Recently I saw a quote that really resonated with me at a deep level. …
“Just because you’re offended doesn’t mean you’re right.”
I cannot remember a time when so many different groups of people have been so divided as we are now. Schisms of all kinds are dominating just about every medium of communication. Talk radio, podcasts, news outlets, blogs, Facebook, and just about every other method used to disseminate information has become a platform for visceral debates. Our interaction with each other, especially those with whom we disagree, lacks civility. Dissenting opinions have become grounds for trashing others. People who call themselves Christian are just as caught up in it, and not just on the receiving end of it.
I am all for standing your ground. I appreciate someone who defends their position in the face of great opposition. It is that very commitment to a cause that has brought about some of the most significant and needed changes through history. What we must keep in mind, however, is that it is not the popularity of a movement that makes it right. Neither is it the palatable nature of a thing. Some of the greatest advances were an offense to many before they were accepted.
As a pastor, I am most inclined to turn to Jesus for my examples. Among his contemporaries, Jesus was a troublemaker. His methods were unconventional, and his message was blasphemous. His associates were the incorrigibles, and his conviction was frightening. Most of all, his goal was offensive. He intended to overturn the religious establishment, and did not concern himself with placating the feelings of those who resisted.
It is important to be civil to one another. Dismissing others, whether individuals or groups, simply because we disagree is unhealthy. That is the tactic of the closed minded, and no one benefits when we are not open to one another . Name calling, labeling, and the like are divisive and do nothing to reach common ground.
At the same time, crying “offense” is equally unhealthy. Your being offended is not reason enough on its own to disqualify my position. If that were the case, Jesus would not have carried out what he came to do. The religious establishment would have maintained its status quo, and the marginalized would never have been brought into the saving grace of God. No one needs to be silenced simply on the basis that their message offends others.
I have some beliefs, core convictions if you will, that I consider non-negotiable. I have relationships with people whose ideas and values are different than mine, sometimes polar opposites. They too consider their convictions non-negotiable. We are willing to have discussion surrounding our differences. I am never offended by their position. By the same token, it is never my intention to be offensive.
As Christians, we have to do a better job of maintaining our convictions (which may indeed offend) without becoming hateful and offensive. Most of what we disagree on falls outside of the realm of the essential anyway. We have to have enough love for God and one another to respect those with whom we disagree while standing up for what we believe.
The Rev. Randall Monk is the lead pastor of Ekklesia Faith Community in Grovetown.