"Then the whole town came out to meet Jesus; and when they saw him, they begged him to leave their neighborhood." - Matthew 8:34
Does your church cause such a holy ruckus that your neighbors beg you to leave? Or do they even know you're there?
Jesus had gone across the Sea of Galilee to a different culture and belief system. Yet even the demons knew Jesus for who he was, and implored him to leave them alone. Instead, for the sake of two Gentiles who had been rejected by their community, Jesus cast the demons out of the people and into a herd of pigs, which then ran off a cliff and drowned in the sea.
No wonder the locals wanted Jesus to hightail it out of town.
We sometimes forget that following Jesus is risky business. We sometimes fail to consider the unsettling ramifications of our acts of mercy, the serious trouble our good deeds might get us into. Even more often, perhaps, we neglect to do justice for fear of what the neighbors will say, out of concern for our reputation, in dread that the church might become—gasp!—controversial.
But Jesus was forever ruffling feathers for eating with the wrong people, enraging officials for healing at the wrong time, attracting the worst kind of attention for empowering the poor. And sometimes he was run out of town for putting the well-being of the marginalized ahead of the economic interests of their oppressors.
"In the world you will have trouble," Jesus promised.
When considering how to most faithfully follow Jesus, perhaps the key question is not whether a particular course of action will cause controversy, but why we're not already in trouble.
Troublemaker Jesus, may our love for the least of these lead us into trouble. May our faithful actions get us thrown out of all the best places.
Vicki Kemper is the Pastor of First Congregational, UCC, of Amherst, Massachusetts.