Friday, January 18, 2013

Christians and Controversy

Christians and Controversy
I was browsing some Christian blogs the other day and I noticed a trend among some of the blogs that receive high volume: many of their topics are controversial.  I began pondering this coincidence.  I have never considered myself a person who revels in controversy and I tend to minister with the same frame of mind.  I then began thinking about how Jesus dealt with controversy while He was here on earth.  
Jesus never directly confronted political or divisive issues.  The Pharisees contently tried to trap Jesus by forcing Him to give an opinion on controversial topics (Matthew 17:24:-27; 19:1-12; 22:15-22).  However, his responses were decisive, yet brief.  Jesus did not come into the world to debate the world, but to save the world.
Regarding social issues, Jesus’ philosophy was love the sinner, hate the sin.  He was notorious for dining with “sinners”, tax collectors, and other social misfits.  He was not afraid to speak with a Samaritan woman, which was the ultimate social taboo for a Jewish man. Jesus was not afraid to get involved.    
In Luke 5, Jesus calls Levi, the tax collector to be His disciple. At that time, a tax collector was one of the most hated people in Judea because they exploited their neighbors for personal gain.  However, Jesus approached him, and told him to follow.  The publican got up, left everything, and followed Jesus.  Later, Levi held a banquet for Jesus and His disciples at his home where other tax collectors and sinners were present.  When the Pharisees and teachers of the law confronted Jesus about his selection of table fellowship, Jesus responded, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.
32 I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” (Luke 5:31-32).
I think we can learn a lot from Jesus’ example in Luke 5.  Rather than debating how “tax collecting” infringes upon the commands of Scripture, we should be reaching out to the tax collectors.  Instead, we plaster our beliefs via a wall post on Facebook or a bumper sticker of a car as if a tag line will bring about repentance. 
I personally would have loved to have witnessed the exchange between Jesus and Levi.  The only words recorded in Levi’s calling are, “Follow Me.” It appears from the context that this is the first exchange that the two had ever had.  However, I would conjecture that the publican had seen the miracles Jesus had been performing in Capernaum and he recognized that there was something different about him.  The fact that Jesus approached him, spoke to him, and wanted him impacted him.  And the tax collector was forever changed.  If we could only think beyond ourselves and want to embrace the “un-embraceable,” we might actually have a chance to show them that there is such a thing as grace.  Yet, our approach is often to “save them from their SIN”, rather than to show them the love and grace of God.   Jesus confronted sin, but it was only AFTER He had shown love to the sinner.

We then immediately see Levi respond in hospitality.  Not only does He host His new Teacher, but he begins to reach out to others who need Jesus.  This is the first “evangelism meeting” recorded in Scripture.  Levi understands Jesus’ approach and begins to embrace it as his own.

When the scoffers denounce Jesus’ interaction with the sinners, Jesus is quick to correct their wrong thinking.  He had no intention of hanging out with the “religious elite.”  Rather, He knew his mission was to lead people to repentance. In thinking about this story and asking myself how much time I spend in the “Christian bubble” verses in the field, leading people to repentance, I am a bit disproportioned.  We often feel more comfortable being around people who are “like us” and simply talking about people who “do those other things.” Yet, this is not the Gospel.  We will never reach the world for Christ if we are not in the world, being salt and light.     

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