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Let me start with the caveats. Many people suffer at the hands of others. The world can be unfair, at times mercilessly so. Millions of people in the world are genuine victims, right now. All of us will be at some point, whether it's for small matters or large, for a long duration or short.

But we aren't all victims, not all the time anyway, not for everything.

Offendedness is just about the last shared moral currency in our country. And, I'm sorry, but it's really annoying. We don't discuss ideas or debate arguments, we try to figure out who is most offended. Buddhists are offended by Brit Hume. Christians are offended that critics disparage Brit Hume. Republicans are offended by Harry Reid's comments about President Obama. If the shoe were on the other partisan foot, you can bet Democrats would be offended for President Obama (who can legitimately be offended by Reid's remarks). Whenever someone makes a public gaffe, whether real or perceived, critics storm the microphones to let the world know how offended they are. Why is everyone in such a hurry to be hurt?

For starters, being hurt is easier than being right. To prove you're offended you just have to rustle up moral indignation and tell the world about it. To prove you're right you actually have to make arguments and use logic and marshal evidence. Why debate theology or politics or economics if you can win your audience by making the other guys look like meanies?

There's nothing like being offended to nail your opponent. No one wants to look like a jerk (ok, maybe Donald Trump does). No one wants to come off as a free-wheeling dealer of pain. As a result, we end up held hostage by the possible taking of offense. It's rarely asked whether such offense is warranted or whether it even matters. No, if there is offense, there must be an offender. And offenders are always wrong.

So we demand apologies. Sometimes, no doubt, because a genuine sin has been committed. But often we demand apologies just because we can. It's a way to shame those with whom we disagree. It forces them to admit failure or keep looking like a weasel. The weakest offense-taker can now bully multitudes of intelligent men and women through the emotional manipulation that goes with chronic offendedness.

We live in an emotionally fragile culture. We are in touch with every hurt past, present, and perceived. We are the walking wounded and we want everyone to know. Which is too bad, because when people are genuine victims-profoundly, egregiously wronged-they deserve not to be lumped in the same category with those who got picked last for kickball or turned down for their church's "special music."

As Christians, we worship a victimized Lord. We should expect to suffer and should have particular compassion on those who hurt emotionally and physically. But we do not resemble the Suffering Servant when we take pains to show off our suffering. I'm not thinking of the Brit Hume ordeal now. I'm just thinking in general how we are tempted to gain the culture's approval by playing the culture's offense-taking game. If a law is broken or a legitimate right taken away, let us protest with passion. But if we are misunderstood or even reviled let's not go after short-lived and half-hearted affirmation by announcing our offendedness for the world to hear. Every time we try to make hay out of misplaced calumnies, we hasten the demise of Christianity in the public square. As offendedness becomes the barometer of acceptable discourse, we can expect further marginalization of Christian beliefs.

So buck up brothers and sisters. Most often in this country, we are not victims because of our faith. There are just as many people, it seems to me, standing to Brit Hume's defense as they are pillorying him. Let every Tom, Dick, and Harry in the world be crushed to (phony) emotional pieces when their ideas are scrutinized. We can chart a different course and trust that our beliefs can handle Keith Olberman's disapproval. We have no reason to be anxious, every reason to be joyful, and fewer reasons than we think to be offended.


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41 thoughts on “Why Are We So Offended All the Time?”

  1. rich says:

    Ha, great! I hope this way of thinking is contagious.

  2. I think that this post is very interesting. At church last weekend the idea of being offended came up. After that I had an interesting coverstation with ‘mature’ christians about dating. They didn’t know I had been only just baptised. They guy proceeds ‘i would never date a new christian becuase they wouldn’t be at my level. I wouldn’t be able to believe they were not going to stray away from it’

    I sat. Got defensive and stopped.

    I have a choice and it’s not going to be defensive. I said a prayer and just listened.

    My heart wasn’t heavy. It could have been.

  3. Cristiano says:

    Great post. This is a common mistake, seeming offended or a victim, instead of trying to prove your point with reasonable arguments. This is a problem that we should notice, in order to avoid of committing this mistake.

  4. *like*

    (also, praise the lord michelle! may you grow in the riches of his love, wisdom, and grace each day finding your confidence & value in what he is doing in you, not what some guy spouts off about ignorantly!)
    -stephen

  5. Pete Scribner says:

    Well perceived and well stated, Kevin. I am reminded of some other very wise words: “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven…” (Matthew 5:11-12a, ESV).

  6. Hayden says:

    Michelle,

    You just proved by your reaction that you are not as young in the Lord as you may think. Remember, growth in grace happens quite quickly in some. You may be a new believer in time, but as you grow in grace you may far surpass people that make unbiblical comments like the ones that you witnessed.

  7. Dwight says:

    Outstanding! Amen and Amen!

  8. Greg says:

    Dude Kevin has struck twice in one week – I am humbled and edified.

  9. James says:

    “There’s nothing like being offended to nail your opponent.” Wow! Well said. The default position in today’s church and often in my consumeristic heart is to be offended rather than forgive, overlook, lovingly and patiently engage or surrender to the problem.

  10. Mrs. D says:

    Great post! I’ve been reading several books lately on contentment and this seems to fall into that category. Often when we lack contentment we go on the offensive and/or are easily offended.

    Michelle~ Welcome to the Family! May you continue to lean on Jesus for wisdom and strength. His Word is a lamp to our feet and a light to our path. Psalm 119

  11. Stephen Ley says:

    The New Testament saints counted it a joy to be reviled for the sake of Christ. American saints organize a boycott or call a lawyer.

  12. stephy says:

    Being offended seems to make it very much about oneself. It seems like a selfish way to assert your preferences. Hope that made sense…

  13. Les Puryear says:

    Kevin,

    I appreciate you and love your books. For the most part, I agree with this post, however, there is one statement you wrote that I strongly disagree with.

    You said, “As Christians, we worship a victimized Lord.” I completely disagree with this statement. Jesus was the victor, not a victim. Jesus went to the cross on purpose to fulfill His mission to save us from our sins. He was no victim.

    BTW, I’m not offended by your statement. I just disagree. :)

    Kindest regards,

    Les Puryear

  14. Alex says:

    Les Puryear: Under Justin Taylor’s link to this post is a discussion of this http://blogs.thegospelcoalition.org/justintaylor/2010/01/13/are-you-easily-offended/

    …but at Justin Taylor points out (and I agree with), “willing self-sacrifice does not negate that it was still a sacrifice. He was a victim of injustice even though it was according to the Father’s plan and he joyfully submitted to it.”

    Regards,
    Alex

  15. Les Puryear says:

    Alex,

    I appreciate Justin’s perspective, however, his view sounds more philosophical than biblical.

    Perhaps the issue here is the definition of the word “victim.” My definition of a victim is someone who has no control over his own fate. Jesus was not a victim because the events that surrounded Jesus at His death were not out of His control. They were not out of control but they were under the control of Jesus the whole time. Jesus went to the cross on His own initiative, on His own terms, and in His own time. This is clearly communicated by Christ Himself in John 10:15-18. Thus, according to my definition of victim, Jesus was not a victim.

    Regards,

    Les

  16. Les Puryear says:

    Alex,

    One more thing. The sacrifice of Christ on the cross was a true sacrifice, however, a sacrificial act does not always translate to being victimized.

    Les

  17. This post reminded me of what Bonhoeffer said about enduring evil in “The Cost of Discipleship”.

    “Resistance merely creates further evil and adds fuel to the flames. But when evil meets no opposition and encounters no obstacle but only patient endurance, its sting is drawn, and at last it meets an opponent which is more than its match. . . To leave everything behind at the call of Christ is to be content with him alone, and to follow only him. By his willingly renouncing self-defense the Christian affirms his absolue adherence to Jesus, and his freedom from the tyranny of his own ego.”

    Sounds like taking offense at minor things is more a testament to the size of our egos than it is to the offensiveness of the issue.

    Thanks for the post.

  18. Mike D says:

    But I have a right to be a victim if I want! :p

    In the world we are individuals first, then part of something bigger secondarily like companies we work in, clubs we join, political affiliations, we even deem our involvement in our families as somewhat voluntary.
    In Christ, we are joined to the body and are not to be individual first, if we are servants, we see ourselves as second at best. Therefore we should not see our lives in terms of what our rights or wants may be, but as what is best and most profitable for the body.
    It is difficult not to allow the peculiarities of our culture and society to infect the body of Christ, as we are more often than not, the carriers of the infection.

  19. That post was so offensive.

  20. Matt Long says:

    Hey Kevin. Nice post, brother. You articulated very clearly what I’ve been thinking after the Brit Hume thing. Very well said. At my house, we call it toughen-up-icine. We don’t keep it in the cabinet, but we give it out in large doses. ;-)

  21. Mike D says:

    at the risk of starting a fire,

    how can a man, who has come to the knowledge of his own sinful nature, and accepted the truth about the Holiness of God, and repentantly trusted the sacrificial work of Christ Jesus on the cross on his behalf ever think that he deserves any better than what ever the Lord God allows to befall him.

    is it possible that we over rate the importance of our own comfort?

  22. Carter says:

    D.J., lol.

    Kevin, I totally agree. There is one question I have, if your busy schedule permits: as someone who has a tendency to be snarky and perhaps a tad harsh in arguments, in what manner would you say it is acceptable to be offensive to others? I mean, obviously making detrimental comments about their parentage is going to get me smacked, but I struggle with how harsh I really am allowed to push my opinion. I have been made to feel stupid, so I know how much it stings, but it has also been instructive in my own life, and made me work harder.

    Anyway, I just wondered if you had any thoughts. Thanks!

  23. Juan says:

    Doug Wilson recently posted a blog post call True Victim and stated the following:

    ¨We sometimes drift into thinking that Jesus died as a victim on behalf of all the victims throughout history. But this is one of the notions that He came to crucify. He was the true victim, and He was the only one. He did not die as victim on behalf of all victims. He died as the true victim so that we could be liberated from our perpetual tendency to play victim.¨

    Se the entire blog post at

    http://www.dougwils.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=7283%3Atrue-victim&catid=41%3Athe-lords-table&Itemid=1

  24. Dwight says:

    So was anyone offended by the latest pronouncement from Pat Robertson about the Hatians being to blame for the earthquake?

    http://tpmlivewire.talkingpointsmemo.com/2010/01/pat-robertson-haitians-swore-a-pact-to-the-devil.php?ref=mp

  25. stephy says:

    That’s the Pat we know and love.

  26. Marc Austhof says:

    I go back to Michael Horton’s biblical explanations of offense in one of the first Modern Reformations; To cause others to Sin. Just because we don’t like something or disagree with someone doesn’t necessarily cause us to sin. Thus in most things we are not biblically offended but dislike or saddened by whatever has transpired. We have elevated the word offense and given it a much greater meaning. For the remedy I quote Bob Newhart (see Jan 18th post) “Stop It!”

    What do we do with the offense of the Gospel as it appears to some?

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Kevin DeYoung


Kevin DeYoung is the senior pastor at Christ Covenant Church in Matthews, North Carolina. He is chairman of the board of The Gospel Coalition, assistant professor of systematic theology at Reformed Theological Seminary (Charlotte), and a PhD candidate at the University of Leicester. Kevin and his wife, Trisha, have seven children. You can follow him on Twitter.

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