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It’s very possible some people may take offense at the entire premise of today’s show, and others will no doubt take offense at some of my conclusions.
I may even get canceled.
But — like everything else that affects our families — the Bible has something to say on the subject of getting offended. So, we must take a look at this cultural phenomenon from a biblical perspective.
But — before we do that — please take a moment to rate and review the show. TeamTLP and I greatly appreciate it.
Also, free episode notes and transcripts are available at TakingBackTheFamily.com.
Alright, let’s get offensive.
We’re going to start by defining the word “offend,” and then I’m going to cite just one of the 50 billion articles, blog posts, and studies done on the topic of being offended.
1. A Definition
Merriam-Webster says that “offend” can be an intransitive verb or a transitive verb.
The four definitions for the intransitive verb are these:
And the transitive definitions include:
And it’s those definitions and the accompanying ideologies that have caused so much misinformation and catastrophe in our nation, our churches, and our homes.
We’ll unpack this more momentarily, but now we have to consider . . .
2. An Opinion
For this I’m going to read an article entitled “Why People Take Offense” from a website called The Conversation.
“Most of us have felt offended at a remark made by a close friend or a random comment on our social media. Even worse, the chances are that we have experienced the shock of hearing that others were offended by our comments – despite the fact that we had no intention of hurting them. While no one can deny that certain words and actions can be offensive, the taking of offence is more complicated than that. As research findings in linguistics demonstrate, people are not necessarily offended when confronted with rude language, and they get offended for a range of different reasons.
“The words we use are not polite or impolite in and by themselves. Even the most offensive words . . . can be generously used among close friends, as in-group solidarity markers, without anyone ever taking it to heart. It is therefore the context that determines the offensiveness of our words.
“In the right context, we do of course take offence at explicitly rude language directed at us. But regardless of the words used, we also take offence at what was meant or implied rather than what was actually said.”
And then they include the ridiculous, yet completely believable example: (“Were you implying that I am not a good cook when you said pass me the salt?”)
And then the author continues: “But how does the taking of offence happen? What actually motivates this ubiquitous phenomenon? The taking of offence – or feeling offended – often involves an experience of negative emotions caused by a word or an action which is in conflict with what we expect and believe to be the right, appropriate, moral and acceptable behaviour. Feeling offended or describing something as offensive is deeply rooted in those expectations that govern our daily interactions.”
And that is the key.
According to the World, I’m allowed to get offended when I determine that your action or word is in conflict with what I expect or what I believe to be right. In those moments you’ve offended me.
And what I like about this article is that is contradicts the common belief system of our World as betrayed by Merriam-Webster.
According to Merri-Web it’s possible for me to say or do something that would “cause a person or group to feel hurt, angry, or upset.”
Did you catch that? According to this dictionary, the offended feeling arises from the word or action. What I said or did caused you to feel offended.
According to Merriam-Webster, you’re the victim. I used hurtful words that hurt you. You couldn’t help but be hurt because I used offensive language.
But remember what The Conversation said? “As research findings in linguistics demonstrate, people are not necessarily offended when confronted with rude language” — or we could even say “offensive language” — and they get offended for a range of different reasons. The words we use are not polite or impolite in and by themselves. Even the most offensive words can be generously used among close friends, as in-group solidarity markers, without anyone ever taking it to heart. It is therefore the context that determines the offensiveness of our words.”
“Well, Aaron, that’s your opinion, but there are a lot of people who disagree with you.”
So, let’s compare what we’ve learned so far to the Bible. Let’s discover God’s opinion on the topic, and boy-oh-boy does He have an opinion.
We’ve looked at a definition and an opinion. Now, let’s look at . . .
3. The Truth
Now, let me start by saying that there are so many passages of Scripture that we can apply to this discussion, so I’m going to have to be selective, but I also want to be comprehensive with the scope of the discussion.
So, let me start with two passages, one from the Old Testament and one from New that will help us understand the definition of the Hebrew and Greek words we’ll encounter most often when talking about offense from a biblical standpoint.
Let’s start with Proverbs 19:11. In the ESV we read “Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense.”
If we understood the word “offense” from a modern perspective, this would be all we need to close the book on this discussion. This passage supports two realities: 1. An offense does not need to result in feeling offended, and — in fact — 2. The better choice is to overlook the offense (aka: not feel offended).
But there’s more going on here that we need to understand.
First, the Hebrews word translated “offense” in the ESV is translated “transgression” in the NASB. This is actually probably a better rendering as it’s more accurate to the original language.
Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary says of this word that, “Basically, this noun signifies willful deviation from, and therefore rebellion against, the path of godly living.”
This understanding most closely aligns with Merriam-Webster’s first, second, and fifth definitions: to transgress the moral or divine law, do wrong, and violate or transgress.
And this makes sense. I offend the law when I break the law.
But we get into trouble when we take our modern conceptions and force them into the text. This verse is not talking about a subjective feeling of offense. This verse is referring to an objective transgression. An objective offense.
We’ll come back to this word in a couple minutes. First, let’s look at a New Testament passage.
In Matthew 17:26 we hear Jesus say to Peter, “However, so that we do not offend them, go to the sea and throw in a hook, and take the first fish that comes up; and when you open its mouth, you will find a shekel. Take that and give it to them for you and Me.”
The Greek word translated offend is the same word from which we get our English word “scandalize” which Merriam-Webster defines as “to offend the moral sense.”
However, skandalizō actually refers to metaphorically putting a snare or stumbling block in someone’s way. In fact, instead of “offend,” the word is frequently translated “stumble.’
Here’s a well-known example: in Mark 9:42 Jesus says, “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe to stumble, it would be better for him if, with a heavy millstone hung around his neck, he had been cast into the sea.” The King James reads, “And whosoever shall offend one of these little ones.”
Thankfully, Paul helps us better understand the original meaning of this Greek word. In I Corinthians 8:7-13 we read, “Some, being accustomed to the idol until now, eat food as if it were sacrificed to an idol; and their conscience being weak is defiled. 8 But food will not commend us to God; we are neither the worse if we do not eat, nor the better if we do eat.”
Paul is explaining that even though eating meat offered to an idol is not a sin, a person who believes it to be a sin is actually sinning.
Since everything I do must be done in faith, if I believe it would be a sin against God to wear a black t-shirt, then wearing the black t-shirt believing it’s a sin makes my action a sin.
But what does my issue with meat offered to idols or black t-shirts have to do with you? Paul continues . . .
“9 But take care that this liberty of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. 10 For if someone sees you, who have knowledge, dining in an idol’s temple, will not his conscience, if he is weak, be strengthened to eat things sacrificed to idols?”
Let’s say that I respect you as a mature, Christ-honoring individual. And one day while I’m downtown, and I see you wearing a black t-shirt — which I believe is a sin against God. I can respond in three ways.
In that third scenario, I’m actually sinning. Not because wearing the black t-shirt is a sin, but because I’m not convinced. In Romans 14:23 Paul is discussing the same issue, and he writes, “But he who doubts is condemned if he eats, because his eating is not from faith; and whatever is not from faith is sin.”
That’s why Paul warns us in I Corinthians 8:11, “11 For through your knowledge he who is weak is ruined, the brother for whose sake Christ died. 12 And so, by sinning against the brethren and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. 13 Therefore, if food causes my brother to stumble, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause my brother to stumble.”
Please understand, this passage has absolutely nothing to do with my brother or sister in Christ feeling offended. It has to do with me actually sinning against them by causing them to stumble into sin.
Here’s an absolutely vital takeaway. Assuming that you’re using a quality translation or version of the English Bible, the vast majority of times you see the word “offend” or one of its conjugations, you absolutely must not read it to mean a feeling of offense.
It’s like I said earlier, the biblical words translated offense — and even the English word itself — did not originally refer to a feeling. It had everything to do with an objective trespass or transgression.
So how on earth did the word “offend” evolve from an objective action to a subjective feeling?
Unfortunately, I can’t tell you. I’m not surprised it happened, but I don’t know where and when the word went from simply referring to a violation of a law to a feeling of offense.
So, now the question is whether or not the Bible informs us about how we should feel when someone sins against us.
And — guess what — it does.
For example, Proverbs 19:11 “Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense.”
The word translated “overlook” is a very broad word in Hebrew, but — basically — it refers to crossing over something, going around something, sweeping something away, and the majority of it’s usages have to do with being unaffected by whatever I encounter.
Let’s say I encounter a river. That could be a problem, but it’s not because I went over it on a bridge.
Maybe I encounter a sink hole. That could be a problem, but it’s not because I simply go around it and am therefore unaffected by it.
I do not have to be affected by your offensive language or behavior. Does what you did or said offend God’s law? Yes. Does it offend my personal values? Yes. But it doesn’t have to cause any emotional response in me.
In fact, to allow myself to respond emotionally would be my own choice.
I explain it to my counselees this way.
It is a scientific reality that a sharp knife is going to hurt you when it’s stabbed into your body. Everyone — unless she’s Wonder Woman or he’s Superman — is going to be physically hurt by that.
But, it is not a scientific fact that an unkind word has to hurt you. The same unkind word could be said to ten different people and each of them could respond differently. But they’re responses would be so incredibly different — and they would be tied to the individuals’s personality and belief system — that it would prove the word has no power to evoke emotion in and of itself.
One person may get angry. Another may laugh.
One person my feel resentment. Another may feel pity.
One person may feel depressed. Another may get excited because they’re presented with a challenge.
But, the response to the word is not the same as the response to the knife. The knife will cut. Words do not cut.
Growing up it was believed that “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”
However, sometime in the 90’s I have a definitive memory of a cultural shift that started telling us that poem was ridiculous. “Of course words can hurt!” the individual would proclaim.
But the reality is not that the words hurt, instead the individual allowed themselves to feel hurt.
In fact, the person actually hurt themselves.
Let’s say that someone says something awful and terrible about me. Imagine the worst thing possible.
Here’s the thing: I don’t have to feel offended by that. It’s not a matter of honor. It’s not a matter of personal injury. I can feel sorry for you. I can pray for you. I can laugh it off. I can move on with my life and overlook it — completely unaffected by what you said.
Or, I can allow myself to experience negative emotions based off what you said. I can choose to feel unloved, marginalized, unappreciated, and hated. I can start feeling depressed, angry, afraid, or even suicidal. I can become all shades of offended.
But that was my choice. I could have chosen to overlook it and be completely unaffected by your empty words, but I chose to feel all those terrible ways.
And here’s the really dangerous thing. If I did kill myself, and I left a suicide note blaming you for my depression and suicidal ideations, then the world would hold you responsible. And they would hold you responsible because they believe that words can make a person feel a certain way. They reject the idea that a person chooses to respond the way they do.
This is why governments all around the world are outlawing hate-speech. It’s not because the speech is hateful, it’s because they view the speech as just as dangerous and harmful as walking around stabbing people with a knife.
Randomly stabbing people with knives is illegal, and if I do it, I will be sent to jail. And the world thinks that saying unkind things must result in personal injury, therefore it’s just as dangerous.
But they’re wrong. Sinful words offend God’s Law, but they needn’t offend our feelings.
And the Bible has so much to say about how we respond to emotions. Are you being tempted to fear because of what someone said? God talks about how we should respond to fear, and it doesn’t include wallowing in it.
Sadness? Anger? Yup, the Bible is very clear how we’re to respond in sadness and anger. We’re to glorify God. Sinful anger and sadness isn’t allowed.
Does the Bible have anything to say about how we should respond when people treat us poorly?
Romans 12:17-20 tells us, “Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. 19 Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. 20 “But if your enemy is hungry, feed him, and if he is thirsty, give him A drink; for in so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”
Overcome evil with good.
My friends, there is no way you could interpret that passage that it’s okay to feel offended and act accordingly.
Yes, you were offended, but your feelings don’t have to be offended. That’s on you.
So, when it comes to our families, what do we do with this information?
Here are some family specific takeaways:
1. From my experience, I can almost guarantee that your family has an unbiblical understanding of what it is to be offended.
I have found very few individuals who correctly use this terminology in a biblically accurate way. Pastors, teachers, moms, dads, children — that grand and vast majority of them — believe that when a person says something offensive, it’s expected that you will feel offended.
Unless you have actively been teaching your family what God has to say about how we respond when people sin against us, they definitely agree with the world’s definition.
And — when they do read the Bible — they’re reading a worldly, sinful meaning into the biblical text.
That is so dangerous because we’re not only twisting God’s Word, we’re using it to justify our sin.
Let’s say I encounter Proverbs 18:19-21, “A brother offended is harder to be won than a strong city.” It’s so incredibly easy for me to use that verse to justify my feeling offended. I can justify not reconciling with my former-friend because they offended me and the Bible says that it’s just as hard to win back that friend as it is to take over a strong city . . . because that’s what happens when you offend someone.
But that’s not what the Scripture says!
This Proverb is simply exemplifying the sinful response people often have to being sinned against. A wise man will recognize that a person who has been sinned against is being tempted to resentment and rejection.
But it doesn’t have to be that way!
Jesus Christ Himself — while being crucified for the sin of the men nailing Him to the cross — in love cried out “Father, forgive them.”
Jesus wasn’t offended by them. Yes, they sinned against Him, but He wasn’t feeling anger or rejection or depression or hatred. He felt love and pity for them.
But you may say, “Aaron, by God’s grace, my family and I do understand and try to live by God’s understanding of offense.”
Good, but that doesn’t change . . .
2. Satan and the World are desperately trying to either convince you and your family that it’s not only okay to be offended, but that you can’t help it.
We’re all sinners, and that means that our sinful flesh is always looking for an excuse to sin.
While I was working at Victory Academy for Boys, I found it interesting that very rebellious teens could move into my home and act very differently than they did when they were living in their own home.
One of the reasons for that was that the Victory staff and I tried very hard to make it easy for the guys to do right and hard to do wrong.
Now, don’t get me wrong. There was a lot of disobedience, and they not only found ways to do wrong, often times we sinful staff members made it easy for them.
But my point is that a sinful heart when surrounded by righteousness and accountability and supervision is easier to overcome. But, when that same sinful heart is daily surrounded by the lies of Satan and the World, and when that sinful heart is presented repeated invitations to sin, barring an act of the Holy Spirit Himself, the chances of sinning are far more increased.
That means that we need to lead our families with the understanding that we are under attack by Satan, the World System, and the Flesh.
If we’re not diligently teaching our kids how to think biblically, we’re increasing the chances of the World teaching them to think satanically.
And there are a lot of born again believers who have bought the World’s lies concerning what it is to be offended.
By the way, if you’d like to learn more about how Satan, the World, and the Flesh are daily attacking your family, please check out our “Spiritual Warfare in Your Home” series.
1. I can almost guarantee that your family has an unbiblical understanding of what it is to be offended.
2. Satan and the World are desperately trying to either convince you and your family that it’s not only okay to be offended, but that you can’t help it.
And . . .
3. However, you and your family absolutely must submit to God. That includes how we are to feel and act when someone sins against us.
There is no biblical justification for feeling offended. It’s our own choice to respond incorrectly to the situation or individual that goes against what we believe.
This is why some people get offended when other people do something nice! They weren’t even sinned against, but they chose to believe the action or word was offensive.
God forbid that we and our kids respond that way!
We are to be the light of the world. The light of God is not looking to be offended.
We are to be the salt of the world, not the bitter dregs of the world.
We’re commanded to respond in love, mercy, grace, forgiveness, pity, purity, and joy.
How can I read James 1:2 and allow myself to be offended by people? “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials.”
Offended people are not joyful people.
Well, we could go on and on because so much of the Bible applies to this discussion. But I need to wrap this up.
So what are our takeaways?
First, the modern definition of what it is to be offended is partially right and partially wrong. When you sin against me, you did — in fact — offend me. But, that doesn’t mean you caused me to feel something. You simply sinned against me.
We must reject this unbiblical view of offense.
Second, we must know God and strive to respond to life’s difficulties (and the people causing them) in Christ-conforming ways.
And third, we must teach our children to do the same.
Now, in the description of today’s episode you’re going to find a bunch of helpful content. I’ve linked our episodes about a biblical theology of emotions. I’ve also included the Parenting Angry Children series as well as the Spiritual Warfare in Your Home series.
I hope this is a conversation we can keep going. God’s people need a serious dose of biblical reality to snap them out of the constant delusion of perpetual offense.
And I hope your family is one of the first.
Could your friends and family also benefit from this topic? Please share this episode on your favorite social media outlets, and don’t forget to rate and review the show.
Of course, if you’d like specialized help for your family struggles, please email us at Counselor@TruthLoveParent.com or give us a call at (828) 423-0894.
And I hope you’ll join us next time as we open God’s Word to discover how to parent our children for life and godliness.
To that end, we’ll be discussing the reasons you need to stop focusing on impossible obedience.
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