Hello Mr. Jeffrey,
I have a question. Recently I visited a church small group. It so happened that the group, which was lead by a man, had 9 women and 2 men which is significantly more skewed than the general church's ratio.
I obviously was weirded out by this ratio and said, "If I had known that the ratio was that skewed I wouldn't have visited." Which, in my opinion, was an honest expression of my opinion.
I definitely didn't target this statement against anyone in particular. But now apparently the ladies in the small group were offended by what I said.
The small group leader and another have been repeatedly contacting me and telling me that even though I did not intend to offend anyone I had been 'unloving' towards the women there and the women have been offended. Now I need to apologize to them according to Matthew 5:42-43.
My question to you is: Is Matthew 5:42-43 valid even when I did not intend any offense? It seems to like in this day and age people get easily offended. So I feel like it is a 'Tyranny of the thin-skinned'.
I'm very interested to know what your opinion on this is.
There are several problems here.
First, it is true that there are people claiming offense when there was none simply to control the behavior of others. The word "offense" is a translation of the Greek word skandalizo (verb) and skandalon (noun), which means a trap or a snare. So the young man who is snared by a harlot (Proverbs 7:23) was technically offended by her. Idol worship can be a cause of offense or a snare (Psalms 106:36). Wealth can be an offense (I Timothy 6:9). As Christians, our duty is to lead people to Christ – not to drive them away from righteousness and into sin. It is the wicked who cause others to stumble (Romans 14:20-21). "We give no offense in anything, that our ministry may not be blamed" (II Corinthians 6:3).
Yet, even living righteously can be a snare for some people. Jesus never sinned, yet he was a rock of offense (Romans 9:33). He did no wrong, but he forced people to make a choice between righteousness and wickedness, and many chose wrongly. "Therefore, to you who believe, He is precious; but to those who are disobedient, "The stone which the builders rejected Has become the chief cornerstone," and "A stone of stumbling And a rock of offense." They stumble, being disobedient to the word, to which they also were appointed" (I Peter 2:7-8). People did get offended at what Jesus said (Matthew 15:10-12).
Being offensive, that is, snaring a person in sin is wrong. But not all offenses are the same. Being a person who knows what is right and causing people to face the problems in their own life is not wrong, even though they are forced into making a choice.
Thus, the first thing we need to do is decide whether your comment was righteous or not. You stated that this group contained two men and nine women. You also mentioned that one of the men was leading the group. You said you were "obviously" weirded out by the situation, but it is not obvious to me at all what you found to be a problem with the situation. Perhaps you can explain. Keep in mind that in Christianity, "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus" (Galatians 3:28). We have different roles to fill, but we are all working for the same Lord.
A second problem is that your intention doesn't typically change whether something is right or wrong. For example, Uzzah intended to keep the Ark of the Covenant from tipping over, but the situation only occurred because he was driving the Ark in a cart in violation of the law and then he touched the ark, which also violated the law (II Samuel 6:1-10). His intentions did not change the fact that he was ignoring God's commands.
I believe the passage you meant to cite is: "Therefore if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering" (Matthew 5:23-24). This passage is in a section dealing with Jewish traditions that had altered the meaning of the Old Law. The tradition under discussion was "'You shall not commit murder' and 'Whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court'" (Matthew 5:21). Another way of stating the tradition is "You shouldn't commit murder because you might get punished by the court." It changed an absolute forbiddance of murder into a proposition of risk-taking.
But Jesus points out that murder doesn't start with the act but with the attitude. As John points out, "Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer; and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him" (I John 3:15). Hatred is such a dangerous poison that if you know that someone hates you, then you need to first reconcile with the person. As Jesus continues, he said, "Make friends quickly with your opponent at law while you are with him on the way, so that your opponent may not hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the officer, and you be thrown into prison. Truly I say to you, you will not come out of there until you have paid up the last cent" (Matthew 5:25-26). The point in Matthew 5:23-24 is that you can't say that it isn't your problem. If someone hates you, then very likely you did something to them that caused their hatred. It needs to be resolved before it blows up out of proportion. God requires your effort is calming down the situation before you bring your worship to Him.
In the case you brought up, I doubt that anyone is going to leave the church and go into sin just because of your statement. But, at the same time, we are told, "If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men" (Romans 12:18). The best thing to do is find out who found your statement offensive and tell those people that what you said was not the best thing to have said.
Thanks for your reply.
I was weirded out because in the church the general sex ratio is about 60:40 in favor of women. Just as a mathematical calculation. Given a 60:40 ratio the probability of choosing 8 people in the church such that 7 out of the 8 are women is about 8%. And I work in data science. The statistical improbability of it struck me immediately.
Secondly, I honestly feel iron sharpens iron, and I'll be better off in a small group with more men.
That being said I have apologized to the leader. But he wants me to meet him in person and reconcile, which I find weird. Doesn't an apology on my part constitute reconciliation?
If you work in data science, then you should know that the smaller the sample size, the more the results can be skewed. If we pull just one person from the church, the result would be either 100% men or 100% women, which doesn't represent the overall ratio of the church. I ran the statistics and for a purely random sampling of 9 people, there is a 56% chance of a group containing 7 women and 2 men. In other words, just over half the groups. That isn't so weird. In fact, that mix is more likely to happen than 5 women and 4 men (a 51% chance).
If you are looking for a men's group, then just ask if they have one.
If you want to calm the situation down, then you need to deal with the person who is upset. The group leader only informed you that your statement didn't go over well with some of the women. They are the ones you should inform that you were impolite.