Mark Galli, in his piece at CT, suggests that following Jesus — and here he is not into a literalistic sense but a new “living it out” in our world mode — will sometimes mean offending people.
The point is this: There were moments in Jesus’ ministry when he denigrated—that is, according to the dictionary definition, “attacked the reputation of another”—and inflamed—”excited to excessive or uncontrollable actions or feelings.” What we find in the Gospels is an uncomfortable reality: There is something about Jesus that makes some people want to kill him.
This is a long way of saying something that needs to be said whenever we think about how to have peaceful relations with people of other faiths: Those of us who follow Jesus, if we’re faithful to him, are occasionally going to find ourselves in the same troubled waters. This will come about not because we want to denigrate and inflame, as if we get a kick out of making people angry. It will come about simply because we are trying to be like Jesus, doing what Jesus is calling us to do, and saying what he’s calling us to say. When we do that, sometimes, it’s just going to make people as mad as hell.
We get no pleasure from this. We are saddened and grieved when it happens. But as followers of Jesus, we recognize that the ultimate goal is not to cover over deep-seated feelings and beliefs, to pretend that there is always a peaceful solution to every problem, to end our meetings with hugs and cheers. No, the goal of all conversation is for people to meet Jesus Christ. And when people meet Jesus Christ, there’s no telling what will happen. Sometimes that encounter ends in peace and reconciliation—thank God! But let’s face it, sometimes it ends with people stomping out of the room or plotting our demise….
There is a lot to be said about “how to talk about our faith without being inflammatory”—and I’ll write more about that in the next edition of this column. But before we arrive there, we are wise to note this other reality. Sometimes we have no choice but to begin our peacemaking with some troublemaking—speaking the truth to the point of risking offense. The first relational issue in interreligious dialogue is not, “How do I talk so that I don’t offend others?” If we are going to talk with each other from our deepest convictions, and speak frankly about how we see things, we’re going to do that from time to time. No, the really important question is, “How do I respond when I have heard something offensive?”