Rethinking offense as a follower of Christ

When I was younger so much younger than today… The household and life I was brought up in was at times very legalistic and aired on the side of “thou shalt NOT” as it were to define what could and couldn’t be done: no “non Christian” music, no “swearing”, no smoking, no chewing, and definitely not hanging out with anyone who did.

Needless to say, I rebelled against these rules. While I did grow up listening to a great deal of classical music and the “elevator music” of “Christian” music I took a liking to classic rock (and I still do to this day); Led Zepplin, Bob Dylan, The Who, The Beatles, The Doobie Brothers, Warren Zevon, Lou Reed, Pink Floyd, etc… Now my mom had moments of suspended legalism and would allow me to play this type of music, but only for so long, it seemed like when a song had to memories tied to it she would make me turn it back to music for people who like soporific songs serenading their stirrups.

Then there was “swearing”, while I didn’t know the “bad words” because my immediate peers were my sisters, I did quickly learn that the 4 letter word of choice I could not say was the M WORD, and that word…was…Mean, I couldn’t say mean, if I said it and my mom overheard it I got a bar in my mouth much akin to Ralphie in The Christmas Story.
But when it came to “bad words” I eventually did learn them, I eventually (and to some degree I still do) used them, but it wasn’t from the TV, which was another no-no in our house (I remember small pockets of my life without a TV) and even when we got a TV we just watched a lot of PBS, you name it I saw it (including The Frugal Gourmet), it wasn’t my childhood friends, but in fact it was my parents who taught me how to say “bad words”.

A tip to parents and parents-to-be; if you’re arguing with your significant other, take it to an area away from your kids, and if you do use “bad words” don’t think it will go unnoticed if you don’t take your fighting elsewhere.

So that’s the snapshot of my youth that I will share with you. A lot of how we operated was out of what we didn’t do over what we did do.

***

Now that I’m on the pursuit of getting to where I need to be in this life, I reflect while listening to M83, a band in case you don’t know that isn’t *gasp* a “Christian” band. I fell off the bandwagon of listening to “Christian” music primarily at the turn of the millennium (I’ve always wanted to weave that into my writing) and I started exploring different musicians who weren’t part of my repertoire growing up and then some, and in a lot of ways it has helped me more than any “Christian” music I heard in my youth. I now realize that the music I listen to catered to and to some degree manipulated their audience. I don’t blame them entirely, as they had to bring home the bread somehow and perhaps in their contracts they had a JPM (Jesus’ Per Minute) clause, but looking back on what I used to listen to and what I listen to nowadays, I see God-given creativity that never blossomed to its fullest peak; sure there were blossoms here and there, but the growth in some ways seemed rather stunted, almost like a unintentional bonsai tree, it wasn’t allowed to “grow up and mature” as it were.

Now when it comes to “swearing” and “bad words” I haven’t done that yet today, but with the ways things go sometimes it will happen and I’m not hung up about it. I don’t think I am hung up on my language as I once was led to believe because I’m more discerning about what I say and who my audience is. I am not going to throw down a MF-er in the presence of junior highers, but I may call a peer out and say bullshit (okay, there’s my first time today). It’s about who I know and the value of words, because for better or worse, once my words are out there they are out there and there’s nothing I can do to reclaim what I said. I can do what I can to repair any damage created with my words, but that’s all I can do.

***

Lately I’ve been thinking about offense, and in my youth it was what I said and what I listened to, that’s what drew offense from me to others and others to me, but in my (dare I say) late 20s my paradigm of offense has shifted. I find that these days I am offended by the following. Not a comprehensive list, but it’ll give you some insight to what gets to me:

– People comfortable with lying
– People dying of AIDS
– People dying of hunger
– People dying of treatable diseases
– People dying of a lack of clean water
– People who don’t “practice what they preach”
– People who don’t love as Christ loved
– People who are hypocritical
– People who aren’t inclusive to all people in their churches

These are some of the things that offend me, and if I think about my perception of how I think God is, these things offend him too. It’s not about the words that I say or have said, nor is it about the music I listened to or listen.
It’s about using my gifts and skills wisely, it’s about loving God by loving others, it’s about serving God by serving others, it’s about restoration and reconciliation, it’s about kingdom work, it’s about aiding to the process of perfect shalom and so much more!

I think instead of not giving a damn about something, I should give a damn about something, because I am capable to do so much with the resources I have been given. I should be a part of change and wanting to do better, helping others on their journey so they too can have better. People truly matter to God and they should matter to me as well, and to them slip through the proverbial cracks of society, that is offensive to God and it should be offensive to me as well.

Offense still remains, but what is the object of offensiveness has changed.

~Nathanael~

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