I’m a little like the 90 year old guy that somehow still has his drivers licence and spends his day meandering through traffic and cutting people off. He never uses his turn signal and and never notices the other drivers who are waving their fists and other appendages at him in anger. It’s his mission in life and there is no telling how many bad days he has inflicted on his hapless victims. Meanwhile he never gives it a second thought and quite merrily carries on his way.
What I am saying here is, I guess I need to admit that I am not terribly aware when I have offended people. I do understand that if I go on national TV every week for half an hour and talk about sin, or God, or hell, or politics, or homosexuality, I’m going to offend at least a few people. And sometimes a whole whack of them. Now, I don’t do it on purpose, although I probably enjoy far more than I should.
In the New Testament the word for offense is ‘scandalon’ from where we get the English word scandalize. A ‘scandalon’ was a trap that that would be set for an animal. Once it’s paw was caught in the scandalons jaws it was trapped and would probably die there. Offense is exactly the same. Once we become offended by something someone says or does, WE are the ones who have set our foot in the trap. Like the old coot behind the wheel in my illustration more often than not the offender has gone merrily on his way.
We live in a hyper-sensitive world. People are offended by everything. Comedians like David Letterman and Conan O’Brien spend their whole lives apologising to Hollywood’s delicate geniuses who are the butt of their jokes. They are happy to do it because every scandal (scandalon) only boosts their ratings. It is the one who is offended that becomes the real loser. Bitterness and unforgiveness are the world’s most destructive forces. How many families do you know that will not speak to one another because of some stupid petty disagreement that in the greater scheme of things has zero value? Life is too short to carry bitterness for even one minute.
Then there is another kind of offence that is even worse. I call the second-hand offence. When we become offended for someone else…who incidently may not be offended at all. When I tell Newfie jokes I get a raft of angry letters. But never from the Newfies (who probably came up with the joke in the first place) but from others who are offended for them. Proverbs 26:17 says, He who passes by and meddles in a quarrel not his own is like one who takes a dog by the ears. Grab a dog by the ears and A) you realize there is no good way to let go, you’re into it now and B) no matter what you do, you are going to get bit. Pick up someone else’s offence and… well you get the picture.
There is a simple way to deal with offence that can actually change your life. Learn to forgive everybody all the time. Really, it is a decision. I have been doing it for years. Even if someone says something really hurtful, and trust me they do (you should read my mail bag) I have learned to forgive everybody all the time. It is completely freeing! You don’t lose a moments sleep planning a murder you will probably never commit anyway. If more people would live by this simple principle our world would be much better place.