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Let’s Stop Being So Easily Offended

“Happy is the man who is not easily offended.” I’m not sure who said that, but it’s an adage every Christian should abide.

Is it just me or are Christians far too easily offended?

Not long ago, in a comment thread, a writer took me to task for questioning a Christian brother’s sensibilities. Certain words offended them and I should respect that. In my uniquely callous way I suggested some people’s claim of offense was a means of smokescreen. Rather than be secure in themselves and tolerate people’s quirks, lifestyles, or opinions, they could control others by claiming to be offended.

  • Your language offends me.
  • Your appearance offends me.
  • Your politics offend me.
  • Your bad habits offend me.
  • Your affiliations offend me.
  • Your taste in art offends me.

And the list goes on.

Let me just come out and say it: I am suspicious of Christians — especially “mature” Christians — who get offended easily.

Yes, Jesus warned about putting “stumbling blocks” before the “little ones”  (Luke 17:1-2 NASV) and the apostle Paul said,

Be careful, however, that the exercise of your freedom does not become a stumbling block to the weak. (I Cor. 8:9 NIV)

But there’s a big difference between a growing Christian who is learning the limits of freedom and grace, who is battling to overcome an addiction or a destructive lifestyle, and an older saint who is entrenched in their “preferences” and imposing them on others. In my experience, the majority of Christians who express being offended are not “little ones,” they are these “older saints.”

Joe Aldrich, in his terrific book Lifestyle Evangelism, makes a helpful distinction. When it comes to controversial issues — watching R-rated movies, smoking, drinking alcoholic beverages, getting tattoos, gambling, certain styles of dress — Aldrich describes four main types of Christians:

  1. Professional Weaker Brother
  2. Susceptible Weaker Brother
  3. Nonparticipating Mature Brother
  4. Participating Mature Brother

A Professional Weaker Brother is a Christian who has a strong objection to something and believes others should share that objection. In other words, since drinking is wrong for him, it is wrong for everyone. He tends to be critical of those who disagree, legalistic and manipulative, and eventually will separate himself from his “sinful” bretheren. A Susceptible Weaker Brother is sensitive to a particular sin, but understands that it may not be a sin for every Christian. However, due to naivete or lack of discipline, he often vacillates, succumbs to his weakness and struggles with a guilt-free conscience. A Nonparticipating Mature Brother knows what’s sin for him and does not participate in it. Furthermore, he does not project his convictions upon others but respects individual parameters of freedom and demonstrates grace to those who differ. Finally, a Participating Mature Brother believes he has the freedom to indulge in a particular area that could be considered sin to another. Nevertheless, he is cautious to not cast a stumbling block before his weaker brothers, nor to abuse his liberty. However, in the end, his participating freedom has the potential to hinder or harm the genuine weaker saint.

Maybe it’s unique to my experience, but those Christians who are most easily offended are not new to the faith, neither are they genuinely “susceptible” to a particular temptation — they are Professional Weaker Brothers. These Christians have institutionalized their offense, turned their preferences into across-the-board commandments. They have no real desire to spread “liberty” but to enforce a set of guidelines and ideals which cocoon them in their own morality.

No, I’m not suggesting we wink at sin. There is a time to close our eyes, to plug our ears, and to flee from evil. There is a time to express being hurt or troubled by something. But if we get offended by every little thing, how will we ever interact with others, much less reach the world?

My suggestion: Let’s stop being so easily offended.

Just think of it– being un-offendable has repercussions for ourselves, and for our neighbors. Happy is the man who is not easily offended… and even happier are the people around him.

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{ 59 comments… add one }
  • Earl July 29, 2012, 12:05 PM

    Also from my understanding the bible speaks on offending the spirit and not just offending someone who has unhealthy view of themselves and their morals. I almost laugh when I saw someone tell them poster that they were being offensive for referring to a man that had a sex change as a “he”. That is ridiculous. Sometimes doing the right thing will offend evil people or people doing evil. I am sure the Nebuchadnezzar was offended when Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego did not bow down to his statue. I am also sure because of what Jesus told I believe the Pharisees comparing them to Sodom and Gomorrah they were offended. The thing is someone also brought it up what I already started picking up that when the bible says offended, they are not talking about the current meaning of the word that covers a larger range of things. You can offend a person but doing nothing at all. People who do not believe are offended by God and Jesus and they have done nothing wrong.

    • Sarah Fulmer July 29, 2012, 12:39 PM

      I like your comments, Earl; some good ‘food for thought’ there.

  • Brooke November 29, 2012, 11:00 AM

    Can you please tell me where you got the qoute at the end? Happy is the man… – love that!

  • Headless Unicorn Guy December 21, 2012, 12:03 AM

    Professional Weaker Brethren:
    “Just like Tyranny of the Most Easily Offended, Except CHRISTIAN(TM)!”

  • Connie December 22, 2012, 10:25 AM

    Thank you thank you thank you!

  • Esther J White January 25, 2013, 2:14 PM

    This situation is strong in all churches in believers ……..
    Holy Excuses~~It is not only in the mature believer it is in leadership….
    When you are ****not up to peoples standards ****in the Lord*** are you hearing me
    If you do something by accident or make a mistake a misunderstanding
    Your Not up to people standards in the Lord~~~ Then your not of God ..
    Some get prophetic word and they rationalize~~~
    The beloved is not careful they slander give false witness ~~~ Sad but true~~~
    Where is the Holy Spirit Discernment Enlightenment~

  • twila March 1, 2013, 7:18 AM

    Thank you for this post. If we are truely dead to ourselves can a dead man be offended by others? However if we are alive in Christ we will hate sin as He hated sin.
    We cannot impose that maturity on others but “the Spirit must do the Spirit’s work”. If we are to be “in the world but not of it” as Jesus directed. Then we must live with the immaturity of sin, (even in the church) and allow the Spirit of God to convict. This way we are a light “in the world but not of it”.
    Our blessing of peace and joy and our close relationship and “Christ likeness” becomes the draw to maturity.
    The problem lies when others who are weaker percieve our presence as agreement. Especially when we are raising children. I think we must leave room for separation but with the objective of showing the truth before we expose those younger (phyically or spritually) to the conterfit.

  • Dale Strand April 18, 2013, 6:02 PM

    Such a vital topic — so needed to be presented in church. Have NEVER heard that as part of any sermon.

    Your blog and the comments following provide the perfect outline for a powerful message to the church, it’s pastor(s), and the congregation.

    Personally, I’m offended at people choosing to be offended!

    BTW — I’m studying quenching, grieving, and offending the Holy Spirit. I have scriptures for the first two (1 Thes 5:19 and Eph 4:30) but can’t find the one referencing a tense of “offend.” (in KJV). If anyone can find it, I’d be grateful for an email back — (des2000@comcast.net). Thanks in advance!

  • Felice June 7, 2013, 9:59 PM

    I think we as Christians have no right to be offended at all for any reason. I think God is the only one that has a right to be offended, after all He is the creator of all things and He is the sinless one. We are all sinners so when we see someone else sin, we should hate that sin just as we hate our own sin and we should not be silent when we see another offending God — especially someone who claims to be a Christian. Our love for God should compel us to want to encourage others to not offend Him. I think it’s a bit hypocritical to be offended when we are all sinners and fall short of the glory of God. It doesn’t seem right to say that being offended is only right for believers but not for unbelievers so I believe it is sinful for everyone except God to be offended.

    • Sarah September 26, 2014, 8:05 AM

      I agree with you, Felice! Well said.

  • David June 2, 2015, 3:37 PM

    Great post there my friend! I probably would fit in to the last two groups. I can stay away from things that I know God is telling me not participate in or do and sometimes I won’t do something if I know it will cause a brother to stumble. I may do something that would stumble somebody if that person weren’t around and if it was biblically okay to do so. But also, don’t we think our being offended at somebody is just an excuse for our attitudes or actions toward someone or just not having any compassion for a struggling person or for a brother that’s just different than you (or us)?

  • jan4JC July 17, 2016, 4:21 PM

    may want to look up that word in the Greek: word #4624 skandalidzo;skandalize. from #4625 to entrap; for ex. trip up(figuratively stumble) or entice to sin, apostasy, or displeasure. that is a lot stronger than just what we consider offending someone! It can be causing someone to fall from their salvation!~

  • Paul July 20, 2016, 10:00 AM

    It’s time to close our eyes and cover our ears? You’re kidding, right?

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