Sunday, December 02, 2012

Do Not Be Offended (Part 2)

(In Part 1 I talked about what started me thinking about people finding offense where none was intended.
In Part 3 I talk about how we can respond to "offenses".)

“In fact, all those who want to live a godly life in Jesus Christ will be persecuted.”  - 2 Timothy 3:12

So the sentiment I started seeing that made me realize Christians were taking offense where none was intended was this:

“It’s not Happy Holidays, it’s Merry Christmas”

When I started seeing this message this Christmas season, the thoughts I was having about taking offense where none was intended suddenly had a whole new meaning. We Christians have been doing this exact thing. For years!

 I know there are people who vehemently believe that the retailers and individuals who use the phrase “Happy Holidays” are intentionally trying to put down or squash Christianity. While there may very well be some instances where that is the case, I don’t believe there is a widespread conspiracy. In fact I believe it’s really more of a recognition that the United States has fulfilled the dream of religious freedom for all people that our founding fathers (and by this I mean the men and women who fled from religious persecution by sailing across an ocean in WIND powered boats) imagined. There are quite a number of holidays and winter festivals (Hanukkah, Ramadan – on occasion, Christmas, a variety of Solstice celebrations/festivals, Kwanzaa, etc.) that take place during the months of December and January.

In order not to offend anybody (and to not break the bank with the cost of printing ads for all those different holidays) retailers use “Happy Holidays”. Also, it’s not always easy to determine if a person celebrates a particular holiday, especially if you’re in Minnesota bundled up in your winter attire (hat, gloves, heavy coat, scarves, etc), or in your car at the drive thru window. So what’s a person to do? Ask every individual they meet which holiday, if any, they celebrate? That’s ridiculously impractical, so they say Happy Holidays.

Despite the logic of people using the phrase “Happy Holidays”, Christians are still finding offense in it and I don’t understand why. Maybe someone else can explain it to me. During this time that is supposed to be a celebration of the love God showed to us by sending his son to us, shouldn't we be accepting these well wishes with grace and in the spirit in which they are intended?

Don’t get me wrong. I do believe Christians are, and Christianity is, being attacked in very real ways. I just don’t believe the use of “Happy Holidays” is one of those ways. The energy we waste on this topic could be used in much better ways. Also, the negative emotions (hostility, anger, hurt, etc) that emanate from the people who take offense to these words do nothing to share God’s love. In fact, it does the opposite and closes hearts and minds (because in a lot of cases the person who originally said "Happy Holidays" with no ill intent is now hurt/offended that you took it as having ill intent)..

An offended brother is harder to reach than a fortified city, and quarrels are like the bars of a fortress. – Proverbs 18:19 (HCSB)

Is that really what we want to do? Make spreading the word of God’s love and salvation even harder? I can’t speak for anyone else, but as for me and my house, we say heck no!

So what do we do when we hear or see “Happy Holidays”? Well, apparently, I will share my opinions on that in part three. (Seriously, when I started writing this I had no idea I would have so much to say. I just pray that my words and thoughts on this subject are pleasing to God and that He is the one who is inspiring them).

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