Jesus was not immune to controversy. Sometimes he even welcomed it.
Think about this - Jesus knew when the Sabbath was, he was raised in what appears to be a Torah-observant family (see Luke 2:21-24; 2:41-42) so it wasn't a mystery when He healed people on that day that the religious leaders would grow agitated and try to destroy Him.
You almost want to ask: "Jesus, did you save up your healing for this day just to make a point?" Cue Jesus & a wry smile.
However, this wasn't the most controversial thing he said or did.
He challenged the notion of family, hung out with marginalized and suspicious characters, touched lepers and was anointed by women of checkered reputations.
This wasn't the most controversial thing he said or did.
No, when we look back into the life of Jesus we see something else. Today, we won't be shaken by Jesus' Sabbath-flouting or family-reshaping or even His simple avoidance of accumulating and protecting stuff. No, Jesus' holy incision penetrates our hearts through two simple statements.
“Do not stop him,” Jesus said. “For no one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me, for whoever is not against us is for us." (Mark 9:39-40)
"But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous." (Matthew 5:44-45)
Why are these so controversial? Because you can't believe in these things and read Facebook during national election campaigns and keep your lunch down.
You can't drink deeply of Jesus' example here without coming to the painful reality about how much we need enemies in order to conduct our day, and if we love our enemies they aren't enemies any more and then, well...without enemies how will ANYONE ever know what we believe in? How will anyone know our stance? I'm not saying we shouldn't take a stand against evil, it is simply interesting how broad our definition of "evil" has become today.
In fact, I may go so far as to say that most people would struggle living day to day as a Christian without the ability to say, "No, I'm sorry. The rain does not fall on the unrighteous. Only on my crops." To believe anything else introduces tension, and we try to avoid tension.
Confession time: I avoid tension. Guilty as charged.
We live in a place where only dualistic thinking survives - You are either good or bad, right or wrong, with me or against me. As a wise sage said to me recently, "I believed in the unity Jesus talked about in John 17 - but I believed it happened when everyone was on the same page as me."
Jesus is controversial because He has no time for dualistic thinking. The God Jesus believed in shines the sun on the evil and the good. Jesus invited His disciples to live in the tension of knowing they weren't the only ones doing what Jesus wanted to see done. Jesus lived knowing that healthy tension would spur, not hinder, the Kingdom of God.
The way we move to maturity in our spiritual formation into Christlikeness is to allow ourselves to live in the tension, knowing that it is not our mandate to defend boundaries but to expand the territory of the Kingdom of God - to invite people to change instead of expectinog our boundary lines to MAKE them change.
In the meantime, our living in the tension will give God's Spirit a chance to point a brilliant light into our souls and ask,
"What is it within you that rejects that person? Sure, you may not agree with their lifestyle/politics/opinions, but does that mean they aren't Mine? Will your rejection draw them closer to me? Will your rejection of them draw YOU closer to me?"
Here's an exercise: Listen to your heart when you read news websites, see Facebook wars, or hear soundbites. How are you reacting? What physical tensions/disturbances are you feeling in your body? Don't run from the tension - stay in it - and pray "God, show me where you are in this tension. Help me to dwell in the midst of it with Your Son."