Being a Christian can be offensive

One of the interesting lines of thought that popped up in the comments of Why I don’t respect women is the use of language in the Scriptures versus in the current culture. Jenny also had a good take of the mindset behind my post in understanding it from a woman’s perspective.

GeoffSmith and Mrs C bring up a valid argument in the use various semantics:

Sure, and while that may be the case, why not just use the word fear rather than respect due to the connotation that respect tends to carry in English? I’m not trying to be trollish or anything like that. And I understand the difference in the Greek and even the distinction to be made in English, but it seems that in Christian parlance, fear already has been explained to typically mean “reverence,” so that average reader and hearer would already be primed to understand the distinction without needing to use controversial language in a purely dialectical (read: non-rhetorical moment). I understand the need for utilizing confusing terms for a point as in the parables, the prophets, etc. But when we’re breaking things down to the minutiae, I just wonder how helpful that is.

Maybe this answers my own question: Saying “why I don’t fear women” might also sound like something it isn’t.


I’m aware of the utility of Greek. But, in general, even among very conservative men, if you told one of them, “I don’t respect your wife” the average understanding, unaffected by feminism, but more affected by general usage, would be a punch in the face.

The Scriptures do reveal God’s truth, but they don’t (as you know by using Greek) determine English word usage. I just typically try to avoid confusion when I can when talking about potentially life threatening matters.


I see your point in trying to make clear what respect means in the Bible and I completely agree. However, in the great scope of human history, language is only as good as the context it’s taken in. Each place and time down through the ages has given words their meaning.

In our culture today, to respect someone generally means to honor their basic dignity as another human person or, better, if you are a Christian, to acknowledge their dignity as created in God’s image.

So while I think that for the importance of correct Biblical interpretation of scriptures, it’s good to study, as you did, to come to the meaning of the language of that time period, we need to acknowledge the time and place in which we find ourselves in human history, and explain things in language that is commonly used today lest we be misunderstood.

That’s just my feminine and very wordy way of saying what the other guy said above about “you could get your lights punched out.” LOL

I don’t think I made a good Scriptural argument in the comments of the post for why semantics matter, so I’m going to do it in this post instead.

At the core of Christianity is the understanding that it is offensive to other people. Aside from the respect discussion you can look no further than the roles and responsibilities of Biblical marriage and other such social issues that are offensive:

  • Husband is the head of the family
  • Wife should submit to her husband and be his helpmeet
  • Christians are “against” abortion — e.g. a woman’s “right to choose”
  • Christians are “against” gay marriage — e.g. other people’s “right to choose”
  • Christians are “against” [insert opinion here] — e.g. other’s “freedom”

I’ve written about Christians being Ashamed before. The vast majority of Christians churchians are afraid of voicing their opinions on the things above. They are fearful of the persecution that may follow for standing up for what the Scriptures say. I’ve related before that I’ve led Bible studies where the other Christians have a very difficult time talking about submission, sex, and other “sensitive” topics. They have to apologize for it like it’s something bad that the Scriptures are saying.

This should not be so!

So when there is a topic such as respect popping up in conversation you should not be afraid from approaching it from a Scriptural point of view instead of a cultural point of view. This is always the correct way to approach every conversation where you see cultural truths elevated above Scriptural truths.

When I talk about respect with other people I’m not going to say:

  • “Hey man, I don’t respect your wife”
  • “Wow, of course I don’t respect women. What man would do that?”

Rather, I’m going to point out a Scriptural truth:

  • “I don’t respect women; I love them and honor them instead.”
  • “The Bible doesn’t say I should respect women.”

In the responses above, you can see that the first two responses are offensive for the sake of being offensive. I tend to avoid this line of confrontation normally, though you could make the case for it because Jesus does rebuke Peter with a “Get behind me Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s.”

In the latter responses, I would give another person some hooks on which they would be intrigued about why I don’t respect women. It invites a conversation without being in-your-face that their opinion is wrong. In both cases, the most likely question that would be asked back is:

  • “What is the difference between respect, love, and honor [in the Bible]?”
  • “Where does the Bible say that you shouldn’t respect women?”

From there a productive discussion can be had keeping in mind these things:

Romans 12:1 Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, [a]acceptable to God, which is your [b]spiritual service of worship. 2 And do not be conformed to this [c]world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may [d]prove what the will of God is, that which is good and [e]acceptable and perfect. 3 For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith.

Although verses 1 and 2 would make my point, I included verse 3 because of the emphasis on humility and sound judgment in being in the world but not of the world.  The reason why I would bring up such a discussion on such an offensive topic is because I do love and care about other people understanding what God says about certain topics, especially one that is critical for understanding marriage and relationships.

James 4:17 Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin.

The main point is that then you have encouraged productive discussion about the semantical properties of words in the Scriptures verses the cultural context for how they are used. Yes, it’s a semantics issue. But we all know there is only one that is Truth. The Scriptures outline THE Truth while the cultural context is deceptive.

Yes, there will be some that are offended even when you point out this deception. Yes, they may even be Christians. However, that still doesn’t absolve you from discussing and proclaiming the Truth. The Truth may at times be offensive. That is a burden you should be willing to bear as a Christian.

I’m more than willing to be slapped for it.

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10 Responses to Being a Christian can be offensive

  1. donalgraeme says:

    Sometimes we Christians get so caught up in trying to get our message across to those living in the present culture we forget that we are at the same time called to reject that culture. We aren’t to conform to the world, but to God. Which means that if a concept, or word, is understood in a way that isn’t consistent with the Word of God, then we should strive to change that understanding.

  2. GeoffSmith says:

    Good points. It should also be noted that the rhetorical aim of offending people and the offensive nature of parts of the message should be made distinct. Intentionally offending people can, depending on the context be a breach of Paul’s command to be at peace with all, insofar as it depends upon us. But, intentionally offending people can also be precisely answering a fool according to his folly so that he is no longer wise in his own eyes. Tight rope.

  3. Mrs. C says:

    As a Christian, telling the Truth, yes, always and without fear. But always in a way that will win others and sometimes that means meeting them where they are.

    1 Corinthians 9:19: “For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win the more; 20 and to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews; to those who are under the law, as under the law, that I might win those who are under the law; 21 to those who are without law, as without law (not being without law toward God, but under law toward Christ), that I might win those who are without law; 22 to the weak I became as weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. 23 Now this I do for the gospel’s sake, that I may be partaker of it with you.”

    We wouldn’t say Paul here is conforming to the world but rather adapting his teaching to their culture and language in order to win them for the sake of the gospel….in order to make himself better understood.

    A tight rope, indeed.

  4. Jenny says:

    thank you 🙂
    It took me a week to calm down enough to write about it sensibly, but thank you.

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  6. @ Mrs C

    Yep, that’s would I would tend to approach such a conversation with hooks rather than a rather abrupt route as exemplified in the OP.

  7. @ Jenny

    Haha, yeah. I imagined it may be a difficult concept especially with how respect is defined in culture vs. in the Scriptures.

  8. infowarrior1 says:

    @Deep Strength
    ”I’m more than willing to be slapped for it”

    Consider yourself lucky. At least you don’t have to say the shahada or else be thrown into the fire to be killed.

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