You don’t need to spend any long amount of time listening to radio broadcasts, TV news stories, or even conversations on the street or in the office to hear some variation on the word “offended”.
“That offends me.” “I take offense to that!” “Your position is offensive.”
As we so often do, let’s go to the dictionary. What does it say?
Definition: offensive – adjective; 1) causing anger, displeasure or resentment; 2) disagreeable to the senses; 3) making a physical or military attack.
So let’s “pretend” that I’ve just said something to someone and they have responded in this way. “That offends me.”
What should we conclude from this verbal transaction?
A better way to couch that question is, “Because someone found a statement offensive, does that make it wrong?”
Ahhh…. Now we get to the crux of the matter. You see, being offended or not is NOT founded on right or wrong. It is founded on relativism. What offends you may not offend your brother, or your neighbor, or your boss, or even your spouse. In short, the word “offended”, like so many other fallacious constructs of our time, is based on FEELING, and NOT on truth.
Let me give you an example. You go to see a doctor because you’ve been feeling weak. The doctor runs tests. He determines that you have cancer, and so he gives you the diagnosis. Being told that you have cancer is a very offensive thing. Based on the previous definition, it causes anger, displeasure AND resentment. But it’s the truth. His words are offensive to you, but they’re true. If he attempts to speak so as NOT to offend, he signs your death warrant.
But you are likely to say, “But Father, that’s not being offensive – that’s being a doctor, he HAS to diagnose.”
OK. Let’s look at a parallel situation, one in the Church. I speak out against abortion at every opportunity. Some people find my position offensive. Some people find this position so offensive that they would attempt to shut down my ability to speak against abortion, if they could. But given the teachings of the Holy Church, I must so speak out - I must speak the truth.
Don’t like that example either? Let’s go to Scripture. In Matthew Chapter 15, Jesus is confronted by the Pharisees yet again. “Why don’t Your disciples follow the rules? Why don’t they wash their hands before they eat? Jesus responds to their treachery. “Why do you establish traditions counter to God’s commandments?” Jesus tells them clearly that Commandment #5 says that you are to honor father and mother. And yet the ‘tradition’ of the Pharisees was to ignore their own father or mother’s need, denying their requests for help by saying that whatever portion of the child’s income they might need has already been promised to God. Therefore, the child has no obligation to care for the parent! Jesus identifies these evil men’s sin saying, “You have made the commandment of God of no effect by your tradition.” He follows this by calling them hypocrites!
In response to all of this, and after the encounter, the Lord’s disciples come to Him and say, “Do You know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard Your indictment of them?”
Again, it is truth, not offensive speech, that brings us to this point.
The Greek word for ‘offend’ is skandalizo, clearly the source of our word “scandalize”, but from the Greek, it carries the meaning of establishing a stumbling block, a trap. Those who take offense are trapped by their anger, their displeasure, their resentment, and all too often, refuse to see the truth.
In Luke 7:23, the Lord says, “Blessed is the one who is not offended by Me.” He says, “If the world hates you, know that it hated Me before it hated you.” (John 15:18)
Let us seek in all instances not to offend. But in so doing, let us never fail to speak the truth.