I'm Offended, Part 2

I once used social media to ask my colleagues to share with me some of their craziest stories of offended members. They did not disappoint.

One of my friends shared, "I was in church one day when the pastor looked down from the pulpit, paused his message, and asked some young people to stop whispering back and forth. It was distracting him. He suggested they sit with their parents."

My friend went on to relate that one parent did not take this too well. He stormed out of church and waited outside until the service was over. When the pastor came outside, the member physically grabbed him, ready to punch his lights out. Thankfully, other parishioners restrained the member, but the police were called.

I feel that pastor’s pain. I’m still working with my 3-year-old on not hitting when she’s angry.

Another friend of mine, a classmate from elementary school, gave the general comment, "The worst thing I've ever personally witnessed is shouting, pounding the table and profuse weeping at board meetings. Parishioners tend to save the violence for when I'm away at another church, on vacation, etc. ... Then I hear stories."

Sounds like a daycare that skipped naptime. 

Finally, and this is one of my favorites that was submitted, someone recalled, "In our very first assignment, my wife and I were invited to a member’s home, only to find several other members there who were unhappy. We listened until they moved into the realm of personal attack, complaining that my wife was fat and unattractive and an embarrassment to them; also that my car was old."

Children often have a hard time communicating scary feelings like fear, anger and feeling worthless.

Parishioners also experience the temper tantrums of the offended. All it takes is someone bringing the wrong potluck dish, not replying in a timely manner to an email, messing up the sacred-hymn-to-praise-song ratio or forgetting to smile at the wrong person in the foyer, and the spirit of passive aggressive angst, or explosive anger, is released like the kraken.

Scripture is painfully clear that being “offended” belongs to the spiritually immature.

In the Old Testament, the word peh’-shah is used to describe being “offended.” It occurs in places like Ps. 119:165, where the person grounded in God’s Word doesn’t get “offended.” In Prov. 18:19 it describes a stubborn person trapped and separated from a loved one because of hurt feelings. The word on its own means rebellion and disrupting a relationship.1

The New Testament doesn’t have a cheery view either.

Jesus tells a story about the Word of God falling on a “rocky” group of people who get excited but fall away after being “offended” by persecution or troubles (Mark 4:16–17). Why? They have no root system — they are immature and can’t handle not getting their way.

Like kids when they are told “no.”

In Matthew 18:6, Jesus uses the same word to describe causing “little ones” to be “offended.” The Greek word is skandalon (from which we get “scandal”), and its etymology comes from the part of an animal snare that acted as the trigger.2

The picture is a group of people acting in a way to “trap” immature people into being “offended,” which leads to sin. While Jesus suggests being intentionally offensive deserves a pair of “concrete shoes” (Matt. 18:6), the implication is that the “offended” person is the “little one” — not the mature one.

Possibly both are immature based on what Paul says in numerous places (see Rom.14:1–2 and 15:1; 1 Cor. 8:7–12; etc.).

Overall, the Bible uses “offended” to describe weaker/immature believers who can’t manage their emotions when they don’t get their way or experience trouble. The Bible also seems to indicate being offended is not a feeling but a state of being.

In other words, you don’t “feel offended,” you “are offended.”

And here is the problem — when you say, “I’m offended," I can’t help you. You are declaring a relationship to be broken, separated and stuck.

However, if you cool down and say, “I feel sad” or “I feel frustrated” or “I feel misunderstood,” you have given me a starting place to heal the relationship. I can listen to why you feel a certain emotion and help you feel better and strengthen our relationship.

  1. Gerhard Kittel, Gerhard Friedrich and Geoffrey W. Bromiley, eds., Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, abridged ed. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1964).
  2. Ibid.

Read Seth Pierce's first piece, "I'm Offended, Part 1." 

September 22, 2014 / Perspective