how hast thou offended?

by Suzannah Paul

“Do you find there’s a lot of arrogance among writers?”

I furrowed my brow and then smiled sheepishly. “Well, I suppose there is a certain arrogance in broadcasting one’s words on the internet. My ideas are so special everyone should read them! There are definitely all sort of voices out there, but I would characterize my writing community as generous.”

My friend said that in her creative field the egos are out of control. “Maybe people are less arrogant because you write about faith.” I admitted that Christians could be every bit as self-involved as the next guy. (She probably knew.) And it struck me that one of the hardest areas to exhibit humility, in writing and in life, is dealing with criticism.

There was this pastor, and he got a little news coverage for putting a political zinger on the church marquee. It was unkind and possibly racist. The community cried foul, but he defended his sign up and down, saying,

Truth is offensive.

Is it? Offensive like that? It reminded me of our disagreements and the way we casually dismiss our critics as haters.

If you’re pissing people off, you must be doing something right!

The thing is, I’m pretty sure that the integrity of an action or argument is unrelated to how others receive it.

Sometimes we cheer the good guy.

Sometimes we nail him to a tree.

Sometime we shine light on darkness.

Sometimes we strip off our clothes and roll in it.

Jesus was offensive, certainly, to status quo, power, and decorum. He ate with outcasts and welcomed sinners. He esteemed women and children. He touched lepers. He healed on the Sabbath. He preached good news to the poor. He identified with prisoners. He claimed to be God. He washed his friends’ feet. He forgave sins and enemies. He gave his body as food and his blood as drink. He reinterpreted scripture and fulfilled it. He was executed by the state as a criminal. He rose from the dead.

But offensiveness itself is not a great indicator of being on the right path. Being offensive is not a fruit of the Spirit. They won’t know we are Christians ’cause we’re dicks. That’s not how the song goes.

Jesus humbled himself to the point of death, but his Way leads to Life. He exalted the humble and loved us all, even those who disagreed, betrayed, and had him killed.

The Truth can be offensive. Like the cross. Like love.

Like Jesus.


Post: Suzannah Paul


Photo: romanlily

18 Responses to “how hast thou offended?”

  1. Alia Joy November 6, 2012 at 12:50 am #

    Love this Suzannah. I think we can sometimes hide behind our goal of being truthful but we need the balance of humility and yes, just because everyone is pissed off with what you write, doesn’t mean it’s worth being said. It seems like a status symbol in some ways to provoke or antagonize a reaction rather than prioritize relevance and relationship. Amen!

    • suzannah | the smitten word November 6, 2012 at 7:13 pm #

      i agree with you–it is easy to hide behind truth. i’m pretty awful at self-editing my spoken words and am constantly having to remind myself truth-in-LOVE. thanks, alia joy:)

  2. John Saddington November 6, 2012 at 4:38 am #

    an incredible reminder.

  3. from two to one November 6, 2012 at 6:09 am #

    What a great reminder this election morning.

    • suzannah | the smitten word November 6, 2012 at 7:37 pm #

      mercy, it’s hard to disagree well, isn’t it? social media creates so many great connections, but it does so polarize us. thanks, danielle.

  4. Elizabeth Esther November 6, 2012 at 7:02 am #

    Such a lovely, gentle reminder, Suzannah. I love you so much. I needed these words this morning.

  5. Anna November 6, 2012 at 8:24 am #

    I see signs like that where I live, and it makes me so angry. Like some judgey sign is really going to motivate people to seek more of Jesus. If I’m offensive, I want it to be because I loved too much, not for words I say.

  6. Esther Emery November 6, 2012 at 9:42 am #

    Truth is offensive because it makes our hearts hurt. Criticism is offensive because it makes our egos hurt.

  7. Sarah Dunning Park November 6, 2012 at 11:09 am #

    Oh, I’m on this team, Suzannah. Well said.

  8. Gary and Connye November 6, 2012 at 1:26 pm #

    Very refreshingly true. When I renewed my Christian walk, decades ago, I had to unlearn certain “truths” such as these. Recently, my wife and I watched a DVD Visual Bible on Matthew. After 50 years of reading and thinking about the Bible, I gratefully am still able to have a paradigm shift. On my last day on Earth, I pray to learn one more correct way of living like Christ.

    • suzannah | the smitten word November 6, 2012 at 7:44 pm #

      wow, i love how you put that. let us never be too old or set in our ways to allow God to change us. yes and please! thank you for this wisdom, gary.

  9. tara pohlkotte November 6, 2012 at 3:27 pm #

    beautiful. and true. huh. just like your heart…imagine that ;)

  10. Rachel November 6, 2012 at 5:37 pm #

    “They won’t know we are Christians ’cause we’re dicks.”
    Thank you for that chuckle – and for the rest. Such truth.

  11. Annie Barnett November 7, 2012 at 8:28 pm #

    Suzannah, love your heart for the humble, to be the humble, and all the ways you wrestle with and express that.

  12. Diana November 8, 2012 at 1:23 am #

    yeah, you’re onto something with that song idea…made me smile – big. thanks for this good reminder to think at least twice before we speak/write. and if we’re going to be ‘offensive,’ to be so in the same way Christ was . . . by loving the least of these, maybe even those with whom we disagree.

  13. Elizabeth W. Marshall November 8, 2012 at 11:00 am #

    Friend, a salve on the balm of hurt from piercing. Your empathy, compassion, and generous spirit just drip grace and mercy on the page. Oh that we would be slow to speak, slow to harm with our tongues and words, and quick to desire peace. grateful for this. so very much so.

  14. Carol November 30, 2012 at 7:37 pm #

    Thank you – I like it!

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