In June of 2007, David Howard, a member of Anthony Williams’ staff, was pressured into resignation for his use of a perfectly good word. Anthony Williams was the Mayor of Washington DC. In a private staff meeting, Howard uttered the word “niggardly” and set off a national outrage. The majority of blacks and many, ignorant and foolish, whites demanded Howard’s apology and removal. Oh, did I mention that Howard was a white man and Williams was a black man?
Neither the definition nor the origin of the word had any racial connotation whatsoever. And, as a matter of fact, Howard's use of the word had no racial connotation either. Nevertheless, the country wanted desperately to be OFFENDED and so they piled on. Howard lost his job and the English language lost another good word to political correctness. And I know that some will, no doubt, be offended by my even mentioning this account. Shame on me!
I posted a little personal rant a couple years ago about how OFFENDED I am by people who are too easily OFFENDED. I think most conservatives can relate. Conservatives can laugh at themselves; liberals just get offended.
It is especially annoying when Christians use the Matthew 18 hammer to pound those who might make someone “feel” offended. So for this post today, it is appropriate to review what constitutes real offenses rather than illegitimate offenses.
Too many weak people want to feel offended about almost everything. Unfortunately the contemporary definition of the verb, offend is, “To hurt somebody’s feelings, or cause resentment, irritation, anger, or displeasure.” But that is NOT what Jesus had in mind when He talked about offenses. Our contemporary definition is NOT the biblical definition of the word “offend.” When Scripture warns us about offending a little one or a weaker brother, it always refers to actions that cause them to sin, to depart from the truth, or to weaken their faith.
John Wesley commented this way, “…see that ye offend them not; that is, that ye turn them not out of the right way neither hinder them in it” (emphasis is mine).
That kind of real offense, either by our teaching or our liberty, has the affect of doing great and sometimes irreparable damage to the faith of an immature person to the end that it may cause relational difficulties with God, result in judgment, or may even result in terrible, adverse consequences (like eternal damnation). For that reason, Jesus said of the offenders that it would be better for them to be publicly executed.
So with that perspective, I will suggest that there are several practices prevalent in many churches today that really, really, REALLY are offensive. Here are a few:
- Easy believism. It is offensive when we encourage people to repeat a simple, anemic, unrepentant prayer to ask Jesus into their lives and then attempt to convince them that they are saved and safe and eternally secure when there has been no real new birth.
- Cheap grace. It is offensive when we allow people to believe that they can be positionally right with God while continuing in their sins without consequence; that Jesus paid the penalty for all their sins without telling them that God expects them to stop sinning.
- Unscriptural or irreverent worship. It is offensive when people are led to believe that God is pleased with them just the way they are and that they can approach Him with mindless, “touchy-feely” emotionally stimulating expressions of so-called worship without a reverential fear of His sovereignty and apart from obedience which is His requirement for true worship.
- Ecumenical accommodation. It is offensive when we do not identify and separate ourselves from false doctrine and false teachers but join hand-in-hand as we skip down the ecumenical happy trail of brotherly love singing “Kum Ba Yah” with religious legalists, apostates, modernists, and liberals.
These are real and serious offenses to those who are unregenerate or immature in the Faith. They are truly stumbling blocks that could result in their falling away or missing salvation altogether.