What does it mean to be offended by something someone does or says?
First, you need to understand your own heart. Were you hurt by what they said? Or were you offended? If someone does or says something that hurt your feelings, then you need to own that. Sometimes it’s easier to say we were offended than to say we were hurt. It’s kind of like saying “I’m frustrated” rather than “I’m angry.” Using the terms “offended” and “frustrated” allows us to save face and maintain a stronger position. But to say you were hurt or angry takes courage because it makes you vulnerable. You’re vulnerable because you got your feelings hurt.
What I learned from counseling and from one of my all-time favorite books Voice of the Heart by Chip Dodd was to speak my feelings in simple, honest terms without hiding them. Now when someone does or says something that hurts me, I can tell them I was hurt. Your feelings are your feelings, and no one can tell you how to feel. Whether they meant to hurt you or not doesn’t change the fact that you were hurt. So just tell them—simply and honestly—without an expectation of an apology. When you tell someone how you feel, you tell them because you want to be known by them. You let them see you as you truly are, and you let them be who they truly are (sorry or not).
As Christians, we’re quick to use the word offended. Many were “offended” by Beyonce’s Superbowl halftime show. Many are “offended” at how the liberal media reports the news. Many are “offended” by the commonality of swear words in today’s culture. The list of things Christians find “offensive” is extremely long, never-ending, and quite varied. But my question is, “What offended Jesus—the person we’re all supposedly trying to be more like?”
Was Jesus offended when they flung a partially dressed woman caught in adultery at His feet? Was He offended when He ate in the home of Zaccheus the tax collector? Was He offended when Simon the Pharisee had Him over for dinner and didn’t properly wash His feet? Was He offended by the rough life of His fishermen disciples who sometimes didn’t wash their hands before they ate? Was He offended when the disciples tried to turn away the little children? Was He offended when the friends of the paralytic man destroyed private property to bring their friend to Him? Was He offended when the woman at the well asked Him theological questions, all the while avoiding His?
Of all the people who ever walked this earth, Jesus—the perfect, unblemished, holy Son of God—had more reasons to be offended by the unrighteous filth of our world than anyone else. And yet these weren’t the things that offended Him. None of those things could diminish or tarnish or take away His righteousness. An unclean woman washing His feet with her tears and hair didn’t make Him any less righteous. The Pharisees, however, criticized Him for letting her touch Him. They would never let her unrighteousness come near to their righteousness lest she tarnish their holiness. They failed to understand that righteousness is a matter of the heart, not something you maintain on the outside.
Jesus’ harshest words were reserved for the Pharisees in Matthew 23. He said “Woe to you!” seven times in this chapter, directed at them. He called them hypocrites and fools. It seems to me that these were the people who “offended” Him most. These were people who valued their righteousness more than justice and truth and love. They treated righteousness as something to be earned, deserved, and protected. I think we fall into the same trap when we rant and rave about all the things that are offensive to us as Christians. Typically, people are offended when their sense of right-ness is transgressed. They fear that what they’ve seen or heard will tarnish their righteousness.
But the truth is, I’m righteous not because of what I do or don’t. I’ve been declared righteous when I trust Jesus’ perfect righteousness to cover all my unrighteousness. Therefore, I don’t get offended by the unrighteous things of this world. The world and the people in it are simply acting according to their nature. Jesus’ righteousness was not offended by all the unrighteousness of this world. Rather, He was moved to compassion and love for the sick and dying, those headed toward eternal damnation.
My hope is that when someone in this world acts according to their fallen nature that I won’t be “offended” and judge, but rather that I’d be moved toward compassion and love. Lest I become like the Pharisees, truly offensive to the One I love.
Joy Patton is the author of “From Ice Queen To Princess” and “The Myth Of Enuff.” She grew up as a pastor’s daughter in Macedonia, Ohio. Joy and her husband enjoy leading a small group and mentoring newlyweds through their church. Follow her blog at joypatton.wordpress.com.