Can You Live Without Being Offended?


Credit: Flickr user tind (CC)

The anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.  (James 1:20 ESV)

If you think you can judge others, you are wrong. When you judge them, you are really judging yourself guilty, because you do the same things they do. God judges those who do wrong things, and we know that his judging is right. You judge those who do wrong, but you do wrong yourselves. Do you think you will be able to escape the judgment of God?  (Rom. 2:1–3 NCV)

What’s more, for those who still want to make anger a nutritious part of their spiritual breakfasts: in the Bible’s “wisdom literature,” anger is always—not sometimes, always—associated with foolishness, not wisdom. The writer recognized that, yes, anger may visit us, but when it finds a residence, it’s “in the lap of fools” (Eccl. 7:9).

So what if—just dreaming out loud, here—Christians were known as the people you couldn’t offend?

~ Brant Hansen

Being angry and offended on behalf of God has become a sacred pastime for many Christians today.  As American culture becomes increasingly less interested in Christianity (to put it mildly), too many of Christ’s followers are, ironically, not following Christ in their response.

Instead of showing love and mercy, much of the church has become offended, which yields anger, bitterness, and separation.

However, the gospels reveal Jesus’ mercy towards those who appear to be the worst sinners, and he levels some pretty strong rebukes to those who think they are above sin.

But wasn’t Jesus angry at the religious Pharisees?  Perhaps, but it didn’t rule his heart.  In His last breaths on the cross, he asks God to forgive them even though they didn’t have a clue what they had done.

So what are we to do when we are offended, angry, and hurt?

Enter Brant Hansen’s book, Unoffendable: How Just One Change Can Make All of Life Better.

I don’t usually say, “Every Christian needs to read this book,” because it has become a bit overused and cliché, so I really mean this: every Christian needs to read this book.

Brant is a Christian radio DJ and also turns out to be a great writer.  He hits hard on a tough subject, but does it with love and good natured humor (check out the chapter titles alone to get an idea of the humor).  I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book, even though it was very challenging.

But most importantly, I believe Brant has revealed the unoffendable nature of Jesus Christ.  This is a game changer for those who desire to let Jesus live through them.  You can’t be angry and love others.  It just doesn’t work.  God’s way is forgiveness, and any judgment belongs to Him.

Not only that, but I’ve found that one important, distinguishing factor in Christ-like maturity is the ability to overlook an offense and choose love.

Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense.  (Proverbs 19:11 ESV)

Here are some quotes directly from the book.  I highlighted a ton of this book, so it was hard to choose only a few quotes!

It’s true that sometimes people try to offend us, and they’re intentionally hurtful and spiteful. And yet, there Jesus is, on the cross, saying, “Father, forgive them. They don’t know what they’re doing.” A fair question, then: Is that same Jesus living in and through me, still saying that?

We should forfeit our right to be offended. That means forfeiting our right to hold on to anger. When we do this, we’ll be making a sacrifice that’s very pleasing to God. It strikes at our very pride. It forces us not only to think about humility, but to actually be humble. I used to think it was incumbent upon a Christian to take offense. I now think we should be the most refreshingly unoffendable people on a planet that seems to spin on an axis of offense.

Forfeiting our right to anger makes us deny ourselves, and makes us others-centered. When we start living this way, it changes everything. Actually, it’s not even “forfeiting” a right, because the right doesn’t exist. We’re told to forgive, and that means anger has to go, whether we’ve decided our own anger is “righteous” or not.

We won’t often admit this, but we like being angry. We don’t like what caused the anger, to be sure; we just like thinking we’ve “got” something on someone. So-and-so did something wrong, sometimes horribly wrong, and anger offers us a sense of moral superiority.

But inconveniently, there’s this proverb that says, “You may believe you are doing right, but the LORD will judge your reasons” (Prov. 16:2 NCV). So it’s not just me. We all, apparently, find ourselves pretty darn convincing. Of course my anger is righteous. It’s righteous because, clearly, I’m right, and they’re wrong. My ways seem pure to me. Always.

We humans are experts at casting ourselves as victims and rewriting narratives that put us in the center of injustices. (More on this in a bit.) And we can repaint our anger or hatred of someone—say, anyone who threatens us—into a righteous-looking work of art. And yet, remarkably, in Jesus’ teaching, there is no allowance for “Okay, well, if someone really is a jerk, then yeah—you need to be offended.” We’re flat-out told to forgive, even—especially!—the very stuff that’s understandably maddening and legitimately offensive.

The thing that you think makes your anger “righteous” is the very thing you are called to forgive.

Anger is extraordinarily easy. It’s our default setting. Love is very difficult. Love is a miracle.

Upon hearing my ideas on anger, a radio listener told me, “I don’t get it. Shouldn’t we be angry at those guys in the news who beat up homeless people?” Here’s what I think, given that we’re to “get rid of all anger”: Anger will happen; we’re human. But we can’t keep it. Like the Reverend King, we can recognize injustice, grieve it, and act against it—but without rage, without malice, and without anger. We have enough motivation, I hope, to defend the defenseless and protect the vulnerable, without needing anger. Seek justice; love mercy. You don’t have to be angry to do that. People say we have to get angry to fight injustice, but I’ve noticed that the best police officers don’t do their jobs in anger. The best soldiers don’t function out of anger. Anger does not enhance judgment.

Choosing not to take offense is not about simply ignoring wrongs. If someone, say, cuts in front of you in line, you can address the situation. You don’t have to simply accept it. But you can act without contempt, anger, and bitterness.

Yet another wrinkle: when there are two “sides” to a story, we tend to think the first one we hear is the right one. I learned this, of course, by watching The People’s Court after school every day. I always thought the plaintiff had a great case . . . until I heard the other side. This bias is universal. It’s not new, either. Check out Proverbs 18:17: “The first one to plead his cause seems right, until his neighbor comes and examines him” (NKJV). Life is full of conflicts, disputes, differing perspectives . . . and in all of those, guess whose perspective I hear first? That’s easy: mine. I establish a story line, and I can get angry before I even hear the other side, which is yet another reason to be very suspicious of ourselves. So let’s have the guts—and the humility—to believe what the Bible says about us, and what the research shows us. We simply can’t trust ourselves in our judgments of others. We don’t know what they’re really thinking, or their background, or what really motivated whatever they did. And since we don’t know, let’s choose ahead of time: we’re just not going to get offended by people. If I don’t need to be right, I don’t have to reshape reality to fit “The Story of My Rightness.”

That person you find so offensive? Somehow, God sees something there. Something you don’t. Ask Him what it is. Maybe He’ll show you. I bet He wants to.

I actually sleep better when I’ve chosen to be unoffendable.

It finally occurred to me that we can’t be agents of healing in people’s lives unless we’re ready to bear their wounds for them and from them.

We decide to be unoffendable because that’s how love operates; it gives up its “status” entirely.

but the more we divest ourselves of ourselves, the better our lives get. Jesus told us as much. He said if we’d give up our lives, for His sake, we’d find real life.

Follow the Life!

If you liked (and weren’t offended by) this post, please share it with others using the links below.

Sign up for new content at top right to receive future posts by email.

Leave a comment below. I’d love to see your thoughts and interact with you.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

4 thoughts on “Can You Live Without Being Offended?

Comments are closed.