- There’s something powerful, and incredibly compelling, about someone who refuses to be offended.
The local paper wrote about him and his wife and their purchase of one of the most significant buildings in the downtown area, as well as their evangelical plans for the coffeehouse.
I winced when I saw the article. I had other friends in that neighborhood and knew none of them would welcome this development. In fact, before Michael bought the building, it had hosted the community’s biggest arts event of the year. It was an exhibition to benefit AIDS research, and it featured local art—some of the very intentionally “transgressive” variety.
We could see the culture war coming.
One of the exhibit organizers saw Michael on the street and asked how things were going with the remodeling of the building. He also mentioned to Michael that, of course, he and his team would be looking for a new place for their exhibition this year.
Michael said no, they wouldn’t need to do that. They could still have the event in his building. They were welcome.
The guy was stunned. “Really,” he said, “that’s not necessary.” He knew Michael wouldn’t want this kind of crowd in his coffeehouse.
Michael told him that not only were they welcome, but he’d pay for all the catering. He’d buy the wine and hors d’oeuvres.
They couldn’t believe it. What about the art that Michael would surely find offensive?
- Michael said they were welcome anyway. And they were.
My wife and I went to the exhibit and, sure enough, we didn’t like some of the art, for a variety of reasons, though much of it was stunningly thoughtful and beautiful. But Michael had told the event organizers that he didn’t need to appreciate all the art. He just wanted to make them feel at home.
Instead of being evicted, by Christians, from the best location for the exhibit, the artists were welcomed. Michael and his wife met everyone at the door. He dressed in a tuxedo and offered everyone chocolate-covered strawberries. Live music filled the room. It turned out to be the best exhibit the group had ever had.
That was Michael’s style. He hugged everybody. He talked freely about Jesus, but people didn’t mind. He told me he would just talk to people about the goodness of God, because he knew, deep down, that everyone is yearning for a God like that.
An acquaintance of ours who ran a business nearby was open about her distaste for Christians and her affinity for Wicca. But she loved Michael, and would listen to him talk about Jesus. She said she knew he was different because when she’d drop by his coffee shop, in her all-black apparel, he’d run over and hug her.
She knew he wasn’t offended by her. He loved her, and not just as a project. He liked her, even.
Christians in the community wanted Michael to be offended, to draw another line in the sand. You’re supposed to get angry, and maybe even picket those kinds of people. Michael fed them strawberries. He was less interested in what some Christians thought than he was about his chance to introduce “offensive” people to a God who loves us all and wants to change us all.
- Love, as it turns out, covers a multitude of offenses. It sure opens doors.
And hearts too.
Your life will become less stressful when you give up your right to anger and offense.
And by the way, if you don’t, you’re doomed. So there’s that too.
C.S. Lewis wrote:
One man may be so placed that his anger sheds the blood of thousands, and another so placed that however angry he gets he will only be laughed at. But the little mark on the soul may be much the same in both. Each has done something to himself which, unless he repents, will make it harder for him to keep out of the rage next time he is tempted, and will make the rage worse when he does fall into it. Each of them, if he seriously turns to God, can have that twist in the central man straightened out again: each is, in the long run, doomed if he will not. The bigness or smallness of the thing, seen from the outside, is not what really matters.1
Forgive in the big things and the small things. Don’t take offense.
In fact, the stuff that usually might offend us is a huge opportunity! Jesus told us we will be forgiven as we forgive others.
Fact is, most of us don’t get that many opportunities to forgive. Once I realized that, traffic went from being an exercise in anger to “forgiveness practice.” Life is so much better that way.
I used to be scandalized by others’ moral behavior. I’m just not anymore. It frees up a lot of mental space, and we probably need more of that, to pause and reflect on what matters in life. Sure, I’ve used my free mental space for baseball statistics and Duran Duran lyrics, but I can do better. So can you.
It’s not that I think that potentially offensive behavior is “right” or “good.” Not even close. It’s just that it’s not about me. I’m not going to be threatened or scandalized by someone else’s immoral behavior.
- So what if — just dreaming out loud, here — Christians were known as the people you couldn’t offend?
Yes, we get angry. Can’t avoid it. But I now know that anger can’t live here. I can’t keep it. I can’t try it on, can’t see how it looks. I have to take it to the Cracks of Doom, like, now, and drop that thing, much as I want to wear it awhile. (Note: I’m really going to try not to use four thousand Lord of the Rings analogies in this book. I may fail.)
I’m not entitled to anger, because I’m me. I can’t handle anger. I don’t have the strength of character to do it. Only God does. We can trust Him with it. Jesus gets angry, but His character is beyond question, so He is entitled.
We all think that we deserve to carry anger, but it will destroy us unless we let it go. We have to deny ourselves, die to ourselves, and surrender ourselves.
Whatever it takes.
Anger is like the One Ring. But the Lord of the Rings analogy breaks down here: There’s not a single, hyperdestructive One Ring to be thrown into the cracks of Mordor.
There’s, like, six billion. Drop yours.
- C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, rev. and amp. ed. (New York: HarperSanFrancisco, 2009), 93.
Excerpted with permission from Unoffendable by Brant Hansen, copyright Brant Hansen.
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Can you imagine what it would be like if Christians like us were known as the people you couldn’t offend?! I want to be unoffendable. I want to have that fragrance of Jesus where people know they’re loved and accepted and enjoyed. How about you? ~ Laurie McClure, Faith.Full