This is not a rhetorical question. Are you causing any trouble? If not, why not? And I am asking this question of Christians. You see, when you read your Bible, or study church history, one thing stands out crystal clear: the true follower of Jesus Christ will cause trouble. At least he or she will be regarded as a troublemaker.
Given that those in the world who do not know God are hostile to Him and His people, this should come as no surprise. Indeed, the Bible makes it very clear as to the condition of those who are not yet right with God through Christ. According to Jesus and Paul, those who still live as unrepentant sinners are:
-spiritually sick (Luke 5:31-32)
-rebellious children (Luke 15:11-32)
-lost (Luke 19:10)
-slaves to sin (Romans 6:22)
-spiritually blind (2 Corinthians 4:4-6)
-God’s enemies (2 Corinthians 5:18-19)
And that’s just for starters. Those who are at enmity with God will of course not take too kindly to his people, and their message of the need for repentance and getting right with God. They in fact will reject it and become quite hostile to it. We see this all throughout the New Testament and in church history.
Jesus himself was the most loving and gracious man who ever lived, yet he continuously upset people, caused a commotion, and appeared to be a trouble maker. Indeed, he provoked so much hostility and opposition that he was eventually crucified for his efforts.
Simply read about how the early church got along as it spread the good news of Jesus Christ. All over the book of Acts we find them cheesing off people and getting into all sorts of trouble. They caused such a ruckus that as it says in Acts 17:6: these men “have turned the world upside down” (KJV).
Now that is making an impact alright. Yet we have churches filled with folks today who say we should never rock the boat, never create waves, never offend anyone, and never cause any trouble. They say this for the simple reason that they have never done anything risky for Christ in their life, and they don’t like those who are actually walking the talk and making an impact.
So these armchair critics will take pot-shots at anyone who actually takes the words of Jesus seriously, giving him their all, counting the cost, denying self, and being willing to be hated by the world. And they will whine about how we are being judgmental or intolerant or unloving.
I guess Jesus was guilty of the same things, as he overturned tables, after having deliberately made a whip to fling about. All his disciples were also accused of being troublemakers. I just read another example of this in my morning reading.
In Acts 24 we read about Paul’s trial before Felix. In the opening five verses we finding this amazing discussion: “Five days later the high priest Ananias went down to Caesarea with some of the elders and a lawyer named Tertullus, and they brought their charges against Paul before the governor When Paul was called in, Tertullus presented his case before Felix: ‘We have enjoyed a long period of peace under you, and your foresight has brought about reforms in this nation. Everywhere and in every way, most excellent Felix, we acknowledge this with profound gratitude. But in order not to weary you further, I would request that you be kind enough to hear us briefly. We have found this man to be a troublemaker, stirring up riots among the Jews all over the world’.”
Everything there was nice and quiet, until this Christian troublemaker came along. And he seemed to have the habit of causing riots wherever he went! Even if we understand that this is not exactly a friendly witness giving testimony here, there is nonetheless heaps of truth here.
The unbelieving world could only see trouble when they encountered the followers of Jesus. Wherever they went they seemed to stir up trouble – even causing actual riots on a number of occasions. But Paul and the disciples of Jesus must of necessity be seen as troublemakers, because of their revolutionary message.
I like what James Montgomery Boice has to say about this: “A literal translation of ‘troublemaker’ would be ‘pest,’ but it was stronger than what pest usually means for us today. For us ‘pest’ usually means a nuisance. But in earlier days of the English language, ‘pest’ meant ‘plague,’ an idea that we preserve in the stronger but somewhat archaic word ‘pestilence.’ What they were saying was that Paul was a plague of mammoth proportions. He was an infectious disease. He spread contagion. Tertullus was suggesting that if Paul were set free, he would spread turmoil, disorder, and maybe even rebellion throughout the empire.
“This was the charge the Jewish rulers had brought against Jesus Christ at the time of his trial, and for the same reasons. They knew that the Romans were not interested in religious matters but were intensely concerned about anything that might stir up trouble. Before Pilate the Jews accused Jesus of making himself a king to rival Caesar, and here before Felix they accused Paul of causing turmoil.”
That is how it always must be when the true gospel is proclaimed with true Holy Ghost boldness by true followers of Christ in a world which is truly at enmity with God. It cannot be avoided. God’s true servants have constantly experienced this. Consider just one Old Testament example, that of Elijah.
In 1 Kings 18:16-17 we find these intriguing words: “So Obadiah went to meet Ahab and told him, and Ahab went to meet Elijah. When he saw Elijah, he said to him, ‘Is that you, you troubler of Israel?’” The prophet had a reputation which clearly preceded him. He was known as troublemaker – just like Jesus, just like Paul, just like all true men and women of God.
Philip Graham Ryken comments on the inevitable rejection and persecution of not just Elijah but all real believers: “And so it ever is. . . . The peaceful work of preaching the gospel is a threat to the fortress of evil. The values of the kingdom of heaven are such a total reversal of the values of the kingdom of this world that faithful servants of God always seem like troublemakers in the eyes of the world.”
Or as Francis Schaeffer reminds us in How Should We Then Live?, “Let us not forget why the Christians were killed. They were not killed because they worshipped Jesus…Nobody cared who worshipped whom as long as the worshipper did not disrupt the unity of the state, centered in the formal worship of Caesar. The reason the Christians were killed was because they were rebels.”
Allegiance to God will always mean countering the world and its ungodly values. To affirm Christ and his Kingdom will mean we are seen as troublemakers, rebels, and malcontents. It cannot be otherwise. And it cuts both ways. As James said, “You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God” (James 4:4).
So I return to my original question: Have you caused any trouble yet? If not, why not?