If you’re easily offended, you’re carnal. Offense is nothing more than your flesh trying to live. The more you give in to it, the more susceptible you become to being offended. It is like an automatic firearm; it keeps blasting once you pull the trigger.
If not dealt with, offense turns into resentment. When that happens, we lose any real sense of gratitude for the provision of God in our lives. This creates a problem, as resentment and gratitude cannot coexist. One tells us we deserve more than we have. The other teaches us that we have more than we deserve.
Spirit of Offense
“Live and let live” is a thing of the past. We exist in an age of ongoing outrage. It seems everybody is upset about something. People are quick to criticize and condemn those with whom they disagree. Today’s culture readily sacrifices transgressors on the altar of political correctness, and they feel justified in doing so. This social phenomenon has been dubbed “Cancel Culture.”
Cancel culture refers to silencing and punishing those who say or do something deemed offensive by modern-day social standards. This practice frequently goes beyond denouncing a person’s distasteful behavior. Instead, it demands that the guilty party be publicly shamed, silenced on social media, ostracized by friends, and even fired.
In the past, we have seen this play out with politicians, celebrities, athletes, and others in positions of power and influence. Yet today, anyone is fair game. It could be your spouse, neighbor, co-worker, schoolteacher, pastor—essentially anyone you know. People are being canceled based on the wrong tweet, the wrong tone, the wrong opinion, the wrong whatever.
People with years of integrity have their lives completely derailed because of one unwise decision. In some cases, people dig up stuff from years ago for the purpose of destroying someone’s reputation. At times, cancel culture has even included promoting violence toward the offender. It’s as if the only acceptable form of accountability is to destroy a person’s life.
Jesus Isn’t Surprised
Jesus isn’t surprised by any of this. In Matthew 24, He says, “Then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold” (vv.10-12). Jesus describes a graceless society where people would intentionally seek ways to betray one another. He teaches of an age that would be marked by people’s coldness toward those around them. His words ring loudly in light of the polarizing culture we find ourselves living in.
Jesus himself had many opportunities to be offended, yet He never succumbed to the temptation. Some believe He was offended when He overturned tables in the temple. However, proper exegesis would prove that to be inaccurate. The Bible teaches that Jesus took time to weave together a whip, which might have taken several hours or even a day. Jesus was in complete control when He ran the moneychangers out of the temple; the table-flipping was simply an object lesson.
When Peter denied Jesus, can you envision Him saying, “I can’t believe you; after all I’ve done for you. Our friendship is over!”? Or when the crowd chose Barabbas, can you picture Him saying, “I can’t believe how these people are treating me! I’m not dying for this ungrateful bunch!”? No, we can’t imagine it. It is unfathomable to visualize Jesus being offended.
A recent study reported by multiple news outlets reveals that nearly half of Americans haven’t made a new friend in over five years. This news gets at the heart of what we’re experiencing today. The foundation for cancel culture is human disconnection, or to say it more plainly, people don’t seem to care about one another the way they should.
The church is not immune to the spirit of offense. Church-going folks have been canceling one another for years. It is not uncommon for professing believers to write people out of their lives for the slightest infraction. I’ve pastored people who were once close friends but hadn’t talked in years. There are church members who don’t speak because of how someone voted. Countless issues that pastors regularly face stem from people carrying the spirit of offense. I think it’s safe to say that culture is influencing the church more than the church is influencing culture.
On some level, we’ve all experienced the pain of cancel culture. We’ve all felt disconnected from people we’ve been close to at one time or another. We’ve all been unfriended, ignored, rejected, and left out. Maybe it was over something we did or something we failed to do. Regardless, no one likes the feeling of being written off. Believe me; I get it.
While rejection hurts, some of us have played into the game of “canceling” by not forgiving others more quickly or holding a grudge. In theory, we say we forgive, yet sometimes we allow people to be treated like they’re beyond the scope of redemption. Depending on the severity of the sin in the eye of the beholder, it seems some people get no clemency.
Of course, we’ve all made mistakes we’d like to forget. We have made choices we regret and decisions we’d correct if given the opportunity. However, in a world fueled by offense, those mistakes are not allowed to remain in the past.
Dropping The Charges
Jesus was a friend of sinners. That means He spent time with people in His day who had been canceled. Jesus moved toward the ones that society moved away from. He refused to shame those who’d been shamed. Instead, He walked with those who’d been cast aside and welcomed those who’d been rejected. Jesus’ closest friends had such a bad reputation that the religious leaders concluded He must be an imposter because no self-respecting man of God would tolerate the kind of people He embraced.
Needless to say, cancel culture is incompatible with the gospel. It focuses on accusation and retribution. It publicizes people’s faults and failures, never allowing past mistakes to be forgiven. On the other hand, the gospel is about grace, forgiveness, and a willingness to turn the other cheek and go the extra mile.
I’m glad Jesus doesn’t see people for who they used to be. Instead, He sees them for who they could be. He casts our sins into a sea of forgetfulness, never to be remembered against us again. As far as the East is from the West, so far has He removed our transgressions from us!
There is one kind of canceling that Jesus is all about, however. “He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross” (Col. 2:14).
Today’s generation cancels people who have done terrible things. Jesus cancels the terrible things people have done. Maybe that is why Jesus himself got canceled. Perhaps His grace toward the guilty is too much for people looking for a more comfortable way of dealing with the log in their own eye while pointing out the speck in someone else’s.
When the feeling of offense manifests itself, start with yourself before projecting it on someone else. Ask God to reveal if there’s anything you’ve done to contribute to the situation. Do everything possible to keep your side of the road clean and always be willing to restore fellowship. Jesus dropped the charges against us. We are called to be like Him; thus, we should always be prepared to drop the charges against others.
Commit to growing spiritually, mentally, emotionally, and physically. Draw close to God and He will draw close too you. Treat everyone with honor and dignity. Establish a deep sense of gratitude as a foundation for your life. Finally, hold yourself to high standards. When you constantly work to improve yourself, offense rolls off your back effortlessly.
(Sources: We Will Not Be Silenced by Erwin Lutzer; Speechless by Michael Knowles; “Cancel Culture Is Unbiblical” by David Jeremiah)