Tuesday, May 8, 2007

On the offensive

Psalm 119:165 (King James Version)

165 Great peace have they which love thy law: and nothing shall offend them.

I like this verse in the KJV. I love how it ties together love of God's law with not being easily offended. In other translations, which might be more accurate, the second half of the verse reads "for nothing shall make them stumble." That definitely has a different feel to it, but seems a little more intuitive. "If I love God's law, I'll have peace and I won't stumble. Check!" That makes it almost all about me, and not about me and someone else.

But the way the KJV has it, now that's something to think about. "If I love God's law I will have peace, and I won't take offense easily." Think about it. It actually says "nothing" will offend someone who is in tune with God's law. Wow. Does that describe most Christians you know?

We could spend an entire blog, or book for that matter, discussing what is meant by "thy law." The Ten Commandments, the entire Levitical Law, the Law of Love...it can go on and on but whatever someone takes it to mean, the summation of what trusting in that law does is the part that is mind-boggling to me, "...nothing shall offend them."

It seems the knee-jerk in conservative Christian circles these days is to be offended. Everything offends us: movies, books, songs, lifestyles, language, dress, hair, tattoos. Sometimes it seems we spend our lives either being offended or being offensive. More people can identify Christian by what they stand against than what they stand for. But is that the way it should be? should we as Christians spend our time being offended by people and then trying to change what offends us?

There are issues which I won't compromise on, issues, such as abortion, that I don't have a middle ground no matter how much I sympathize with another's situation. But that doesn't mean I need to be personally offended by someone who disagrees with me. I can work to change laws since we live in a democracy. There are many ways I can go about promoting life and opposing abortion without being personally offended. Not being offended isn't about compromising your beliefs. It's about attitude.

Are you familiar with the Nicene Creed? I believe that...all of it. And if I believe all of it, why aren't I acting like it? God is the creator of the universe, the reason we draw breath and the means of my eternal salvation. If I trust in him, if I believe he is in control, if I believe he is love and everything that is good and just, do I really need to worry about what others think of me? Do I need to be offended if people make fun of Christians? Do I need to be offended if someone chooses a life I think goes against God's laws? I can be sad, or prayerful, or helpful, or loving...but why offended?

I shouldn't be offended by being overlooked, or misinterpreted, or disliked, or belittled. I don't need to be offended by people second guessing my motives, or even for willfully hurting me. I may be hurt, but I think that's different from being offended. Being offended has a air of "righteous indignation" about it. Being hurt is simply an emotion. I can be hurt, and I will be hurt, but I can choose not to be offended. Or I can at least choose to recognize it and work against it.

Almost every verse in Psalms 119 has something in it about God's law, commandments, precepts or some other word that means the same thing. Love of it restores the soul, makes our way straight, is sweeter than honey, is perfect and makes us peaceful. And love of his law makes us impossible to offend. Or should.

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