Called to Controversy

Ruth Rosen’s new bio of her father Moishe is a shot of electricity to the spine.  It takes me back to the wonderfully unsettled days of political radicalism in the streets, the late 60s and early 70s, when people believed and lived right out loud, because everything mattered.  In such a time, the cause of the gospel can thrive.  I hope those times are returning to our nation.  It appears that they might be.  We could get ready by reading this book.

Let’s admit it.  We pastors can be cowards.  We can slip into institutional maintenance, rather than keep pressing the gospel forward.  We can pacify members, rather than radicalize them.  We can live for a monthly paycheck, rather than an eternal reward.  We can forget that all Christians are called to controversy.  This book tells the story of a careful, thoughtful, responsible leader who kept his edge.  His example is invigorating.

If controversy is the price we must pay for Jesus to become the talk of the town, so be it.  We pastors should be too wise to be fanatical.  Fanatics have no plan.  They push forward with one wild roll of the dice after another.  But however cautious we might be, the gospel will arouse opposition.  Given human nature — a reliable given — the gospel laying hold of a city will cause turbulence.  But why do we care so much?  We have a cause to serve larger than personal comfort, and personal discomfort can serve the cause.

When we come to the end, what will there be about us that looks like Acts 20:18-24?  There was a lot about Moishe Rosen that held that resemblance.

The Jews for Jesus website comments, “Moishe Rosen was controversial and vigorously opposed by many because he believed with all his heart and chose to proclaim with all his might the truth about Jesus. . . . Throughout history, people have tried desperately to domesticate Jesus, to round off some of His sharp edges, to downplay the implications of His life and temporize the impact of His teaching. . . . Those who take Jesus’ words at face value have always been a minority, and not only among Jewish people.  There is nothing new in the effort to paint a more comfortable picture of Jesus—one that omits the controversy and ignores the implications of His death on the cross and His resurrection.”