I actually heard a guy say, “You can choose to be ‘unoffendable,’ at a business meeting. I looked up the definition of offended, and all the dictionaries say something about anger and resentment. When I’m writing about the word here, then, that’s what I mean.
There’s another definition, about having your senses affronted, or offended, but that’s not the definition we’re dealing with here. We just made some homemade barbecue sauce the other day, and we unanimously and immediately agreed, right then and there, that it was highly offensive. That happens.
It’s the taking of offense, and the very presumption that I’m somehow entitled to be angry with someone, that I’m talking about. Surely there’s got to be a place for “righteous anger” against someone, right? Surely there are times we are justified in our anger . . .
But what that guy said at the business meeting did get me thinking, because he was so obviously wrong. And besides, since I call myself a Christian person, wasn’t I supposed to be angry at people for certain things? Isn’t being offended part of being a Christian?
So I did what any rational, fair-minded, spiritually mature person would do: I scoured the Bible for verses I could pull out to destroy his argument, logically pummel him into submission, and—you know—win.
Problem: I now think he’s right. Not only can we choose to be unoffendable; we should choose that.
We should forfeit our right to be offended. That means forfeiting our right to hold on to anger. When we do this, we’ll be making a sacrifice that’s very pleasing to God. It strikes at our very pride. It forces us not only to think about humility, but to actually be humble.
I used to think it was incumbent upon a Christian to take offense. I now think we should be the most refreshingly unoffendable people on a planet that seems to spin on an axis of offense.
Forfeiting our right to anger makes us deny ourselves, and makes us others-centered. When we start living this way, it changes everything.
Actually, it’s not even “forfeiting” a right, because the right doesn’t exist. We’re told to forgive, and that means anger has to go, whether we’ve decided our own anger is “righteous” or not.
We won’t often admit this, but we like being angry. We don’t like what caused the anger, to be sure; we just like thinking we’ve “got” something on someone. 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.
But inconveniently, there’s this proverb that says, “You may believe you are doing right, but the Lord will judge your reasons” (Prov. 16:2 NCV).
So it’s not just me. We all, apparently, find ourselves pretty darn convincing. Of course my anger is righteous. It’s righteous because, clearly, I’m right and they’re wrong. My ways seem pure to me. Always.
In the moment, everyone’s anger always seems righteous. Anger is a feeling, after all, and it sweeps over us and tells us we’re being denied something we should have. It provides its own justification. But an emotion is just an emotion. It’s not critical thinking. Anger doesn’t pause. We have to stop, and we have to question it.
We humans are experts at casting ourselves as victims and rewriting narratives that put us in the center of injustices. And we can repaint our anger or hatred of someone—say, anyone who threatens us—into a righteous-looking work of art. And yet, remarkably, in Jesus’ teaching, there is no allowance for “Okay, well, if someone really is a jerk, then yeah—you need to be offended.” We’re flat-out told to forgive, even—especially!—the very stuff that’s understandably maddening and legitimately offensive.
That’s the whole point: The thing that you think makes your anger “righteous” is the very thing you are called to forgive. Grace isn’t for the deserving. Forgiving means surrendering your claim to resentment and letting go of anger.
The apostle James said point-blank that anger does not produce the kind of righteousness God wants in us: “The anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God” (James 1:20 ESV).
We do it with Paul when we read one of his many lists of sins, like Colossians 3:8: “But now also put these things out of your life: anger, bad temper, doing or saying things to hurt others, and using evil words when you talk” (NCV).
We don’t like the “anger” part. We think that when he said to put anger “out of your life,” he really meant “except when it’s constructive.” I’ve yet to hear us apply that logic to the rest of his teaching in that verse: “Get rid of your evil words—except when it makes sense,” or “Rid yourself of evil words—except when they really had it coming.”
Let’s admit it: we like anger—our own anger, that is—at some level. We’re just so . . . justified.
Seek justice; love mercy. You don’t have to be angry to do that. People say we have to get angry to fight injustice, but I’ve noticed that the best police officers don’t do their jobs in anger. The best soldiers don’t function out of anger.
Anger does not enhance judgment.
Yes, God is quite capable of being both just and angry, but if I’m on trial in front of a human judge, I’m sure hoping his reasoning is anger-free.
Some people think I’m nuts when I talk about this, when I say we’re not entitled to our anger. And maybe I am. At first, I hated this idea too. The thing is, now I’m hoping I’m right, because life has become so much better this way, and I think I can understand Jesus more.
Describe a time when you chose to be “unoffendable.”
What impact did that choice have on you and your relationship with the Lord?