Recent news reports have been filled with activities on college campuses, with students responding to real or imagined offenses of various kinds. That culture of victimhood also has entered the church, according to Bob Russell. He writes:
“Political correctness has persuaded many that it’s egregious to say or do anything that someone else finds offensive. As a result, good people walk on eggshells trying to avoid anything that could be interpreted as disrespectful or insulting. Honest communication and freedom of speech are being shut down. Immature college students are convinced their sensibilities never should be violated, and any viewpoint that disagrees with theirs is hate speech…
“The idea that no one ever should say anything offensive filters into the church, as well. I was teaching a class a couple of years ago when an attendee piped up, saying, ‘I was offended by something you said in last week’s lesson.’ She objected to my sharing statistics that showed children who grow up in two-parent homes had a better chance at a meaningful, godly life. Because she was a single mother, in her mind I was wrong to say anything that made her feel uncomfortable. It didn’t matter that the information was truthful. In her opinion, the fact that she took offense was reason enough to expect me to apologize.
“Followers of Christ would do well in this hyper-sensitive culture to review some biblical principles that teach the difference between being mindlessly offensive and being tactfully truthful. I don’t expect non-believers to adhere to these seven spiritual principles, but Christians should embrace them though they are not always easy to follow.
1. Treat everyone with respect. The Bible says, “Love does not dishonor others” (1 Cor. 13:5). Followers of Jesus are to value those of a different race, gender, age group or belief system. Jesus taught us to “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” That means we treat each person with respect and dignity. We would do well to bend over backward not to wound others. Romans 12:18 instructs us, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”
2. Expect unfair treatment at times. Jesus said, “In the world you are going to have trouble” (John 16:33). Life isn’t fair. People are imperfect. Not everyone is going to like or agree with you. Insensitive individuals are going to wound you. There is no perfectly safe place. There is no world without offense. So, be realistic, this world is contaminated by sin, and we have to live in it.
3. Lighten up! Don’t wear your feelings on your sleeve. King Solomon wrote, “A man’s wisdom gives him patience. It is to his glory to overlook an offense” (Prov. 19:11). Mature Christians don’t get wounded easily or make others worry about offending them by an innocent comment or unintentional behavior. It is to your glory to overlook an offense. You’re much more likely to gain respect by ignoring a hurtful comment and treating the offender kindly than by angrily demanding an apology. “Love is patient, love is kind…It is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs” (1 Cor.13:4-5). So lighten up.
4. Some offensive comments are appropriate and needed. Jesus offended people at times. On one occasion, “…the disciples came to Him and asked, ‘Do You know the Pharisees were offended when they heard this?’ Jesus didn’t apologize for what He said. Instead, He said, ‘Leave them; they are blind guides’ (Matt. 15:12,14). The Bible does not teach that we’re never to offend anyone. On the contrary, there are times when the most loving thing we can do is to disturb someone—especially if he or she is endangering his or her own life or someone else’s eternal destiny…If you’re offended, examine the reason why. Maybe instead of crying foul, you need to acknowledge your behavior is wrong and repent of it.” (Read Bob’s full article.)