2000 years ago was born a man who arguably became the most controversial figure in history. He was controversial while he lived and remains so to date. I bet you this month as we remember his birth that there’ll be the usual news articles giving some brand new ‘evidence’ that that he was married to Mary Magdalene or that some church or political leaders made the whole thing up!
The message of Christmas is not conventional. Not quite what I’d make up if I was trying to get people to believe a yarn I made up. A girl who claims to be a virgin becomes pregnant. The baby she’s carrying is apparently God’s son, the True King. This is not just blasphemous to the spiritual leaders but treasonous to the political class. He is born to a poor family and grows up in a small town. He later receives a death sentence and is executed for being a public enemy. But not before causing quite an upheaval!
I sometimes wonder whether Jesus stirred up some of the controversy on purpose. Apart from healing sick people at inappropriate times, he often ruffled religious sensibilities by claiming to forgive sins. He attended parties so much he was referred to by the religious elite as a glutton, and he hang out with all the politically incorrect people. It drove his critics mad to no end that call girls and corrupt government officials liked being around him.
I believe though that there was good reason why he deliberately went against the grain. Sometimes we church-folk get so comfortable about religion we need to be shaken up. We forget to ask the real questions. We focus on non-issues. Why they sing certain songs or why the sermon was a certain length and why that guy was wearing dreadlocks in church and how dare that girl wear a tight dress.
Meanwhile, the good news remains un-preached to the poor, captives remain un-released, the spiritual blind remain blind and the downtrodden in society remain oppressed (see Jesus’ controversial mission statement in Luke 4:18. His life was completely other-centered!)
Has the church that seeks to represent Him become so predictable and uncontroversial that we’re in danger of becoming completely irrelevant to this generation? Are there some controversies that we need to start to deliberately engage in? Not merely for controversies sake but in order to get us out of our comfort zones into focusing on what’s really important?