Tuesday, November 1, 2016

When Offense Becomes Insult

Someone told me that the truth is not offensive. This was in response to me accusing them of being insulting. My response, most of the time truth is offensive. Truth is offensive in that it will always go against what is falsely held to be true. A person who believes falsely will be offended by the truth. I think there may be several reasons for this, but perhaps the biggest reason truth makes a person feeling foolish for possibly falling for a lie. When we believe certain things to be true, in particular religion, we become invested in such false truths and we live our lives upon the foundational beliefs. To have someone reveal that our foundation may be faulty causes pride which leads to a stubbornness to hold on to false belief.

This is completely natural. It has to be, for we human beings want to know everything, and yet, we cannot. We are finite beings with finite thinking, finite knowledge and have finite comprehension. It is so very important to understand the humans limitations when revealing and speaking about truth. We are all ignorant, however, it is till possible to know the truth.

Why is it important to understand this...truth about human nature? Because one of the worst things we can do is move from the offense of truth to being just plain insulting. An insult is an intentional hurting of someone else, and it has no benefit when trying to win someone over to the truth. In fact, insult hardens the heart and closes the ears.

I'll give some examples that closely resemble some things I have seen on a facebook page where Christians and Muslims come together to debate.

The truth, according to us Christians, is that Muhammad prophesied falsely.

One can speak the truth like this and it will still offend the Muslim. How can it not offend them when they believe Muhammad is the final prophet of God?

Or, according to the Muslim, Jesus is not the Son of God but only a prophet.

Again, a Muslim can speak this truth (as they see it) and still offend the Christian. How can this statement not be offensive when the Christian believes Jesus was not just the Son of God but also God in the flesh?

Compared to insult, offense is much easier to get over. Especially if one considers how the other person sees the "truth." But insult, as stated before, is meant to hurt. It is meant to be so offensive that the other person will either make mistakes in their response or quit responding at all. It is meant to have a sense of victory where there is no real victory at all. (Why, because the real victory is getting to see someone accept the truth not run away from it).

Examples of insult would be...

"Your 'prophet' is nothing but a lying sack of garbage and you are the idiot who fell into it!"

Or, "You're so stupid you believe in a god who impregnated his own mother and claimed to be his own dad. Whose the idiot now?!"

These are insults added to the truth and they do nothing to help the truth (or perceived truth). They do more damage than good. The beauty about truth, if it is truth, it will stand on its own. Truth is powerful that way.

The Apostle Peter writes

"Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil."

The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (1 Pe 3:13–17). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

Peter understood the offensiveness of the truth, and that is why he exhorts Christians to witness with "gentleness and respect, having a good conscience." Why is having a good conscience important? Peter is basically saying to leave the conversation having done your best to love like Jesus and not having intentionally done anything that might jeopardize the response to the Gospel message. Basically, you shouldn't be the reason someone rejects the gift of salvation. That is why he continues by saying that even when you are slandered your character (which comes out in your behavior) will put them to shame.

So I encourage all who are engaged in disseminating lies and revealing truth so just simply speak the truth with love, gentleness and humility. Remember that it will offend and there is no need for greater offense through insult. Don't count it a victory if you just shut someone down. Count it a victory when they realize and understand the truth you have.

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