University of Louisville President James Ramsey offended a segment of the college community several days ago when a picture was posted of him wearing a sombrero at a costume party.
University of Missouri’s football team threatened to boycott a game two weeks ago because they were offended that the University’s President hadn’t been more sensitive to the feelings of minorities in his response to racially-charged events like the Ferguson riots.
Yale University students shouted down a dean who was speaking out in favor of listening to different viewpoints. They insisted his failure to provide a safer environment for them on campus was offensive and disqualified his right to freedom of speech.
Political correctness has persuaded many that it’s egregious to say or do anything that someone else finds offensive. As a result good people walk on eggshells trying to avoid anything that could be interpreted as disrespectful or insulting. Honest communication and freedom of speech are being shut down. Immature college students are convinced their sensibilities should never be violated and any viewpoint that disagrees with theirs is “hate speech”.
Daniel Lin, Economics professor at American University in Washington courageously shared the following tweet about the influence of political correctness on college students: “Someone told me to ‘give it the old college try’ so I crumbled into an incoherent mess when I heard an opinion that differed from mine.”
The idea that no one should ever say anything offensive filters over into the church as well. I was teaching a class a couple of years ago when an attendee piped up, “I was offended by something you said in last week’s lesson”. She objected to my sharing statistics that showed children who grow up in two-parent homes had a better chance at a meaningful, Godly life. Since she was a single mother, in her mind I was wrong to say anything that made her feel uncomfortable. It didn’t matter that the information was truthful. In her opinion, the fact that she took offense was reason enough to expect me to apologize.
Followers of Christ would do well in this hyper-sensitive culture to review some Biblical principles that teach the difference between being mindlessly offensive and being tactfully truthful. I don’t expect non-believers to adhere to these seven spiritual principles but Christians should embrace them even though they are not always easy to follow.
1. Treat everyone with respect. The Bible says, “Love does not dishonor others” (1 Cor. 13:5). Followers of Jesus are to value those of a different race, gender, age group or belief system. Jesus taught us to, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” That means we treat each person with respect and dignity. We would do well to bend over backwards not to wound others. Romans 12:18 instructs us, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone”.
2. Expect unfair treatment at times. Jesus said, “In the world you are going to have trouble.” (John 16:33) Life isn’t fair. People are imperfect. Not everyone is going to like you or agree with you. Insensitive individuals are going to wound you. There is no perfectly safe place. There is no world without offense. So, be realistic, this world is contaminated by sin and we have to live in it.
3. Lighten up! Don’t wear your feelings on your sleeve. King Solomon wrote, “A man’s wisdom gives him patience. It is to his glory to overlook an offense” (Proverbs. 19:11)
Mature Christians don’t get wounded easily or make others worry about offending them by an innocent comment or unintentional behavior. It is to your glory to overlook an offense. You’re much more likely to gain respect by ignoring a hurtful comment and treating the offender kindly than by angrily demanding an apology.
Recently a video surfaced of Hillary Clinton cackling at a supporter who told her that every time he sees Carly Fiorina on television he wants to “…reach out and choke her”. That flippant comment understandably offended those seeking to end domestic violence. Republicans screamed that since Hillary laughed at the remark she should be held accountable and apologize. Really? Isn’t it time for all of us to lighten up a little?
Carly Fiorina was asked how she felt about the situation and wisely responded “I don’t hold this gentleman in any disregard. I understand he is frustrated with me and doesn’t agree with my politics, I don’t even hold Hillary Clinton accountable for not saying something. However, it is another example of the unbelievable double standard that conservatives are held to versus what liberals are held to in the media.”
Good answer. Carly Fiorina’s stock went up in my opinion because of her magnanimous spirit. Boorish behavior, angry protests and selfish demands are counter-productive. They serve only to fan the flames of the very animosity you are seeking to erase. There’s an old saying, ‘You become what you hate”. Have you noticed how those who hate intolerance often become intolerant themselves?
“Love is patient, love is kind… it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-5) So lighten up.
4. Some offensive comments are appropriate and needed.
Jesus offended people at times. On one occasion, “…the disciples came to him and asked, “Do you know the Pharisees were offended when they heard this?” Jesus didn’t apologize for what he said. Instead he said, “Leave them; they are blind guides”. (Matthew 15:12 &14)
The Bible does not teach that we’re never to offend anyone. On the contrary there are times when the most loving thing we can do is to disturb someone – especially if they are endangering their lives or someone else’s eternal destiny. Parents who discover drugs in their teenager’s possession should reprimand and offend. Preachers are instructed to, “rebuke and encourage”. (2 Tim. 4:2)
When King David was censured by the prophet Nathan for committing adultery, David didn’t lash out at Nathan for hurting his feelings. He confessed he had sinned and sought forgiveness. If you’re offended, examine the reason why. Maybe instead of crying foul you need to acknowledge your behavior is wrong and repent of it.
5. Be willing to forgive even if you’ve been wronged.
God’s Word commands, “Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay’, says the Lord.” …Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good”. (Romans 12:19 & 21)
Taking the high road of forgiveness is never easy, but the Bible commands us to forgive as God has forgiven us. Mother Teresa said, “Forgiveness will set you free.” Conversely bitterness will enslave you.
6. Get angry at the things that anger God. The Scripture urges us to, “…be imitators of God” (Eph. 5:1) and to “be angry and sin not” (Eph. 4:26) Anger is appropriate at times but it should be righteous indignation and proportionate to the offense.
Planned Parenthood is selling body parts of aborted babies and people are outraged at a public official wearing a sombrero? Really? Radical Muslims are beheading Christians in the Middle East and American students are screaming because they don’t feel perfectly safe on campus? Where is our sense of proportion? We could use some holy anger at the offenses that undoubtedly break the heart of God and incur His wrath.
“There are six things the Lord hates, seven that are detestable to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil, a false witness who pours out lies and a person who stirs up conflict in the community”. (Proverbs 6:16-19)
7. If you are a leader be bold – even if some are offended. God encouraged Joshua, “Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go”. (Joshua 1:9)
Jesus saw the multitudes as sheep without a shepherd. Our world is starving for courageous leadership. We desperately need men and women in positions of authority who are not easily intimidated, who know the difference between a gross offense and petty whining, who don’t apologize just to appease and who don’t cower to political correctness.
Attention American leaders! College students shouldn’t be directing the University. Angry protesters shouldn’t be given the microphone at political rallies. Shouting demonstrators shouldn’t be allowed to shut down speakers at public assemblies. Good citizens crave fearless leaders who will be strong and courageous in the face of opposition.
First Corinthians 16:13-14 is a good theme passage for all of us; “Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong. Do everything in love”.
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