Sunday, December 02, 2012

Do Not Be Offended (Part 3)

In Part 1 I talked about what started me thinking about people finding offense where none was intended.
In Part 2 I wrote about a situation where Christians do this very thing during the Christmas season.

“And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who cultivate peace.” – James 3:18

So what do we do when we hear or see “Happy Holidays”? Well, first, let’s figure out if there really is any offense to be taken (and please don’t intentionally be nit picky about a situation to find offense). It’s usually pretty easy to tell and in about 99% percent of the cases (at least in my experience) there are only good intentions at the root of the greeting or farewell.

When we see it in advertising or some other generic type place (such as an end of year thank you some companies mail to their customers or employees) let’s keep things in context. A business which really appreciates its customers and/or employees and wants those customers to continue spending money (or wants their employees to continue to work hard) is not going to intentionally try to offend them. So a “Happy Holidays” in that context is an attempt to be as inclusive as possible without having to deal with the many societal and legal issues which can arise when you ask someone (especially an employee) what religion, if any, they practice.

When it’s on a more personal level, one individual to another, again, please keep things in context. For starters, how well does the person saying “Happy Holidays” really know you? I may talk to the drive thru guy at Taco Bell about once a week, but the only thing he really knows about me is the kind of car I drive, that I like a side of sour cream with my Fiesta Potatoes, and I always say thank you. Also, how many other people does the speaker come in contact with each day? They may just say “Happy Holidays” out of habit (I refer to the Taco Bell drive thru guy again) because they say it so many times each day.

If there is no offense intended, then your reaction can simply be to say Happy Holidays or Merry Christmas (nobody says you can’t say it in response to a “Happy Holiday”) in return.

A person’s insight gives him patience, and his virtue is to overlook an offense.” – Proverbs 19:11

And what do we do on those extremely infrequent occasions where an offense is clearly meant by “Happy Holidays”? I say don’t take the bait. Overlook the “offense” and accept it with grace and love. Respond with grace and love. Now you don’t have to listen to me if you don’t want to, but there are plenty of biblical references to back me up on this:

  • “Do not take revenge or bear a grudge against members of your community, but love your neighbor as yourself: I am Yahweh.” – Leviticus 19:18 (HCSB)
  • “with all humility and gentleness, with patience, accepting one another in love, diligently keeping the unity of the Spirit with the peace that binds us.” – Ephesians 4:3-3 (HCSB) 
  • “Don’t pay attention to everything people say, or you may hear your servant cursing you, for you know that many times you yourself have cursed others.” – Ecclesiastes 7:21-22 (HCSB) (other translations have “Do not take to heart all the things that people say. . . “) 
  • Love is patient, love is kind. Love does not envy, is not boastful, is not conceited, does not act improperly, is not selfish, is not provoked, and does not keep a record of wrongs.” – 1 Corinthians 13:4-5 (HCSB) (I have also seen the “is not provoked” section written as “takes no offense” but I can’t find a specific translation with that version)
  • “So then, we must pursue what promotes peace and what builds up one another.” - Romans 14:19
  • “But I tell you, don’t resist an evil doer. On the contrary, if anyone slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also.” – Matthew 5:39 (HCSB)

And those I’ve used previously in this series: Proverbs 10:12, James 3:18, Proverbs 19:11

Clearly, the message here is to love each other. Even those who mean to “offend” us. We are not supposed to keep track of offenses or hold a grudge, or try to get even. We are meant to LOVE and live in peace and patience with each other. Please, during this Christmas season, share the love God gave to us when he sent his Son to earth. Do not take offense at “Happy Holidays”, do not harden any hearts or minds to the love of Jesus by negatively responding to those simple words which are often meant as heartfelt good wishes.

And, Merry Christmas to all. (Even if you don’t believe in Christ, I wish you nothing but peace and joy.)

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