“Woe to you when all speak well of you, for that is what their ancestors did to the false prophets.” (Luke 6:26)
This is one of those scripture verses that cuts away at the very idea that being Christian is about being nice. I was raised in the church, and I was always taught that our behavior should be well regarded. “If you do _____, people will talk about you.” It was a warning.
But the Gospel says just the opposite. Or, rather, it applauds the idea of offending a few people. “If you do ____, people will talk about you.” It is how we followers of Jesus are meant to live.
Scandal for its own sake isn’t the point. However, the Gospel demands things from us that are almost guaranteed to be offensive to others. Talking about forgiveness in the face of evil will be offensive to some. Inviting a homeless person into a home is offensive to some. Insisting that wealth must be given to those in need is offensive to some. Focusing on grace over justice is offensive to some.
If we are living in a way that everyone around us looks on approvingly, we’re almost certainly not rocking the boat enough. If you don’t believe me, read the Gospels. Jesus was always getting himself in trouble. His followers were always getting themselves in trouble. The saints of the church were always getting themselves in trouble.
Jesus talked to the wrong people. Jesus said that might and power are the wrong way to live in the world. Jesus got chased out of the synagogue for suggesting that the kingdom of God – a complete upending of the world order – was near.
Do people speak well of you? Have you ever rocked the boat in a way that scandalized others? How did that feel?
It’s dangerous and scary stuff. But whenever I manage to have the courage to do it, my sense is that the kingdom of God has come near.
Scott Gunn is an Episcopal priest and executive director of Forward Movement, a ministry that seeks to inspire disciples and empower evangelists. He lives in Cincinnati, Ohio with his spouse, Sherilyn Pearce, who is also priest, and their social media canine, George T. Dog. Scott blogs at www.sevenwholedays.org.