June 28, 2016

That (Doesn't) Offend Me!

Post by Brittany Tedesco

She was driving home during Ramadan one year when a man in a nearby car kept honking at her. Finally, she rolled down her car window as the man approached—and spit in her face.

Our field correspondent in Egypt told me how easy it is to identify Christian women in her country because they don't cover their hair. She's used to this kind of harassment.

I can only assume my anger level would shoot from zero to 60 if someone spat in my face.

"When he visits people, some scold him and say, 'The dog is coming,'" wrote a ministry leader in Sri Lanka, the tear-shaped island off the coast of India.

The "dog" is a village pastor. The report goes on to detail how the villagers have taken the tracts he's offered to them only to tear them up and throw them at him. Some of them will fill bottles with oil that they've offered to evil spirits and pour that oil on the ground around his mission compound—as a type of curse.

What would I do in this situation? Shake the dust off my feet and hightail it away from those heathen?

As I read through field reports from ministries that Christian Aid Mission assists around the world, I've begun to imagine myself in the types of situations that native missionaries find themselves in.

I think I'd experience a lot of "righteous anger," if you know what I mean.

"The thing that you think makes your anger 'righteous' is the very thing you are called to forgive," writes Brant Hansen in his book "Unoffendable." "So-and-so did something wrong, sometimes horribly wrong, and anger offers us a sense of moral superiority. That's why we call it 'righteous anger,' after all. It's moral and good, we want to think."

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a post about the tragic shooting in Orlando, where I offered a contrast between what Islam and Christianity teach about homosexuality. In a nutshell, Islam's prescription for the homosexual is death; Christianity's solution is repentance and grace. Meanwhile, we Christians are called to show respect and love to all people regardless of who they are—this does not, however, mean that we condone or approve of their lifestyle.

I received a lengthy comment from a person who explained that the problem they have with homosexuals isn't their sin of choice, it's that they "want to shove their sin down everyone else's throats. . . no one has to respect the beliefs of Christians, but Christian are supposed to go out of their way to respect them? I think not."

The comment continued: "I think that Christ was a loving person. . . but it also must be remembered that Christ also got angry and overthrew tables and called people vipers and children of Satan. So let's stop being so compromising. Jesus never compromised. Right is right, wrong is wrong."

We decided against posting the full comment to the blog because of our general consensus that it wasn't edifying. . . but how many of us secretly agree (at least somewhat) with this person's point of view?

How many times have we, or someone we know, cited the incident in the temple where Jesus overthrew tables to justify our anger?

"God is allowed anger, yes. And other things, too, that we're not, like, say—for starters—vengeance," writes Hansen. "That's His, and it makes sense, too, that we're not allowed vengeance. Here's one reason why: We stand as guilty as whoever is the target of our anger. But God? He doesn't."

Great. Thanks, Brant Hansen. There goes my but-Jesus-got-angry-and-turned-over-tables excuse.

In my last post, I wrote about how Christians in the U.S. need to plan for (but not fret about) persecution, because, one day, we may face something far worse than name-calling and labels like "bigot" or "homophobe."

If we don't start forfeiting our "right" to be offended and angry by these kinds of things now, how are we going to demonstrate the grace of Jesus Christ when someone spits in our face?

Between 2011 and 2013, Egyptians had their world turned upside down by the fall of the Mubarak regime, and the subsequent rise and fall of the Muslim Brotherhood, whose supporters systematically attacked Christians. Many lost family members, homes, businesses, schools, and vehicles. During one 72-hour period, 60 churches were burned.

Ramez Atallah, director of the Bible Society in Egypt (whose bookstores in two cities were also destroyed), explained that the Muslim Brotherhood assumed that, "the Christians would retaliate in kind and destroy Mosques and Muslim properties thus initiating a civil war in Egypt. Their plans were completely foiled when Christians across the nation, wisely guided by their leaders, did not retaliate at all!"

Not only did they not retaliate, Christians extended friendship to their Muslim neighbors, many of whom were horrified by the behavior of the Muslim Brotherhood. Native missionaries that Christian Aid Mission supports wrote to tell us that many people were rejecting Islam to embrace Christ after witnessing Christians' radical demonstration of forgiveness and grace.

Though some of the turmoil has subsided since the Muslim Brotherhood was ousted at the end of 2013, Christians are still being attacked. Recently, a Muslim mob set fire to the homes of 80 Christians in a village outside Cairo because word had spread that the believers wanted to turn one of the buildings into a church.

How would you respond if your home was burned? How would I respond?

These are the big leagues. Let's start practicing now, while we're still in the minor leagues.

The Bible tells us that "it is to one's glory to overlook an offense" (Proverbs 19:11 NIV).

"Offense obscures our vision," writes Hansen. "Choosing 'unoffendability' frees us to love people in risky but profound ways."

In a culture that's perpetually offended, let's be different.

Karen - posted July 7, 2016
I pray that I will always pray for salvation for anyone who acts with hatred toward me or anyone.
Kathleen - posted July 5, 2016
Brittany, you have caused me to once again re-evaluate my "reaction" to many situations, and ask myself: is this a proper Christian way to "respond". I too have given myself permission to "react" angrily, but it always leads to negative thoughts, and not Godly action. Thank you.