Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Christ the controversialist

It seems like many years ago, now, when I was a young man and bought an outstanding book on Jesus' life, and his dealing with his own people, entitled Christ the Controversialist. It was written by John R. W. Stott, perhaps the most influential evangelical leader of the twentieth century (according to Scot McKnight). He was a pastor in the Anglican church and a writer of a good number of books. And as one told me recently, he was balanced in a solid, Scriptural way, in a way that is attune to life in his writings. The book is an exposition of John's gospel in places where Jesus makes truth claims about himself. And the wall of opposition he faced.

We live in a world in which Satan is alive and well. Naturally, those whose eyes have been blinded by the god of this age will not readily assent to Jesus' truth claims concerning himself and the gospel, in other words, the uniqueness of Christ and his salvation any more readily than the people did in Jesus' day. We can go a long way in getting rid of unnecessary stumbling blocks and controversy surrounding us. Some of the controversy that surrounds Christians today is not inherent or a part of the true message of the good news of Christ. Indeed, too much so, I'm afraid.

At the same time, there is no way that in any part of life Christians who hold faithful to Jesus and to the message of the gospel are not going to have to meet opposition. We will. And indeed we should speak prophetically into our times and world. This is a message that points to Christ, and in doing so, is really pointing others away from what is not of Christ, all the various pursuits and gods people clamor after. One example: "the American dream." Indeed not all is bad in this "dream", but oftentimes in the way we pursue good things- e.g., Ecclesiastes- we settle for something less than God.

Our message does not cut off much of what the world is interested or involved in. It simply helps people find the true reality and fulfillment of these things in Christ. So that I don't have to retreat from science, or philosophy, or psychology, music, art or any good number of things. I can see them come to life and flourish because of my faith. I can appreciate the good work others do, while seeing what comes into that work at times that is part of the lie which began in the garden.

So we might as well face the fact that we're going to be controversial. I don't want it, but I don't shrink from it. But how I carry that is all important. Do I do so in the humility, meekness and love of Jesus, or do I do it out of my own pride and in impatience with others? We must be ready for controversy, yet seek to win people with our lives and words. That others might see Jesus in and among us, as God's people, and be led to him.

What would you like to add on this? What do you think about controversy?


Anonymous said...

i need to read this one again as well.

Tremonti said...

This reminds me very much of this passage in 1 Peter 3:

1Pe 3:15 But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer a to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,
1Pe 3:16 keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.

Many time the message of the gospel is not the point of offense but how we present it. It is true that we are convinced of the things we hold as true but we should share our message "with gentleness and respect".

If there is any term to explain this, it is sort of implying a 'right way to be controversial' as there is a 'wrong way to be one' (i think).

The beliefs we hold will always have that element of controversy but it is our actions that will overcome the obstacles. I'd like to say that our beliefs are further reinforced by how we live. The two are inseparable.

preacherman said...

I am amazed time and time again and the controversy that Jesus caused in the gospels. I think it is what he was all about. He wanted to point out what God desired for his people. He wanted show the people where they were, what they were doing and where God wanted them to be. I believe to believe to do just that you must be controversal. I believe there are many pastored and ministers today who refuse to do so becase they are afraid of what the crowd or their employers might say or think about them. Paul in one of his letters states, "Am I trying to please God or man. If I were trying to please man I would not be a man of God." We must as pastors and ministers understand who we are working for and who we are striving to please. Ted thank you for this so important post. It reminds us all of who Jess was and what he was about. God bless you and your family. Keep up the great work. Sorry I don't post and comment but I don't have internet at home yet. God bless and again keep up the great work brother. You are such an inspiration.

Ted M. Gossard said...

Yes, I hear you. Me too.

Ted M. Gossard said...

Yes, very true. And good ways of expressing it.

Sometimes our lives speak so loudly that there's no way people are going to hear what we say (for ill).

Ted M. Gossard said...


Thanks for your interesting comment. Gives me something to reflect on, and I think you're absolutely right.

Great to hear from you, and you are an encourager, a Barnabas most certainly.

I don't get on people's blogs enough. Here I am with a computer, but want a laptop. How spoiled can you get. Maybe I'll pick up a used one. I have a project and am tired after work, so it makes me avoid downstairs and this computer, quite often. But I look forward to getting on your new posting soon.

Beth B said...


Thanks for this post. How often I have struggled to find that balance between loving the truth, and speaking the truth in love.

Once I went through John's gospel and epistle. Everytime I saw the word "love" I underlined it in red; everytime I saw the word "truth" I underlined it in blue. It was fascinating to discover that John doesn't give us long solid sections of just blue or just red, but that he weaves them together in a beautiful, balanced fabric. Would that my life might also show such a design.

Ted M. Gossard said...

Beth B.,
Yes, I know all too well what you mean. In my zeal for truth I can all but abandon love. And in my desire for love, I can all but abandon truth. So I have to find that balance, and I suppose that is only found in Jesus.