Most of the wonderful Christian people with whom I am privileged to share my life would rarely be described as troublemakers. And for the most part, of course, that’s just the way it should be. After all, the Bible does tell us: “Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” (Romans 12:17-18) And yet, one wonders if there are times when our allegiance to Christ ought to bring us into more conflict with the status quo than it generally does.
In today’s New Testament reading from Acts 17, this accusation is leveled against the Apostle Paul and his companions: “These men who have caused trouble all over the world have now come here…They are all defying Caesar’s decrees, saying that there is another king, one called Jesus.” (Acts 17:6-7)
Of course, words like this must be handled carefully, lest they encourage us to take our own preferences, prejudices, and positions; slap a Christian label on them; and then use our sense of self-righteousness as an excuse for treating other people with contempt.
But at the same time, if there truly is “another king, one called Jesus,” then our devotion to Him will almost inevitably bring us into conflict with the other “kings” who seek to rule our lives.
- To the “kings” who want us to define our lives and the lives of others in terms of what we can produce and what we own, we’ll say that our king’s domain operates by grace rather than accomplishment – and that we’re far more eager to lay up treasures there than we are to amass treasures here. (Matthew 6)
- To the “kings” who define power in terms of our ability to force our will on others, we’ll insist that the true kingdom operates on the principle of self-giving love – and that “Christ crucified” reveals both the power and the wisdom of God. (1 Corinthians 1)
- To the “kings” who attempt to divide us by race or class or political persuasion, we will demonstrate with our lives that we serve a king, who – with his own blood – has purchased people from every tribe and language and people and nation; and has made them a kingdom and priests to serve our God. (Revelation 5)
Abraham Kuyper is a Dutch theologian who once said:
Today, may we live in a way that embraces and demonstrates Christ’s kingship over us. And even as we seek to live in peace with all, may we not be afraid of being “troublemakers for Jesus,” if that’s what it takes for His way, His truth, and His life to be put on display through us.