In the age of Twitter marketing, the road to fame and fortune seems paved by status updates and hashtags: #YourNameHere! #YourCleverQuoteThere! #YourSoundbitesEverywhere! These days, even church figures go on publicity parades, making headlines and grabbing attention.

One problem with this is that most big headlines are based in conflict and controversy. When a religion report makes news, for instance, it's typically over a clash of faith and culture: a church-affiliated person or group takes a harsh cultural stand under a supposed flag of faith (Westboro, anyone?) or a church-affiliated person or group embraces culture in a way that flies in the face of orthodoxy. Neither of these types of controversies is helpful; each is an extreme that misses the mark.

Take last week's religion press release, for instance, which involved a former megachurch preacher and author making remarks seemingly in favor of same-sex marriage during his latest book tour. His expressed views lined up with today's social norms but failed to address any biblical teaching—on this issue it would've been impossible to do both. Thus the wheel of controversy was cranked.

News outlets reported, theologians responded, bloggers cheered or jeered. Even people like me, who for personal reasons (this man was once both my pastor and fellow church staff member) wanted very much to steer clear of the whole issue, were drawn to the coverage.

One defense of my former pastor went something like this: Jesus' life on earth was full of controversy, so as a result, controversy should mark every Christian's life as well. Three cheers!

This line of thinking is rooted in the right idea: we can and should look to Christ, and, yes, there was plenty of debate and drama trailing him. Today, following Christ could mean embracing similar sorts of conflict: speaking out against the sins of the church, spending time with non-religious "sinners," and ignoring rules that aren't rooted in principle, for instance. Still, we should be careful not to glorify controversies themselves, because in doing so we mischaracterize who Christ is and what he does.

In Christ we have the perfect example of a faith-and-culture collision. Here is the God-man, perfectly interacting with real sin and a real world. Sure, people got their cloaks in a twist over certain things he did and said, but any controversy surrounding Christ was simply a byproduct of something greater. The greater thing happening was, "I am…the truth." Everything true had taken the form of a body, and he was walking around, clear and accessible as flesh.

Christ wasn't controversial for the sake of controversy; he was controversial by his very nature. He was truth encountering error, light invading darkness. In that sense, he was in direct opposition to the world around him. This forced heated moments of truth: in places where the world around him aligned with what is true, Christ declared it. Where the world around him was skewed from center, he denounced it.

Here is the really interesting part: when truth comes in, no group of people at any time is left unscathed. As others have observed, since the redemption of Christ is a story for all cultures and all times, then no one culture at any point will encounter the Bible's message without being challenged by it. If any group of people matched Scripture's teaching perfectly, their culture wouldn't need it. In other words, if Christian faith doesn't produce awkward cultural moments, beware.

What does this mean for Christians in culture? We are called to reflect Christ within the world around us. But we see that Christ challenged culture by embodying truth—something that's impossible for us to do. How, then, can we display his sinless life and teachings while reacting to our sinful world?

It's interesting to note here that Jesus relied heavily on Scripture, even while illuminating it. He who, being God, would have been right teaching in any way, regularly pointed people back to the written Word. Christ's rejections of popular-but-wrong beliefs and his condemnations of accepted-but-wrong practices are littered with Old Testament references. This is a powerful reminder that not only did the truth become incarnate, it also left a written version so our access to truth would continue.

We must approach difficult questions by searching Scripture and searching the person of Christ. In doing so we will not always have the liberty of cultural agreement. We might not have news coverage or wild sales numbers either. So be it. "I am the truth," means nothing else will tell the story fully—no culture, regardless how thoughtful and accepting it may seem, and no person, regardless how divinity-trained. This is the only truth that breathes and therefore is not subjective.

Sometimes holding on to what is true will result in cultural controversy, but that will be merely a side effect of the Word that is life in our lungs. The controversies themselves hold no merit—if we celebrate them, we lose sight of the truth, and we become the spiritual equivalent of a cheap tabloid headline. In seeing this, our world will not take us seriously. They will not have reason to; they will discern our small-mindedness and recognize that we are only making spectacles of ourselves.

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We must cling to truth, understanding that truth is captivating to every culture. It can be trusted because it does not bend with time and place. It builds up the church while also welcoming those who are outside sanctuary doors. It does not require works, yet it proves that living faith is accompanied by action. It loves deeply enough to bleed and die for those with whom it disagrees.

Lisa Velthouse is the author of two books, including the memoir Craving Grace: A Story of Faith, Failure, and My Search for Sweetness. She was formerly a columnist for Brio Magazine, a ghostwriter, and a staff member at Mars Hill Bible Church in Grandville, Michigan. Lisa is married to Nathan, a Marine Corps infantry officer; they live in the San Diego area with their young daughter and lots of reading material. Find Lisa on Facebook, Twitter, and at