Provocation and Offense
I’ve been thinking about the way in which we teach one another and a couple of concepts came to mind that I wanted to share. The concepts are necessary provocation and unnecessary offense.
Many of us have been provoked to reconsider our beliefs at one time or another. Some of my friends provoke me into rethinking my beliefs regularly. Since none of us have a perfect understanding of how the universe works or what God’s plans are for planet earth—we’re continually searching for answers. Looking for answers requires a mind that is convinced it doesn’t know everything. A mind that doesn’t know everything—and is aware of its ignorance—is one that can be instructed.
We arrive at a place of ignorance through experiences that defy our current beliefs. The mind may re-consider what it believes when an idea can’t be placed comfortably inside a box of understanding. A hardened mind rejects an idea when it has no place to store it. A teachable mind holds onto the idea, evaluates it, and may consider creating a new box for it.
New ideas provoke us to evaluate them. While we might say that someone “provoked us,” in reality—being provoked is a choice that we make. Provocation takes us outside our intellectual comfort zone. We might be tempted to shy away from these discussions, but provocation is a necessary part of the growing process. It shouldn’t be avoided just because it may be uncomfortable.
Just as provocation is a choice—so is offense.
When faced with some idea or action, we can choose to let it offend us; provoke us, or we can ignore it. We might say someone “offended us,” but in reality—offense is a choice we make. Saying someone offended us is a way to avoid taking responsibility for our own feelings.
When we know someone well, we may deliberately try to offend them. I’ve been guilty of this. I have friends who are under the influence of religious spirits. I’m a recovering religious spirit victim myself, and I want to see these folks set free. Sometimes, I’ll get so frustrated with them I’ll post a message with no intent other than to offend them in the hope that they’ll leave me alone.
Wanting to offend others is borne out of frustration over what they believe rather than love for them. Love wants to instruct others. Instruction can come through provocation, but love never has the intent of offending others. Love is kind, merciful, and patient.
Jesus offended the religious leaders of His day. And while it’s true that the scribes and Pharisees took offense at His teachings and miracles, I don’t think He intended to offend them. I believe He intended to reveal the kingdom of God to those who wanted to see and experience it. Even though He knew people’s private thoughts, He did what was required to reveal the kingdom—knowing that offense might result, but not making it His primary motive. The fact that people were offended was an unintended consequence.
Now that you’ve heard my confession (and for those of you who know me—this won’t come as a surprise), I feel like I need to change my attitude toward certain people. I don’t think I can continue to intentionally offend others. When I must interact with those who hold different views, my goal can only be to provoke them to think and not to offend them.