference of perspective)
And THEN the other host said, “But it’s okay, because you’re like super nice, you’re a normal person, and you would never tell anyone ELSE they should be Christian!”
Do you see the protective walls?
We’re terrified of being challenged!
And so we pop up these rubber walls that say, “You can believe whatever you want, but if you challenge me, in any way about who I am…you have committed the unforgivable sin…you have offended me J
And if I feel challenged by you…I might just tell you to keep your beliefs at home…in private.
I’ll make PUBLIC my belief about how you should keep your beliefs at home…
This is crazy J
The logic here has no foundation. This is a chair without legs.
Culturally we are falling…there’s no foundation.
Here’s what I want you to see: When we’re offended by everything…that completely stunts a society.
It makes us all ANGRY at each other all the time
We don’t know how to understand…or listen to each other anymore
We have no common morality anymore
And we’re living in an absolutely illogical manner.
HOW DO WE PUT THE LEGS BACK ON?
And so how do we put the legs back on this thing?
And even if we can’t do it for an entire society just yet…how do we do it in our own lives?
Because you and I are not immune from being unreasonably offended.
Let me give you two ways to put the legs back on.
First of all, we need to acknowledge there is a solid foundation to what is right and wrong. There are legs to the chair.
That there is ONE solid foundation…there is ONE right way to live.
And if we first and foremost believe that God has ordained a right way…and even on the complex and complicated matters… He does have a “will, a purpose”…
If there is ONE way, we will be committed to trying to understand what that right way is
And not just say, “It doesn’t matter”
Secondly, we all just need to get more comfortable with being uncomfortable.
These are good principles not just for us, but for those of you that are parents, to teach to your kids as well.
Maybe they’ll end up in a better place than the rest of us J
In some ways, I think we as Minnesotans, as Midwesterners, are even worse at this topic.
We hate conflict, confrontation, or anything that makes us feel challenged and uncomfortable.
So when someone challenges us, even as Christians, in our friendship circles, at work, on Facebook, you name it…
As Midwesterners, we are quicker than most to pop up those rubber walls and say, “You can’t tell me how to…who are you to…let me live my own life”
And yet, this isn’t the character of a Godly person.
One of the things that the Bible is clear on, and we as Americans are a bit muddy on, is that the wise person accepts challenge to their thinking…accepts correction.
They listen to contrary opinions…even if it’s hard…or challenging…and try to find ways to grow.
This is all over Scripture.
(Proverbs 12:1) – NIV
Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge,
but whoever hates correction is stupid.
(Proverbs 15:32) – NIV
Those who disregard discipline despise themselves,
but the one who heeds correction gains understanding.
So many of us are so afraid of listening to any opinion that might be contrary to our own, that we just instantly throw up the rubber wall, and drop the “I’m offended” card instead
Leaving us stunted in growth…with less understanding.
Much of the world is still intellectually juvenile because they’ve never adjusted and adapted and grown…and thus our responses are often juvenile in nature.
(Proverbs 15:12) – NIV
Mockers resent correction, so they avoid the wise.
What a good verse.
We are stunting ourselves as a culture because we’re sequestering ourselves with people who only think the same and have no ability to listen to others.
We avoid people of different opinions, and we suffer for it.
Let me tell you about the wise.
Some wise people I know…
I’m thinking of 2 pastors I know personally…all just about old enough to be my own father.
I’m not sure I’ve ever seen either of them angry.
They’re better listeners than they are talkers.
They’ve learned the skill of listening for perspective before dropping the “offended card” to end conversation
If you come at them, and say you’re offended, or you’re mad (and pastors are often a heavily criticized group of people), they’re still often willing to listen.
To see, if perhaps, even in the anger, there is a nugget of truth.
Something they could learn from.
And yet, they hold firmly to the things that they KNOW are true…
And to me, these guys are not just a head above the average person in the world, but 10 heads above J
This is what the Bible is trying to say to us about wisdom.
Wisdom is a “rich get richer” type of deal.
The wise keep getting wiser because they’re willing to take a hard look at themselves and see if there’s something they need to change…
All while the unwise prop up their rubber walls, refusing to change, and thus, never grow.
Do you see the difference between Biblical wisdom and worldly wisdom?
The culture says “What you currently believe right now…is right…right for you”
“There’s no need to adapt…and perhaps you should be offended by those asking you to adapt”
There’s no foundation to what we believe…“We’re all just floating chairs” J
But Biblical wisdom says, “Be willing to adapt your thinking on the way to being grounded” (2x)
As GK Chesterton once famously said:
“Merely having an open mind is nothing; the object of opening the mind, as of opening the mouth, is to shut it again on something solid – GK Chesterton”
And so, if we come into the world thinking, “I’m already right…we’re each right…
Then we’re going to get offended…easily.
But if we can admit, we don’t know everything.
…yet there is an objective truth we can know…we should seek…THEN…we can become wise.
And we’ll be less offended along the way.
We’ll get a little more comfortable with being uncomfortable because we’ll realize that we can learn from each other.
And at the same time, as we then become more grounded in the things we absolutely DO believe (from Scripture / from God), we’ll also get less offended by each other.
Interestingly enough, the more strongly you believe something, the less likely you are to get offended by a challenging statement to it
It’s when our beliefs in something are a bit insecure or not held as strongly that we tend to react emotionally to a challenging thought.
And most of all, let’s remember that in order to make the greatest decision we ever made, we had to get offended first.
Look at what the Apostle Paul writes to his critics in the Book of Galatians.
(Galatians 5:11) – NEW LIVING TRANSLATION!!!
11 Dear brothers and sisters, if I were still preaching that you must be circumcised—as some say I do—why am I still being persecuted? If I were no longer preaching salvation through the cross of Christ, no one would be offended.
In so many ways, the cross of Christ is…offensive.
I used to think it was!
“You’re telling me I have to believe in Jesus…that there is only ONE right way?”
“You’re telling me that I’m not good enough on my own…that I’m a sinner!? That I need a savior?!”
And yet, it’s when we calm down, and we step out of a world in which we’re always right…
And we seek objective truth…
We can find some pretty amazing things.
Even God Himself.
Let me pray.
Copyright: David Sorn
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN
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