"The glory of God is man fully alive, and the life of man is the vision of God." -St Irenaeus of Lyon

Friday Forum: When love sparks controversy

Sometimes being over-analytical can be a blessing, sometimes it can be a curse.  Thinking deeply about yesterday’s cartoon (which incidentally I first saw on Tuesday) renders no escape from the question in controversy in today’s world.

Controversy is an interesting thing.  Invariably, controversy seems to occur one of two ways: 1) relating to specific persons or 2) relating to specific issues.  Generally, I do not think the “or” works so conveniently most of the time as controversy tends to require disagreeing with another’s choice of action regarding an issue.

I tend to think that most controversial issues invite us to open up a third way of viewing a situation, specifically the view of engaged compassion that creates new possibilities.  We have a myriad of options that allow us to uphold each other as human beings without necessarily compromising what we hold to be true.  But so often, I think that we look for ways to distance ourselves from another’s humanity in the name of being right.

When it comes to an example of engaged compassion, we find no better example than Jesus Christ.  He drew near to other people that most of us would not: the lepers, the insane, the prostitutes, the tax collectors, the Pharisees, the scribes, the fishermen, the women, the blind, the political, the children, the carpenters, pretty much you name it.  [And seriously, there has to be at least one category in this list that would be enough to give you pause.]  It seemed that so many people encountered a custom response from Christ, specifically designed for them as individuals so Christ could speak His love into their hearts.  He distributes Himself to all according to the individual need of each.

And that custom-tailored response of Christ makes a lot of people uncomfortable.  Particularly when we encounter people who seem, for whatever reason, to require a custom-generated response from us, empowered by the love of Christ.  We will encounter people who seem to deviate from our anticipated norms, and not in the sense of Lake Woebegon where all of the children are above average.  It is easy to advise someone to do something terribly difficult and wholly outside our own realm of experience and simply assure them of our prayers.  Yet, I think Christ commands us to do more.  As He tells disciples, “You give them something to eat.”  And I think that He’s especially critical about our need to empower people to live obediently to His commandments when He chastises the lawyers for loading people with difficult burdens without doing anything to help them.

We can try to run from controversy, but invariably, we will occasionally run into controversy as we run into people.  Do we know how to look with the eyes of Christ on those whom we would otherwise miss?  Are we prepared to search our hearts to try to open up additional avenues of possibilities for people?


3 responses

  1. What I love about this is that you touch on something that frequently bothers me about some modern Christian fundamentalist movements. Specifically, so much emphasis is placed on the specific act of Christ dying for our sins on the cross, and on the belief in Christ as savior that it feels that Christ’s life as an example of the highest human potential gets lost in the shuffle. I’m not saying that his act of dying, and his sacrifice are not important, they are of course. But sometimes we focus so much on this act and the belief that follows that it gives us an excuse to not hold up the rest of his life as something to emmulate. No, we’re not perfect as Jesus was, but if Jesus was both 100% human as well as 100% divine then his life IS the exemplar, including his acts of compassion, and should be emmulated. Too often we say, ‘well, I’m saved’ and wash our hands of the rest. We think, well, I go to church on Sunday, or I pray, or whatever it is that we hold up as proof of our orthodoxical inclinations – but we leave out the actions, the orthopraxy.

    7 May 2010 at 4:15 pm

  2. I am terminally selfish so
    engaged compassion is hard
    even when I feel the Holy Spirit
    guiding me to contact and fellow


    7 May 2010 at 5:49 pm

    • May Christ strengthen you Pete to live according to His likeness. May you cooperate with His saving Grace. And may He open the doors of His compassion in, for, and through you.

      7 May 2010 at 5:51 pm

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