It seems being offended is a national pastime these days. Folks have become so thin skinned that any suggestion that someone might disagree with their ideas is treated as akin to destroying civilization. Britt Hume, a TV news anchor, commented on this: “We have a society in which one of the greatest things you can do is a platform to see victim status, and one of the qualifications for that is that you have these exquisitely tender feelings about things and sensibilities which are easily offended.”
Now, to be sure, love demands that we consider the feelings of others and always seek to be brutally honest about our own motivations. Those of us who claim to follow Christ must always remember that we are commanded to speak “the truth in love” (see Ephesians 4:15, or better, read the whole chapter!)
But the truth is I have no control over the reactions of others. They are going to react as they are going to react. Should that reality silence wisdom and truth?
It certainly didn’t silence the Lord. He always seemed to be “offending” the religious leaders of His day. Look at our Gospel Lesson this morning: “At that time, the disciples came and said to him, “Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this saying?” He answered, “Every plant which my heavenly Father has not planted will be rooted up. Let them alone; they are blind guides. And if a blind man leads a blind man, both will fall into a pit.” But Peter said to him, “Explain the parable to us.” And he said, “Are you also still without understanding? Do you not see that whatever goes into the mouth passes into the stomach, and so passes on? But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a man. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, fornication, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a man; but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile a man.” And Jesus went away from there and withdrew to the district of Tyre and Sidon.” (Matthew 15:12-21)
The whole fight here was the “offense” caused by the disciples failing to observe the ritualized actions of hand-washing. The myopic religious vision of some were easily offended by the disregard of particular religious customs and they were (as they often were) offended by the Lord’s insistence that you cannot be sticklers about small things and ignore big things like mercy, compassion, kindness, and authentic love for God and neighbor. Ignoring those big things made the observance of those small things irrelevant! No wonder the “overseers of small things” were offended. Jesus was putting them out of business!
Today, stop a moment and diagnose why you get offended by this or that. Don’t cast your keen eye of observation on anyone else but yourself. In your heart of hearts, look at the times you’ve been offended by someone or something, either by what they said or what they did or failed to do. Ask God to help you search your own heart and see if your offense is motivated by self-centeredness or pride? Then, if you’re like me, make an appointment with your spiritual father and go to confession! My appointment is at 1 PM today!
It’s easy to be offended. It’s harder to let offenses, both real and imagined, pass by us and rest in the confidence of our love and devotion to God. Today, be offended by nothing except that which draws you away from God’s loving embrace.