The Number One American Right

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….The right to be offended!

In one Louisiana county, The ACLU said it has filed three lawsuits in the past 10 years on behalf of “offended parents” with children in the Tangipahoa Parish district regarding religious issues.

The absence of black musicians in major orchestras has frequently been named as an example of white racism, some leading to lawsuit threats, despite the fact that many orchestras audition musicians behind a curtain.

Some of us are aware of the fiasco surrounding the name of the Marquette University sports in Milwaukee, WI. Traditionally called the Warriors for over 50 years, someone discovered that a couple Native Americans were offended by the “warrior” label and the swinging hatchet mascot, Willy Wampum. Obligingly the school has been frantically and amusingly trying to appease a few people to the dismay of the far majority in the school, and even most Native Americans who are strangely proud of their strong, courageous heritage. Add to this the Florida Seminoles, or any other of the various NCAA teams that have been slapped in the face and treated like bigots.

In the small city of Novi, Michigan, a Christian Iraqi family has been dealing with some local harassment themselves over their embrace of the Christian holiday we all know as Christmas. Oh they put lots of decorations out just like anyone else. They have a Santa Clause, a Minnie Mouse and even a Whinnie the Pooh outfitted in red. That did not bother their neighbors apparently, so the local ban on lawn ornaments was never called into question. But when their beautiful nativity scene went up, someone blew a gasket. Despite strong support from many neighbors, and frequent visits from others around town who’ve heard of this beautiful display, they are facing possible fines of up to $100 a week. They’ve been instructed to remove the nativity scene for reason of violation, but none of the other lawn ornaments.
After a rant or two, I have to rave about an idea every once in a while…

These of course are political, and civic social issues, not personal. But I think it’s an amusing footnote to the larger and more obvious problem of the sinful nature in each of us, and how we forgive. Let’s consider how we are offended, and how we react, either internally, externally or both.

When someone mistreats or merely opposes me, my instinctive reaction is to devote all my energies to defending myself and ultimately defeating my opponent. (Ken Sande: The Peacemaker) Sound a little dramatic? Stop for a minute and think how you respond internally to this sort of thing…. ……….

Ok, it’s not so dramatic. Most of us are guilty of this very instinct. And it’s just that, an instinct, natural, second nat… no, first nature!

In reference to your former manner of life, lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth. Therefore, laying aside falsehood, speak truth each of you to each other, for we are members of one another. – Eph 4:22-25

This verse may be applied directly to the teaching that we are to learn to forgive others and lay aside our offenses, because we are of the same fabric.

Forgiving others may seem to be a choice, and in one sense it is a choice, but God has been very clear about forgiveness. The Bible says:

“And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins”  – Mark 11:25

“Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven” Luke 6:37

God is saying that it is in our own best interest to forgive! He is not talking about what is in the best interest of the person who needs to be forgiven.

Learning to forgive implies that forgiveness is a learned process, not an automatic response. Our sinful nature (our flesh) has a high resistance to laying these offenses aside. It prefers to take on an offense and use the energy that the offense brings with it, in every negative way. Every part of our un-renewed mind, our carnal mind, has a preference to take on an offense and a propensity to hold grudges, and seek its own sense of justice.

I don’t know about you, but I have a very strong sense of justice.

When something is done wrong, when someone treats me wrong, or treats someone else wrong, I make it a constitutional issue; a big case. But God’s way is different.

Within the human mind, retaliation is most often a driving force, it has to get even! Our flesh, unbridled, prefers to be judge, jury, and executioner of the offender.

What about when you’re in a situation that looks like it’s going to blow up and become big problem? Have any of you ever faced something like that? You know that the other person is wrong, but they are just as convinced that they are right, and have just as much proof that they are right.

God asks us to turn the other cheek, walk an extra mile, bless those that curse us, love our enemies. These are proactive forgiveness. It assumes that the problem doesn’t matter. The love of God and the glory of God matters, and disunity is the biggest hindrance to God’s glory on earth.

Have you ever heard that perspective is reality? Well, it’s true. Not literally, of course. There are clear truths, right and wrong. But when dealing with conflict, this little phrase has helped me keep myself in check. Because I know that we can be looking at the same animal, but see two different ends, one side pleasant, the other side just… plain… ugly! I have found as I begin practicing this that it is so much better to just let go of offenses and release them to God.

I would rather have someone forgive me for something I didn’t do, than spend the rest of my life trying to prove that I was right.

In at least half the cases with people close to me, time reveals the truth silently. If I was right, they will find out, and know they were wrong. When I’m wrong, I often find out the truth and feel reeeeeally stupid. Then I feel uncomfortable broaching the subject again! Being married really gives me a chance to practice this, and I admit I often fail at it. But when I do, it’s amazing the results I get from it!

Actively seek unity with people, and with people you don’t get along with. Look for ways to relate to them, not to alienate them. If someone has a perspective you think is off, reach out and try to see the world from their eyes. And if you have the opportunity to show them the truth, they will accept it because they respect you.

So in my mind, our #1 inalienable American right is the right to be offended. Throw at me what you will, but the grace of God is going to help me keep a smile on my face, and crush disunity with a hammer of dismissal; and I’d pay $400/mo. in fines to prove my point.