Can I Get a Controversy?

* Chick-Fil-A issues a statement about same-sex marriage.

* In Crystal Springs, Mississippi, a couple was not allowed to marry at a church because of their skin color.

* Jordyn Wieber, considered by many as "the one to beat" on the USA's Women's Gymnastics team, does not qualify for the individual, all-around competition.

* Kristen Stewart, an actress many know and love best from the Twilight series, cheats on her co-star and boyfriend Robert Pattinson.

From religion to sports to pop culture to business, the world is abuzz with controversy. Even the word, "controversy," is controversial. According to the dictionary on my Apple computer, there are two different pronunciations of "controversy," and different people argue that one is more "correct" than the other.

We each also have our opinions of which issue is more "important" than another. Personally, since I serve as a pastor in Mississippi, the story in Crystal Springs has been forefront. But the media is also abuzz with stories of young women who are distraught over Kristen Stewart's infidelity and Jordan Wieber's elimination. Some of my colleagues have written extensively about Chick-fil-A. (As an aside, I've always found the "eat mor chikin" cows in their ads to be a bit creepy, so I didn't pay a lot of attention to the headlines at first).

This we know, regardless of how we rank these stories: we cannot escape controversy, whether in the news headlines, in our families, or in our churches. Even when we open the Bible, we encounter a Jesus who turns over tables and a God who wages war. As God's children, how are we to respond? What is our calling in the controversies?

The same Apple computer that gave me dual, or "dueling," pronunciations of the word defines "controversy" as "a disagreement that is prolonged, public, and heated." We are the guilty authors of controversy. We combine anger with a disagreement, then refuse to let it go. Instead of trying to work out a conflict between two people, we tell someone else about the conflict and make matters worse. In Scripture, we see Jesus Christ teaching and acting in a way that irks people. Jesus Christ himself was not a controversy; humanity's response to him made him a controversy in his day.

At the same time, controversy is not necessarily "bad." It can rightly provoke needed change. Some of us will feel called to speak out on issues; others will stay silent. Our calling as Christians is to choose our action or inaction in love. Jesus Christ always acted out of a love for humanity, and we must be rooted & grounded in the same love. We are also called to guard against pride. When forming opinions, we can easily fall into the trap of hearing only ourselves and not the opposite perspective. Open-minded dialogue, not self-driven arguing, is necessary for change.

Let us not get so caught up in issues that we forget people's feelings. And let us not strive for controversy but for compassion in all areas of life. Let us love. Let us listen.

all good things to each of you,
Pastor Darian