Offense is a Two Way Street

October 29, 2012

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I was sharing in a cross-cultural setting recently. Some people were struggle with the differences which are so inherent when bringing multiple backgrounds together.

These weren’t issues of sin. In fact they were petty, personal preference issues. Yet they were driving a wedge between people.

One person was telling another, “When you do this it offends me.”

Which really meant, “I am annoyed.”

Cultural sensitivity is important, but cannot become the excuse we use.

Racism gets elevated to this status. If we don’t like something or someone, the ultimate get out of jail free card is to claim racism. I’ve been called a racist multiple times. Sure I have issues of pride and judgment in my heart, but I am not a racist. Showing my family picture usually quells this accusation (and the conversation.)

There are two ways these situations travel as they journey down the street of interaction.

For ourselves - Our job is to follow Biblical teachings. These implore us to:
Love one another.
Turn the other cheek.
Forgive.
Don’t judge.
Do not place a stumbling block in another’s path.

Even if somehow we could be perfect in all these, we will still be misunderstood.

So perhaps the most important principle is:
When you make a mistake be humble. (Not if you make one. This is inevitable.)

For others – The people we engage have a choice. They are not required to be offended, it is a decision they make. They choose to judge or become bitter. They too need to forgive and extend grace.

I will do all I can to practice sensitivity, but I will still hurt people. I can learn from these mistakes as they are not fatal.

When I do, I will apologize and make things right.

But, I cannot beat myself up for this. The other person still chooses whether or not to harbor bitterness and be offended. I cannot control that.

Offense is a choice.

At the end of the day:

We do our best.
We live humbly.
We apologize often,
and we don’t take every criticism too personally.

How have you found differences cross-culturally?
Even in a family, how could these principles change things?

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Chris

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A missionary teacher for 21 years currently living in South Africa. I am a recovering superhero, daily in need of the grace of God