Our New Inalienable Right

We have added a new category of rights as citizens of these United States: the inalienable right to be offended. I don’t remember hearing this much growing up; I believe this is a relatively new phenomenon.

I have received letters, emails, or phone calls from people offended at something I was supposed to have said. It is as though we use a magic word, a trump card that must receive attention immediately when used: “I am offended.”

It is a part of being American these days. We hear it on news stories, see it played out in our daily interactions, and encounter it at seemingly every turn. We wear our feelings on our sleeves, and live on the lookout with our antennae high waiting for someone to bump our emotions and allow us to proclaim, “I’m offended!” Frankly, it offends me when I see Christians play this card. I believe that one of the rights we surrender when we become Christ’s is the right to be offended. We REALLY need to learn to get over it for the sake of our witness in the world.

The Bible says two things about offences. First, “they are bound to come.” It is unavoidable that offences will come our way. Does this mean we have a right to play the “I’m offended” game when it happens? Don’t think so.

Second, the Bible tells us to be careful not to be offensive to others. “It is better for you to have a millstone tied around your neck and be thrown into the sea” than for you to “offend one of these little ones.” The Biblical word that we translate “offense” is literally “skandalon.” (scandal or scandalous). We have a Gospel that, communicated clearly, will offend some who hear it. That gives us no right to be offensive in how we communicate it, but it also calls us to lay down our right to be offended by or offense to those who need to hear it. I wonder if our right to be offended is offensive to God?

Let’s lower our offences. Let’s find ways to allow the petty hurts and disagreeable ideas we sometimes hear to pass us by without response. Let’s agree to be different than the culture around us.

(By the way, I fully expect to hear from someone who was offended by this column….just sayin’.)


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