the privilege of not taking offense

5437614015_56f1a7b003_oProverbs 18:19a (ESV) A brother offended is more unyielding than a strong city

Taking Offense

Being offended, or taking offense is a most destructive sin because, as the Proverb says, it produces or is the result of an unyielding heart, and an unyielding heart is incapable of forgiving and therefore unable to be forgiven.

This politically correct world in which we live is structured around offense. The emphasis is on legislating against offense demanding people strive to do nothing to cause offense. This ‘spirit’ is so pervasive now that words have become a snare.

Isaiah 29:21 (ESV) who by a word make a man out to be an offender, and lay a snare for him who reproves in the gate, and with an empty plea turn aside him who is in the right.

Notice the point here? It is the ‘offended’ that make a person an offender! The snare laid is a trap set by those seeking offense[1].

Why is taking offense so destructive? Because it lies at the heart of sin. A person offended is a person who vehemently believes in their own right-ness, a position that is at odds with the teachings of Christ and the cross – and therefore anti-Christ. The word best associated with ‘self-right-ness’ is privilege.

Put simply, people love to be offended. Human nature revels in offense. This is why we have created such political correctness today. Why do people walk on eggshells fearing a slip that will bring down the wrath of social media upon them? We fear being accused of offending someone, but are willing to quickly take offense, for the offended are society’s Pharisees, parading their offendedness as a mark of unique distinction, deserving of honour and respect. Not an honour or respect for action, deed or achievement but simply for being. “I exist therefore I AM”

People long to be offended because it gives them the ‘right’ to self-justify to all who will listen, whilst simultaneously destroying the ‘offender’. It is human nature to elevate self through the destruction of others. Only Christ could genuinely live and let live, and for that we decided to destroy him. The Pharisees took offense at Jesus and out of jealousy handed Him over for death (Matt 11:6; 27:18; cf also Mk 6:3; Matt 21:33-46).

Isaiah 29 has a lot that resembles our world today. “This people draw near with their mouth… while there hearts are far from Me.” This is an accusation from God that they had a form of godliness or self-righteousness while the opposite was true. “You turn things upside down… shall the potter be regarded as the clay?” Isaiah says. (In such a world, one is the offended and never an offender. This is because each person is right in his or her own eyes. If they speak or act it is not offensive, it is truth. If you speak you offend for you have no right to speak or act because I am entitled to be treated differently.)

Yet offense is only offense to the offended. Offense is not possible if there is no offended. Think about that. If my words or deeds seem offensive and you refuse to take offense then there is nothing, except the amazing God-given power of forgiveness and grace. If I have no intention to offend yet you take offense then there is destructive relational division.

The message of the cross is one of offense. Humanity has taken offense at God for making us ‘not divine’ even though we are made in His image we are not satisfied. And so in return, we have offended God by rejecting His divinity, His existence and His rule. Now there is a natural consequence for such an act – the cause and effect of rejecting divine rule, which in God’s Kingdom means separation from God. However, God, rather than being offended (and He alone is actually right) took the offense as if it were His own. He came and, through the cross, took our offensive nature and deeds upon himself and through the cross, said, ‘sorry’.

Entitlement

How do we get to such a place where, after confessing Christ and entering into His Kingdom through repentance, we again take offense? To take offense is a contradiction to the humble repentance that enabled us to ‘taste of the goodness of God’ (cf Heb 6:4,5). We get to such a place through a sense of entitlement.

Privilege describes the idea of restricted right or benefit. It is rights and advantages enjoyed by an elite. Special honour. When we feel ‘entitled’ to special benefit or treatment we expect privileged or special treatment. The best evidence of an ‘air of privilege’ can be seen in society’s elites; politicians, business people, celebrities etc. However, this ‘spirit of privilege’ does not control them because they are elites, but because they are human. Their position intensifies a sense of entitlement, but it is a part of the human condition and far from unique. It is human nature to feel we deserve special right or benefit. Each person has an innate sense of uniqueness entitling them to special consideration.

A perversion of the gospel has helped to facilitate a return to fallenness. It has produced a rejection of the forgiveness found in Christ, akin to the wicked servant in Jesus’ parable (Matt 18:23-35). A sense of privilege has grown around the gospel instead of gratefulness; an idea that ones salvation is deserved (after all, if you were the only person in the world He would have died just for you- this is not true, by the way, because it is nonsensical, but time does not permit discussing it here). Christians are not God’s elites but His elect, chosen not by merit but by grace, who have no right except to remain in Christ in obedient faith having no self-rightness.

Today Jesus Christ is not seen as the Lord to whom all must bow but as a Christian genie waiting for us to rub His container so He can spring into action and give us all we ever wanted. This too is anti-Christ.

So, privilege is tied to entitlement. Because I ‘feel’ I am unique I am a privileged person ‘entitled’ to special treatment. When that treatment is not forthcoming I am ‘offended’. When I am spoken to in a way that does not live up to my sense of entitlement, I am offended. When I do not get the job I deserve, or the money I should have, or the attention due to me, I am offended.

Entitlement is Satan’s Downfall and His Weapon

Isaiah 14:12–15 (ESV)
 12          “How you are fallen from heaven,
O Day Star, son of Dawn
How you are cut down to the ground,
you who laid the nations low!
13          You said in your heart,
‘I will ascend to heaven;
above the stars of God
I will set my throne on high;
I will sit on the mount of assembly
in the far reaches of the north;
14          I will ascend above the heights of the clouds;
I will make myself like the Most High.’
15          But you are brought down to Sheol,
to the far reaches of the pit.

Lucifer, or Day Star, was overcome by His self-admiration. Impressed with who he was he developed a sense of entitlement and therefore acted to exalt himself and bring God down. Is it no wonder Jesus said the Pharisees were of their father the devil! They had the same self-admiration. And this is the human condition due to the fall. Satan enticed Adam and Eve to sin by establishing a sense of privilege in them that entitled them to ‘be like God’. How is it that we seldom recognise devilish activity? It begins by building up the ego; “You are a great guy, a really nice fellow. For all you are and all you have done you deserve…” Once the self-aggrandisement is at work the next step is to add entitlement. Once entitlement and privilege are at work we are ready for offense. Who is God to keep me here, I will ‘make myself like the most high’; I will ‘be like God’. This is the insidious work of Satan in the hearts of men who yield to or obey Him. The outworking is seen in people’s willingness to ‘take offense’.

This sense of entitlement and privilege, though inwardly is against God, is outwardly displayed agai5nst other people. It produces a willingness to ‘take offense’ and is well exampled by Ahab and Jezebel.

Jezebel firstly established Ahab’s privileged position or uniqueness. She then pointed out his entitlement due to his uniqueness and encouraged him to take offense when his wishes were not met. Entitlement and privilege was well used by Jezebel to control the behaviour of Ahab (cf 1Kings 21).

1 Kings 21:25 (ESV) There was none who sold himself to do what was evil in the sight of the Lord like Ahab, whom Jezebel his wife incited.

The spirit of Jezebel is alive and well in the world today. It points out your uniqueness and your right to special honour. You are entitled to be honoured and entitled to privilege. The rest is self-fulfilling. We head off on a quest to affirm our self-aggrandisement. A quest to take offense because it’s a quest to ensnare others by demanding (without their knowledge) honour and privilege. Give me my due or I will take offense. The outcome will be a person who ‘sold himself to do what was evil in the sight of the Lord’.

The outcome of Satan’s offendedness was to be cast down; the result of Adam and Eve’s sense of entitlement was to be cast out; the outcome of Ahab’s willingness to be manipulated by Jezebelian entitlement was to be struck down.

Offense hardens the heart against God and produces a propensity for sin. At the least it harbours resentment and unforgiveness – clearly unacceptable for receiving God’s forgiveness (Mat 6:12,14,15; 18:35).

James 2:13 (ESV) For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.

Seldom are once enlightened hearts blatantly hardened toward God. Unlike Satan, who understands his position, our sense of goodness requires right to be on our side. If we are of the opinion that God is, then He must be right and therefore he must be on my side for I am right. So, our actions, our animosity, our offendedness are all directed towards people – often those who represent God’s Kingdom in some way, like ministers (cf 1Jn 1:5-8; 2:4-6, 9-11).

1 John 2:9 (ESV) Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness.

Guard your Heart

Proverbs 4:23 (ESV) Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.

According to Jeremiah the heart is a deceitful and desperately sick place (Jer 17:9). It is the place from which our actions flow, the spring of life. Mark 7:21 tells us that out of the heart comes evil thoughts, murder, adultery, theft, false witness, slander etc. In contrast Luke 6:45 says the good person’s heart produces good while the evil person’s heart produces evil, “for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks”.

Proverbs 24:12 (ESV)
If you say, “Behold, we did not know this,”
does not he who weighs the heart perceive it?
Does not he who keeps watch over your soul know it,
and will he not repay man according to his work?

People may be fooled by a heart that feigns innocence but not so the one who judges the living and the dead (2Tim 4:1; 1Pt 4:5). What’s worse is when we try to fool ourselves in our mind via mental gymnastics in an endeavour to convince ourselves of our rightness. We proclaim that our offendedness is the result of being sinned against.

We may fool others, we may fool ourselves, but Jesus Christ sees the heart. Our only real recourse is to obey Christ. If we feel offense it is best not to take that offense. Rather we are called to forgive those we think have sinned against us. For this alone is what is required.

Luke 21:34 (ESV) “But watch yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a trap.

An unguarded heart is a sitting target for offense – the fruit of pride. And an offended heart cannot see its way clear to forgive. An unforgiving heart is a heart that is itself unforgiven.

Philippians 4:7 (ESV) And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Only in the rest of God’s peace can our hearts be guarded. This too is by faith because: “the righteous shall live by faith”.

[1] Political correctness however is not really concerned for people’s feelings, or for harmony, or equality, but rather a direct attack on free speech and a subversive ploy to outlaw the gospel, which is a naturally offensive message.

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“Close up eye red - Jesus – Cross” by Gerardofegan is licensed by Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

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