We are living in an age when anything we say might offend someone. A sheriff in Wisconsin recently encouraged his staff not to refer to those in jail as “inmates.” Instead they should be called “residents” or “those within our care.” The CDC also recommended recently that we should say “persons with alcohol use disorder” instead of “alcoholics” and “people who smoke” instead of “smokers”—as if either of these makes a hill-of-beans difference.
This tip-toe approach has been in Bible translations for quite some time. In 1995 “The New Testament and Psalms: An Inclusive Version” changed many Bible words because they might be offensive or misunderstood. Our “Father in heaven” was changed to our “Father-Mother in heaven” because “Father” is too masculine oriented. The “Son of Man” was changed to “The Human One” for the same reason. “Darkness” as a reference to sin has been eliminated because it might be construed to mean skin color in a derogatory way. Even the “right hand of God” has been eliminated because God is a spirit and does not have a physical body. This “Inclusive Version” from Oxford University admits to following the lead of the New Revised Standard Version of 1989. The Preface of that translation claimed that earlier versions contained “linguistic sexism arising from the inherent bias of the English language towards the masculine gender.” It is revealing that many people read the Bible in English for hundreds of years without being offended by these words.
Charles Spurgeon, a British preacher in the 1800s, said that some ministers in his day had begun to be politically correct. He cited one preacher who told his audience that if they disobeyed God they would go to “that place which it is not nice to mention.” If he were alive today he would be even more shocked. Some preachers today never talk about “that place”; others say it does not even exist.
Christians should not try to hurt and offend people with their words. The Golden Rule alone teaches us better than that (Matt. 7:12). At the same time, however, we cannot avoid offending people when we speak the truth. God’s Word cuts to the heart (Acts 2:37; Heb. 4:12). When it does, the honest will be humbled and the stubborn and rebellious will be offended. The Bible talks about the roles of males and females, husbands and wives, and fathers and mothers (Gen. 1:27; Matt. 19:4). It calls names like adulterers, homosexuals, and drunkards (I Cor. 6:9-10). And it is surely mentions hell. In fact, Jesus, who spoke of hell as a place of everlasting punishment more than anyone else in the Bible, said these words to the hypocritical Jews: “Serpents, brood of vipers! How can you escape the condemnation of hell?” (Matt. 23:33). The only way to avoid these words is to avoid the Bible altogether, which is what many do.