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Frequently Asked Questions about Offenses and Insults Answered from the Bible

Copyright © 2006 - All rights retained by author
Written by: C. W. Booth

These FAQs are meant to be a supplement to the articles:

Please read the above posted articles prior to reading the answers to the FAQs to minimize potential misunderstandings.



Question 1: What does the expression mean: "The Tyranny of the offended"?

Question 2: Isnít there also a fourth category of being offended, when a believer sins against you?



Question 1: What does the expression mean: "The Tyranny of the offended"?

Answer 1: In some churches and in many families, a single person or group of persons will claim to have been "offended" by someone elseís speech. They know that the Bible says "give no offense to Jew, Gentile, or other believers." To such people the meaning of "offense" is always that they are "personally insulted," or, "their feelings are hurt." They argue that since they are offended (emotionally insulted) by something someone else said or did that the offending person must be in the wrong.

As the "offended" party, they then misquote Romans 14 as if it said, "doing anything which gives offense is evil. It is good not to eat meat or to drink wine, or to do anything by which your brother is offended.   The faith which you have, have as your own conviction before God but donít tell others because you might give offense." (intentional misquotation of Romans 14:20-22).

By use of this misquote they expect others to stop doing the thing that "offends" them or to retract the teaching or words which they found offensive (personally insulting). By alleging to be offended, such people can manipulate every practice, tradition, and perhaps teachings that the church may implement. They become the one in the power position because they can literally reverse any decision they dislike simply by claiming to be "offended."

One real life example is the situation where a young Christian boy was courting the daughter of a solid believing couple. The believing couple discovered the young boy had a few aberrant theological views. As soon as they began dialoguing on the issue, the young boy shut down all discussion by alleging, "When you talk about this subject, I cannot help but feeling you donít love me, or you would not question my beliefs, you would accept me as I am. Since every passage of Scripture you use is offensive and insulting to me and my beliefs, I will give you a choice, either acknowledge that my beliefs are valid or I will never talk with you again, even if I marry your daughter." Such are the manipulative ways in the "Tyranny of the Offended."

A second example lifted from an actual event occurred a couple decades ago at a church on the East Coast of the USA. Having come within just two years of paying off the church mortgage in full, a small group of individuals decided it would be "more emotionally meaningful" to be able to worship in a nicer looking sanctuary. They decided to remodel the entire church, beautify the sanctuary, and put in bay windows to allow viewing of the wooded landscape during church services--at the cost of refinancing the mortgage and extending the debt for an additional 30 years.

Financially conservative members of the church pointed out that the remodeling effort could be accomplished within five years and incur no debt whatsoever if the congregation first paid off the mortgage before beginning the remodeling work. The remodeling advocates countered with "your words are offensive, you insult us and hurt our feelings because you do not agree with our desire to feel the presence of God which is much easier to experience in prettier sanctuaries." With that argument alone the small group ensured their 30 year mortgage and their windows.

Instead of appealing to good financial stewardship principles from the Bible, conducting an anonymous church poll to obtain the true feelings of the congregation, or holding an open debate during a church "town hall" meeting to publicly air the matter as the disciples did in the Jerusalem Council, the issue was decided on the basis of a few people alleging that such dialogue was "personally offensive" and "insulting." Having brushed aside all dissention with the charge of "giving offense," the small group took control and plunged the church into debt, nearly bankrupting it. That is the "Tyranny of the Offended."

In truth, the small group of "offended" individuals were the ones sinning. They side-stepped all genuine discussion of the issues by repeating the charge, "Iím offended." By brushing aside the counsel of the broader church, they violated Proverbs 1:5 and 11:14. They ignored the principles of biblical financial stewardship (Proverbs 11:15, Luke 14:28-30). And they used the excuse of being "offended" and "insulted" to bully the church into doing their bidding without understanding the truth that anyone who claims to be "offended" and "insulted" is someone who himself has fallen into sinful and unloving conduct (1 Corinthians 13:5).

Such power brokers within the church, and within families, maintain their grip of fear by continuously pointing out that anything that potentially could be in disagreement with their desires, no matter how true or valid the idea may be, is an "offense" and a "personal insult" to them. All constructive and meaningful dialogue is squashed with this charge, for there is no way to overcome it if it is permitted to stand unchallenged, and the "offended" person eventually takes control of any matter he chooses. Such is the "Tyranny of the Offended."

Congregations must keep this truth in mind: biblical offenses are not "hurt feelings" or "insults." Biblical offenses are those actions that use peer pressure to incite another believer to commit a sinful act. When someone claims to be "offended" they should be alleging that the sins they committed were prompted by watching another believer participate in similar sins. An offended believer is almost always one who also needs to repent.

You are invited to read the article Ending the "Tyranny of the Offended" -- Understanding the Phrase "Give No Offense" to understand how to begin dismantling the illegitimate arguments which are the seat of power for those who use "being offended" as a mechanism to informally rule the local church.


Question 2: Isnít there also a fourth category of being offended, when a believer sins against you?

Answer 2: Yes, this is similar to the primary category of offense--to commit a crime against the secular government or against the Word. When a believer sins against another believer, he has really committed a sin against God and His Word. For example, one believer may agree to meet another believer at 1pm, and then not show up because he decided to go to a baseball game instead. In such a situation, the believer who went to the baseball game did not keep his word of agreement--he committed the sin of telling a lie to another believer. He has sinned against Godís command to not lie, and he has sinned against his brother by telling a lie to him.

In such situations, the one committing the crime or sin must repent to God and must also make restitution to the believer he has wronged. Restitution may be as simple as apologizing, or may include monetary repayment if theft were involved, for example.

The innocent believer, the one sinned against, is the offended person. In this case, the innocent believer who has been sinned against, has done nothing for which to repent or apologize.



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Page First Posted: January 8, 2006
Page Last Revised: Januray 8, 2006