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?
God expects us to be truthful (Exodus 20:16). 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; Luke 9:26).
God does offer us instructions on how to speak the truth. In 1 Peter 3:15, 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). 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).
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). 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). Speech is one important area where we can be an example to others (1 Timothy 4:12). 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). 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; 1 Corinthians 1:32). 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, 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, 1 Corinthians 10:31-33, see also Romans 14:13). Jesus Christ proclaimed "woe" on those through which offenses come (Luke 17:1-2).
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 14:19). 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). 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).
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). 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). 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; Galatians 6:7).
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).
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). 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).
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).