WARNING! This post may offend you. I will not take responsibility for your offense. Read at your own discretion.
I’d like to make a public announcement: I give up trying to not offend you.
By “offend” I mean make you angry, not cause you to stumble. The latter I am determined to not do.
In the past, I’ve been conscious of things like being seen drinking alcohol (because I drink), smoking (because if someone offers me something, sometimes I’ll enjoy it), using words that some people consider to be bad (because I intentionally “cuss”), showing affection for the opposite sex verbally and physically (which is often looked down upon in Japan and within christian communities), getting a tattoo (because I’d like to get one), downloading music, movies, etc. off the internet (because I have no guilt in doing so), doing drugs (which, although I have no experience with, I have no problem with in moderation), and whatever else that might incite judgment against me.
All because I knew there were plenty of people out there who would be offended by those kinds of things, and I thought it was my responsibility to keep them from being offended.
It took me a while to see that it’s not.
Since being offended is a choice, it’s not my responsibility to keep people unoffended. In fact, that’s impossible; I can’t control anyone and make choices for them – only they can.
It’s not like I’m proud of these things, nor am I trying to tout, “look how free I am!”, nor am I saying everyone should do the things I do, feel the way I do about them, or believe the things I do about them. But I’m not ashamed of these things either because I’ve worked it out with Jesus. They are just things I enjoy.
If I get drunk, lose control of myself, and hurt people, that’s a problem. If I smoke my lungs out and get cancer, that’s not good. If I attack people by cussing them out, I’m not acting in love. But none of these are the case. But no, I’m not an alcoholic. No, I’m not addicted to smoking. No, I don’t cuss to hurt people, nor do I have a problem controlling my tongue. Etc.
Paul wrote to the Corinthians concerning eating meat sacrificed to idols, “everything is permissible, but not everything is beneficial” – the “controversial” things I do are beneficial. And if you’d like to know why I think they are, I’d love to talk with you about it. In essence I try to find common ground with everyone so I can communicate the good news about Jesus to them, and these things often allow me to connect with people more easily. Plus I enjoy it all (read Ecclesiastes).
So I’ve decided to “come out of the closet.”
I want to have deep relationships with everyone I come into contact with. I want to be fully honest. I want to be myself around everyone. And I want these things even if it means that sometimes people will reject me because of it. I’d rather take that risk than have people sustain a relationship with a “me” that’s not really who I am.
In many churches I’ve witnessed the practice of hiding things in people’s own lives so that they don’t accidentally offend someone, especially in Japan. But if people are offended by things like this, they have a bigger problem, a heart issue. And I’d rather expose the problem in the hopes of them being healed than cease to be myself around them so that there can be “peace” between us. I’m not interested in that kind of false peace anymore, and although I don’t really want conflict, I’m not afraid of it either, and it often is necessary to bring depth in a relationship. I am not ashamed of what I believe and how I live, so, unless it will cause someone to stumble, I will not hide any part of it.
It’s not that I want to offend people, as if I have some distorted pleasure in seeing people get angry at me. I’m just enjoying my freedom in Christ without burdening myself with the responsibility to make everyone around me feel good about who I am, what I do, or what I believe. Like Paul, I just don’t care about my reputation anymore. It takes a lot of work that I’m not willing to do to keep it up.
Most of you who know me personally know that I’m not saying these things in a spirit of anger and it’s not that I don’t care about people.
It’s just that I realized that the only reason that I’ve suppressed myself was for the sake of my reputation. Even if I had thought that I was doing it for others, really I wasn’t doing anyone any favors.
Don’t use me or anyone else as a standard for what you can or can’t do. Work it out with Jesus. And don’t go telling people what they can or can’t do.
This doesn’t mean I don’t call people out when they are in sin. I’m not afraid to call it for what it is. But I recognize that there are many things that are not universal and objective but personal and subjective.
If you think something I am doing is a sin and you can demonstrate that to me from negative fruit that results from it in my life, then please do. I have no problem receiving correction and in fact welcome it. If I realize that I’m doing something stupid because someone tells me and helps me to see it, then everyone benefits, including myself.
But if you merely have a personal opinion about some matter that is different than mine, then don’t try to push your ideals on me. Our consciences are not the same. And apparently God is okay with that.
As my buddy Dave Crabb put it, not being offended by sin doesn’t imply our accepting it. It simply means a having a non-judgmental attitude toward people who may be sinning.
For those of you who are offended by this post or by me, I hope you can look past whatever offends you and that we can have an awesome relationship. I have no beef with you, and I don’t want to see us split over matters of personal conscience.
Jesus offended tons of people. Unashamedly. And after his ascension the good news about him continued to offend people. Paul called the gospel “a stumbling block to Jews” and Peter identified Jesus as the object of Isaiah’s prophecy: “A stone of stumbling and a rock of offense.” Jesus was not being a bad boy when he offended his contemporaries. So we know that actions that cause offense are not necessarily bad. When Jesus offended people, it wasn’t that his words were offensive in and of themselves. He simply spoke truth. Rather, it was something in the people who heard them that was offended.
So the question is, who had the problem? Was it the one doing the offending, or the ones being offended?
Jesus said, “blessed is he who does not take offense at Me” (Matthew 11:6). I say that those who are not offended in general are blessed too. There is nothing blessed about being offended (blessed simply means happy, by the way).
So I encourage you to not be offended at all, ever again.
Happy offenseless living!