To get to my favorite coffee shop here in Louisville, I pass a lot of bumper stickers intended to make people like me angry. One of them says “Born Okay the First Time.” Another says “If You Don’t Like Abortion, Don’t Have One.” And, of course, there are several of the Darwin fish, those metallic signs with the early Christian symbol sprouting legs.
These bumper stickers have spawned an entire industry in American evangelicalism, countering these arguments, with “right back at you” ridicule. I understand the temptation, because some of those bumper stickers used to rile me up too. I would roll my eyes and think how stupid the argument was in front of me. Why does the Wicca devotee really need to tell us, “My Other Car Is a Broom”? Why does the anti-procreation guy have to announce, “My Labradoodle Is Smarter Than Your Honors Student”?
But, it seems to me that Jesus never seemed all that outraged by ridicule. Yes, Jesus would engage, and banter back and forth with his critics. Yes, Jesus would sometimes use some pretty stout sarcasm. But Jesus never seemed to be personally offended. Even when his critics suggested he was demon-possessed (Mk. 3:22-27), Jesus simply turned the conversation around, saying, in effect, “Come on, do you really believe that? Satan vs Satan?”
Why does Jesus seem so relatively free of outrage? I think it’s for the same reason Jesus didn’t verbally spar point-by-point with the Sanhedrin or Pontius Pilate. Confident in his Father’s future vindication, Jesus didn’t need to be seen, in the now, to be right. How different that is from our typical contemporary Christian polemics.