I told my old neighbour, Ed, that I came across a quote I like; “The world is a magical place full of people waiting to be offended by someone else.”
Ed agreed that there is plenty of offense taking today. The supply of people saying upsetting things tends to be more than balanced by those ready to take offense by what is said.
Most have heard that Don Cherry’s words got him fired. Did his words about immigrants not wearing poppies give offense, or did folks take offense? Some call his words a rant against immigrants, while others consider his words voicing his opinion in free speech. Whatever we say, may come back to bite us.
Facing up to what we said may or may not take the distaste away for those offended by our words. Cherry, as a television hockey commentator, had a vast audience of many different people and had the right to comment on hockey players, teams, coaches, etc. as a past hockey player and authority on the game. Being an authority in one area does not make one an authority in every area. Sometimes our opinions can be that, and no more than that, just the way we see things. Because we see something a certain way does not make it right or the full and only truth.
I must admit to putting my foot in my mouth by saying things that were my opinion only to find they were found to be offensive by others who heard them. Sometimes we cannot see our wrong thinking or prejudices. Sometimes we don’t take time to consider how others might be upset by our words. It is easy to think others are just saying hurtful words on purpose, but that may not be the case. Perhaps we need to ask what they mean by their words.
Everyone seems to believe they have a right to be offended at the things that are said that they dislike or find one-sided or unfair or untrue. Everyone also seems to believe that in free speech, they can say whatever they think, and no one should get offended at what they say. It seems we can waste our lives giving and taking offense.
In Christian congregations, people demand to give and take offense. One of the ways that Satan weakens and destroys fellowship in congregations is by tempting members to take and give offense. Taking offense usually does not change the offensive words said but makes them become like poison to one’s soul who holds them as an offense. Think of words that offend you like a lit bomb ready to explode – don't hang onto them. Bombs should be thrown away, so should offensive words. Be careful of what you say because, in carelessness, your words can offend others. Giving or taking an offense is the devil’s trap.
Christians are called to speak the truth in love. According to Proverbs 19, we are to exercise insight and patience and develop the ability to overlook an offense. Refusing to forgive an offense shouldn’t trap Christians. We claim the forgiveness of Christ for ourselves. We offend God with our sinfulness, but he doesn’t count our offense against us for Jesus’ sake. We also forgive an offense toward us for Jesus’ sake.