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Sermon Illustrations on Offense/being offended

Background

Godwin’s Law

Have you ever heard of Godwin’s Law? While it may sound like some overly technical scientific hypothesis, it’s actually quite simple. Godwin’s Law, first coined in 1990 by an an attorney and early adopter of the internet named Mark Godwin, unfortunately foreshadowed much that was to come in succeeding generations. You see, Godwin’s Law is quite simple. “As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Hitler approaches one.”

Stuart Strachan Jr.

Living in Outrage Heaven

The political cartoonist and Op-Ed writer Tim Kreider has provided us with some insight into the “world of outrage” we currently inhabit. A world that has been amplified by the dawn of the Internet and its dark recesses, better known as “the comments section”:

So many letters to the editor and comments on the Internet have this…tone of thrilled vindication: these are people who have been vigilantly on the lookout for something to be offended by, and found it.. Obviously, some part of us loves feeling 1) right and 2) wronged. 

But outrage is like a lot of other things that feel good but, over time, devour us from the inside out. Except it’s even more insidious than most vices because we don’t even consciously acknowledge that it’s a pleasure. We prefer to think of it as a disagreeable but fundamentally healthy reaction to negative stimuli, like pain or nausea, rather than admit that it’s shameful kick we eagerly indulge again and again…It is outrage porn, selected specifically to pander to our impulse to judge and punish, to get us righteous indignation.

Tim Kreider, We Learn Nothing: Essays and Cartoons, Simon & Schuster, 2012, 50-51.

Stories

Lord Halifax

Lord Halifax, a former foreign secretary of Great Britain, once shared a railway compartment with two prim-looking spinsters. A few moments before reaching his destination the train passed through a tunnel. In the utter darkness Halifax kissed the back of his hand noisily several times. When the train drew into the station, he rose, lifted his hat, and in a gentlemanly way said: “May I thank whichever one of you two ladies I am indebted to for the charming incident in the tunnel.” He then beat a hasty retreat, leaving the two ladies glaring at each other.

Bits & Pieces

An Unexpected Friendship

Sometimes moments of forgiveness and friendship come from unexpected places. In 2018, the comedian Pete Davidson appeared on the “Weekend Update” segment of Saturday Night Live (SNL). Davidson made a crude joke about a former Navy Seal turned Congressman-elect Dan Crenshaw.

Crenshaw had lost an eye in the line of duty, which became the butt of Davidson’s vulgar joke. The combination of mocking a person’s disability (especially a disability that came from serving his country in war) alongside a clear disapproval of Crenshaw’s political beliefs led to a burst of public outrage. While Davidson was making the joke, it became clear many found it in poor taste, and the vitriol aimed at the young comedian would ultimately lead him down a spiral of depression and self-loathing.

Davidson then took his anguish public, posting on the social media platform Instagram:

“I really don’t want to be on this earth anymore. I’m doing my best to stay here for you but I actually don’t know how much longer I can last. All I’ve ever tried to do was help people. Just remember I told you so.”

When Crenshaw heard about Davidson’s condition, he didn’t do what many do when embroiled in a public tiff: tell the offender the public scorn served him right, or make some other cutting comment at Davidson’s expense.

Instead, Crenshaw decided to extend an olive branch, befriending the comedian, and even offering words of life to a person who clearly felt lost amidst being stuck in the cross-hairs of the American public. Davidson recounts that Crenshaw reached out and comforted him: “God put you here for a reason. It’s your job to find that purpose. And you should live that way.”

Humor, it has often been said, is a coping mechanism to deal with the pain that life throws at us. But in the midst of the deep, unsettling pain of being publicly shamed, what Davidson needed was not a good joke, but forgiveness, and perhaps, even a friend who could share the good news of the gospel with him. In some ways it is ironic that a man trained to kill and destroy his enemies could be so moved by compassion that he reached out to someone who publicly mocked him and his deeply held political beliefs. But that is the beauty of the gospel, it enables us to look beyond our own reputation, our own pride, to care for others.

Stuart Strachan Jr. Source Material from Dino-Ray Ramos, “Texas Congressman-Elect Dan Crenshaw Reaches Out to SNL’s Pete Davidson After Troubling Instagram Post,” Deadline, December 18, 2018.

Humor

Crazy, But True Stories of Criticism at a Christian Radio Station

In his excellent book, Unoffendable, Brant Hansen shares a few humorous, but sadly true, stories of people being critical of his work at a Christian music station:

One day, we talked about the local forecast. “It’ll be warmer than it should be for this time of year,” I said. “Normally, the high is seventy-two, but today, a high of eighty-two.” The phone rang.

CALLER: You know, I was really disappointed to hear your forecast. It’s not going to be “warmer than it should be,” because God ordains the weather, and it’s going to be exactly what He wants it to be today. Very disappointing.

ME: I’m sorry you were disappointed by this.

A bit later, I played my accordion on the air. Some say this is artistically offensive, sure, but it’s all in fun. It’s a goofy karaoke bit where people get to pick a hit from our station, or an ’80s song, and then awkwardly try to sing along with me. One day, we did both. The phone rang.

CALLER: You know, I noticed you sounded a lot more practiced when you played the ’80s song. ME: Uh . . . “Danger Zone,” by Kenny Loggins?

CALLER: Yes, it was very disappointing that you didn’t play the godly song as well as you play the worldly songs. You apparently don’t want to practice unless it’s a worldly song. ME: Wait—so . . . I played “Danger Zone” too well?

CALLER: I’m really disappointed at what the station is doing, glorifying worldly things. You shouldn’t glorify the world like that.

ME: With my accordion?

 Another phone call.

CALLER: I’d just like to say, I listen from 7:00 to 8:00 a.m. every morning. And it’s disappointing. ME: I’m sorry—what’s disappointing?

CALLER: I have yet to hear you say anything about Tim Tebow or his father’s fantastic ministry. ME: Actually, now that I think about it, I just happened to talk about Tim Tebow on yesterday’s show, and I said something about how I appreciate his attitude when it comes to—

CALLER: Yeah, but it wasn’t between 7:00 and 8:00.

Brant Hansen, Unoffendable: How Just One Change Can Make All of Life Better, Thomas Nelson, 2015.

Godwin’s Law

Have you ever heard of Godwin’s Law? While it may sound like some overly technical scientific hypothesis, it’s actually quite simple. Godwin’s Law, first coined in 1990 by an an attorney and early adopter of the internet named Mark Godwin, unfortunately foreshadowed much that was to come in succeeding generations. You see, Godwin’s Law is quite simple. “As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Hitler approaches one.”

Stuart Strachan Jr.

Lord Halifax

Lord Halifax, a former foreign secretary of Great Britain, once shared a railway compartment with two prim-looking spinsters. A few moments before reaching his destination the train passed through a tunnel. In the utter darkness Halifax kissed the back of his hand noisily several times. When the train drew into the station, he rose, lifted his hat, and in a gentlemanly way said: “May I thank whichever one of you two ladies I am indebted to for the charming incident in the tunnel.” He then beat a hasty retreat, leaving the two ladies glaring at each other.

Bits & Pieces

More Resources

Related Themes

Click a topic below to explore more sermon illustrations! 

Attitude

Bitterness

Criticism

Judging

& Many More