Just avoid controversy altogether. Not! Well, yes and no. If you’re a human being on earth, you’re automatically controversial for one reason or another, in the realm of labels and prejudices. And if you have an opinion on any controversial matter, and dare to open your mouth, you enter into controversy. Some maybe by virtue of their calling are more on the front lines when it comes to controversy. We always must beware lest controversy is a place where we live. We are called in Jesus to be peace makers. And yet the peace we’re to make in not of the status quo. But when to shake things up, or stir the waters, and when to let many things go. We need wisdom. People should see us as little christs (C.S. Lewis), and with that through Jesus comes salvation with all that brings. But Jesus also drew the ire of the world, and we in him will do so as well. And at times in working through our differences as believers, there can be strong controversy. Just how do we handle that?
First thing I need to say is that I don’t believe I have the handle on this, nor that I am a perfect model of it. Far from it, though I think I’ve learned much over the years with the help of others in Jesus. The very first thing we need to learn to do well and keep working at it, is to listen. We need to be seeking to be in a listening mode, as in being open all day to hear God’s voice. And within that we need to develop a more and more keen ear to listen well to others. How often I have had a good answer in my mind before the one I should have been all ears to was halfway finished! It is better to have nothing to say at the end of our friend’s words. We can bring it to God in prayer, and perhaps have a word or two in season that is fitting later. I still have a strong tendency to have something to say right away. That can be okay, but I’m moving more and more in the direction of speaking less and less in an effort to listen and really hear.
There are times when we all need some correction. And in the case of those who may be apostatizing as in leaving the faith, we need loving, clear words of correction in appealing that they would repent. For teachers we need strong words of warning that they may repent and so others who may be under their influence would not be swept away with them.
And we also need a mind and heart focused on the goal. We do no one any good if we are not day by day in everything seeking with others to follow Jesus. We need God’s peace through Jesus first in our hearts, and then active in our relationships with each other in Jesus. Only as we live in God’s reconciling peace in Jesus, can we bring that peace and salvation to others.
We need to be willing to be vulnerable and accept rejection when it occurs. This is part of our calling in Jesus to take up our cross in following him. And yet our goal should be reconciliation through and in Jesus always. That means we probably should not want or be inclined to controversy. And yet we don’t accept peace on the world’s terms. Akin to the kind of peace say that a tyrannical ruler might bring. Not a peace by worldly power or wisdom. But the peace that comes through Jesus and the blood of his cross.
Maybe some of us by virtue of a number of factors are going to be involved in controversial matters more than others. But what if we were known as “the quiet people of the land”? People not given to words as much as to good deeds. People who prayed, and are known by their love. And yes, who had a word of witness along with that. Let me be reticent to enter controversy, but let me be quick to want to be numbered among that company. As we in Jesus live out his Peace before and for the world.