A brother offended is harder to win than a strong city, And contentions are like the bars of a castle. Proverbs 18:19 NKJ
This text highlights the issue that conflicts with friends and within church communities are hard and often a cause for division and even separation.
In my personal time with God, I am reading through the New Testament and this morning came to this verse:
“And then many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another.” Matthew 24:10 NKJV Other versions say, “Will turn away from the truth” where the NKJV says, “will be offended.”
Some questions came to mind as I read this. I wonder if people today are leaving the truth because sound theology offends them. Is our society becoming more easily offended? Is it possible that people are telling us they are offended as a way to manipulate us, and make us cater to their preferences and ideas?
In our churches some people say that they have been offended by the music, order of service, gender of the elders, and so on. This thought also often comes through in blog posts.
I am not saying the church is always right or that there are not some valid points in these posts that we need to carefully consider. I read them to get an idea how people feel about church issues and it is appropriate that we have a healthy exchange of ideas.
However I believe are there some who are trying to manipulate our thinking by insisting that they have been offended, thus raising a conflict issue which leaves little room for discussion and resolution.
A personal experience illustrates how such potential “offending” conflicts can be resolved.
A while back my parents came to Florida to visit. I took them to the Columbia restaurant, which is a very nice historic Tampa landmark. My mother complained she was cold and asked if they could turn the air conditioning down. Instead they brought her out a nice blanket and put it around her. She was satisfied and comfortable. The waiter took care of the issue without apologizing for the cold air and then making everyone else endure hotter temperatures, just because one person was “offended” by the cold.
Having worked in the restaurant business I know the “customer is always right.” However, you can’t run a business successfully just catering to the most offended customer. The waiter did his best to accommodate my mother, and my mother was a good sport and easy to get along with instead of acting offended when they did not jump up and change the air just for her.
Back to our church community: Are we letting “offended” people manipulate us theologically? How far should we go as a church to reaching out to “offended” people? How far should the church go in letting “offended” people manipulate how the church defines and accomplishes its mission?
Conflict resolution within the church community is not always easy. There is a good strategic plan in Matt 18:15-17. And Col 3:12-15 describes the attitudes that our hearts should have when dealing with conflict. Acts 6:1-6 gives a case history of a conflict that rose in the early church where the resolution of a perceived racial inequality let ultimately to the ministry of deacons and improved the Church’s ability to perform its mission.
Just as it is not possible to run a business successfully just catering to the most offended customer, neither is it possible to have a thriving church community by catering to the most easily offended among us. Instead, let us seek ways to discuss the issues and resolve them in submission to the Holy Spirit, recognizing that no individual or group of individuals has exclusive access to the mind of the Spirit.