To Offend or Not to Offend?: Our Words and Political Correctness

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To Offend or Not to Offend?

Our Words and Political Correctness

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To Offend or Not to Offend?: Our Words and Political Correctness

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Of all the hot-button issues of the past several years, is there a more controversial topic than political correctness?

In the United States, conservatives see political correctness as a tool leftists use to silence them, stop an honest dialogue from taking place, and conceal important details about public issues. It prevents them from telling the truth.

The Bible tells us others will be offended and divided by Christ’s message. Should we then seek—that is, go out of our way—to further offend people by speaking coarsely or disrespectfully?

Others say political correctness is about working not to offend others, not silence them. It’s about compassion, not coercion. Liberals claim conservatives use it as a pointless smear against them.

Should Christians be politically correct (or “PC”) at all times? Or does God give us license to say whatever we want, in hopes our point will get across? How does God say we should share His truth?

What about offending others with our speech? What does the Bible say about offending people? Is it ok, or should we avoid it at every cost?

The truth

God expects us to be truthful (Exodus 20:16 Exodus 20:16You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
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). This standard is repeated throughout the Scriptures, and it extends to all we do. Integrity should be a way of life, not a tagline.

As Christians, there are things we believe or say that society around us would find offensive and demand we retract. We cannot compromise and be “PC” when it interferes with reporting the truth or explaining God’s Word. God instructs us to obey Him over other authorities without shame (Acts 5:29 Acts 5:29Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men.
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; Luke 9:26 Luke 9:26For whoever shall be ashamed of me and of my words, of him shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he shall come in his own glory, and in his Father’s, and of the holy angels.
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).

God does offer us instructions on how to speak the truth. In 1 Peter 3:15 1 Peter 3:15But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asks you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:
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, He tells us to answer questions about our faith “with meekness and fear.” We must share God’s truth with humility, respect and love (Ephesians 4:15 Ephesians 4:15But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ:
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). If we speak with arrogance, condescension or contempt, we are failing to fulfill these instructions. By observing these scriptures, you can still have “a good conscience” when others find what you say offensive (1 Peter 3:16 1 Peter 3:16Having a good conscience; that, whereas they speak evil of you, as of evildoers, they may be ashamed that falsely accuse your good conversation in Christ.
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).

A call to greater responsibility

God holds you and me very accountable for what we say. “But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned” (Matthew 12:36-37 Matthew 12:36-37 36 But I say to you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. 37 For by your words you shall be justified, and by your words you shall be condemned.
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). God does not want us to be careless or thoughtless with our words. We are to be intentional, measured and edifying.

Why? God gives His Church several great responsibilities. Christians are to proclaim the gospel of the Kingdom to everyone (Mark 16:15 Mark 16:15And he said to them, Go you into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.
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). Speech is one important area where we can be an example to others (1 Timothy 4:12 1 Timothy 4:12Let no man despise your youth; but be you an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity.
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). Additionally, God’s Church is to serve as a watchman to the world, alerting it when prophetic danger is on the horizon and to the peril of its own wrongdoing (Ezekiel 33:1-11 Ezekiel 33:1-11 1 Again the word of the LORD came to me, saying, 2 Son of man, speak to the children of your people, and say to them, When I bring the sword on a land, if the people of the land take a man of their coasts, and set him for their watchman: 3 If when he sees the sword come on the land, he blow the trumpet, and warn the people; 4 Then whoever hears the sound of the trumpet, and takes not warning; if the sword come, and take him away, his blood shall be on his own head. 5 He heard the sound of the trumpet, and took not warning; his blood shall be on him. But he that takes warning shall deliver his soul. 6 But if the watchman see the sword come, and blow not the trumpet, and the people be not warned; if the sword come, and take any person from among them, he is taken away in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at the watchman’s hand. 7 So you, O son of man, I have set you a watchman to the house of Israel; therefore you shall hear the word at my mouth, and warn them from me. 8 When I say to the wicked, O wicked man, you shall surely die; if you do not speak to warn the wicked from his way, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at your hand. 9 Nevertheless, if you warn the wicked of his way to turn from it; if he do not turn from his way, he shall die in his iniquity; but you have delivered your soul. 10 Therefore, O you son of man, speak to the house of Israel; Thus you speak, saying, If our transgressions and our sins be on us, and we pine away in them, how should we then live? 11 Say to them, As I live, said the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn you, turn you from your evil ways; for why will you die, O house of Israel?
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). These missions must be conducted with compassion and accuracy. God calls us to be bold without being rash.

The Bible tells us others will be offended and divided by Christ’s message (Matthew 10:34-36 Matthew 10:34-36 34 Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. 35 For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. 36 And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household.
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; 1 Corinthians 1:32 1 Corinthians 1:32
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). Should we then seek—that is, go out of our way—to further offend people by speaking coarsely or disrespectfully?

God commands us to avoid this. In 1 Corinthians 8:9 1 Corinthians 8:9But take heed lest by any means this liberty of your’s become a stumbling block to them that are weak.
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, Paul teaches to avoid causing others to stumble. This means we should avoid placing them in compromising situations which would profane their conscience and offend them. Paul repeats this principle to the Corinthians throughout his correspondence with them (2 Corinthians 6:3 2 Corinthians 6:3Giving no offense in any thing, that the ministry be not blamed:
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, 1 Corinthians 10:31-33 1 Corinthians 10:31-33 31 Whether therefore you eat, or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. 32 Give none offense, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the church of God: 33 Even as I please all men in all things, not seeking my own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved.
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, see also Romans 14:13 Romans 14:13Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumbling block or an occasion to fall in his brother’s way.
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). Jesus Christ proclaimed “woe” on those through which offenses come (Luke 17:1-2 Luke 17:1-2 1 Then said he to the disciples, It is impossible but that offenses will come: but woe to him, through whom they come! 2 It were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he cast into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones.
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).

Purposefully offending others does not further the gospel message or God’s plan. The only purpose it serves is a selfish one. It may be us letting off steam, us trying to tempt, provoke, or “trigger” someone, us working to get a point across, or some other reason. But that reason is never to serve and respect them, or to love and honor God. God’s instruction is to “live peaceably with all” as much as is in our power (Romans 12:18 Romans 12:18If it be possible, as much as lies in you, live peaceably with all men.
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; Romans 14:19 Romans 14:19Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things with which one may edify another.
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). Seeking to intentionally offend others fails to create peace. It is harmful and wrong.

In difficult situations

Of course, we should never censor or neuter God’s truth. Prayerfully ask God for the best way to share it, guiding you in wisdom and self-control. Aim to take a kind and courteous approach, one you would want others to take with you (Luke 6:31 Luke 6:31And as you would that men should do to you, do you also to them likewise.
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). God sees a difference between us sharing His truth and someone else getting offended, versus us deliberately saying something inflammatory in hopes riling them up (Proverbs 15:1-4 Proverbs 15:1-4 1 A soft answer turns away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger. 2 The tongue of the wise uses knowledge aright: but the mouth of fools pours out foolishness. 3 The eyes of the LORD are in every place, beholding the evil and the good. 4 A wholesome tongue is a tree of life: but perverseness therein is a breach in the spirit.
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).

It might surprise you to learn Jesus Himself offended others during His ministry. Let’s look at what He said when His disciples were troubled by this. “Every plant which My heavenly Father has not planted will be uprooted. Let them alone. They are blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind leads the blind, both will fall into a ditch” (Matthew 15:12-14 Matthew 15:12-14 12 Then came his disciples, and said to him, Know you that the Pharisees were offended, after they heard this saying? 13 But he answered and said, Every plant, which my heavenly Father has not planted, shall be rooted up. 14 Let them alone: they be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch.
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). There are three key points we can glean from this:

1. In the grand, vast scheme of God’s plan, everything not from God will fade away. Remember, in the long run, God’s truth always wins, and only His truth will be found in His Kingdom, where these individuals may have the opportunity to personally know God and walk His way.

2. There’s no sense in explaining God’s truth to others over and over again when you’ve already shared it (Matthew 7:6 Matthew 7:6Give not that which is holy to the dogs, neither cast you your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you.
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). In the disciples’ time, this could have been a matter of life or death. Today, it can still lead to hurt feelings, physical altercations and a lifetime of bitterness. Let it be.

3. If they are acting or endorsing actions contrary to God’s way, the negative consequences of their behavior will eventually come to fruition (Hosea 8:7 Hosea 8:7For they have sown the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind: it has no stalk; the bud shall yield no meal: if so be it yield, the strangers shall swallow it up.
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; Galatians 6:7 Galatians 6:7Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatever a man sows, that shall he also reap.
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).

A matter of the heart

“Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things” (Matthew 12:34-35 Matthew 12:34-35 34 O generation of vipers, how can you, being evil, speak good things? for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. 35 A good man out of the good treasure of the heart brings forth good things: and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things.
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).

The words you and I say reflect both who we are and who we are working to become. Think about this verse as it relates to being both extremely politically correct or extremely “raw” and unfiltered.

What do your words say about you? What do you want your words to say about you? Consider the mind and heart God desires us to have and works to develop within us. By His Spirit, God wants to tend and grow in us the fruits of love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23 Galatians 5:22-23 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, 23 Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.
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). Do our words evidence that growth?

God has a precious and vital standard for what we say, governing Christians both as individuals and as the Church entire. God is not calling us to be feeble and “PC,” but He isn’t calling us to bully or browbeat either. We need to be balanced, wisely choose which words to say, and never sacrifice the truth. While we are told to avoid it as much as possible, sometimes offending others may be required to properly share God’s truth. God calls us to speak with compassion, humility and respect at all times. “Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one” (Colossians 4:6 Colossians 4:6 Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer every man.
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).

As this blog comes to a close, imagine a world-renowned painter beginning his work. He judiciously lays out his canvas before selecting and mixing his paints. There’s an image in his head of exactly what he wants to tell his audience and how he wants to deliver that message. Meticulously, he begins to paint. And when he paints, as he’s crafting his masterpiece, he never paints with a brush that’s too big and broad or a brush that’s too small to make its mark. He finds just the right brush.

So too should we speak, using just the right words. A word fitly spoken is an apple of gold (Proverbs 25:11 Proverbs 25:11A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver.
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).