In the last few months, a number of prominent persons in various leadership roles have, in their reported public speeches or in conversation which found its way into the media, opened their mouth and inserted a foot! Lest some important voter group or financial supporter be alienated, their official spokespersons have hastily apologized by saying….. “He didn’t really mean it that way,“ or “What she intended to say was—”
Although the term has been around for forty years or so, we have in the last few years become quite accustomed to hearing the catch-phrase, “politically correct.” This term describes language, ideas, policies, or behavior which attempts to minimize offense to groups that are identified by gender, race, culture, disability, age or other criteria. To the leaders who made those public blunders, it meant expressing themselves next time in language that does not offend those who may prove to be important to the speaker’s cause! Because of that evident self-serving motivation, some Christians treat political correctness as a silly joke or even as a fault to be avoided. It is neither. For all the scorn heaped upon it, it is, for the most part, still correct. It is right not to offend others by tramping on their nationality, occupation, or physical characteristics. It is right not to disparage others’ religious beliefs, their part of town, or the car they drive. Why would I ever hear any political incorrectness when I go, of all places, to church?
Why would my employer, concerned about avoiding the hazards of a “hostile work environment,” provide a workplace free of ethnic jokes, religious put-downs, and gender-biased remarks–yet among Church folks is where I sometimes hear them? With the very public recognition of what is appropriate language, ignorance is no longer an excuse. Just pay attention to what is expected in secular society! There is little reason for Christians to offend by thoughtless words the very ones to whom we want to minister. Our expressions may be habitualbecause “That’s the way I was brought up.” That also is no excuse; if the world can learn to say what is correct and legal, we too can learn to say what is right and kind.
That is not to say that there will never be offense in presenting the claims of Christ. The Apostle Paul acknowledged this as a reality, because not everyone likes being confronted with the truth of the Gospel. We must heed the Apostle Peter’s admonition, however, to take care that we are not censured for our own faults. “But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God.” (I Peter 2:20 NIV) With presenting the reconciling Savior as our goal, why would we risk offending for a lesser cause?
It is my observation that most often these careless verbal offenses occur when an attempt is made to be funny. Paul warned us about this. “Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanks.” (Ephesians 5:4 NIV) I like a good joke, and it isn’t wrong to laugh in church, either. Wacky photos sometimes show up on the video screen before service or the pastor gives a humorous illustration. But we have to find something to laugh about besides people of other faiths, heavy women and balding men, ethnic dialects, and used car dealers. What can we make jokes about? Well, let’s figure it out! To Peter and to Paul it was a serious concern. Politicians realize that their casual remarks are significant, and employers are concerned about the environment in which they place their workers. Are we to let the world be wiser than the children of light? Is there any reason why the Church should be a decade or two behind?