The Paper Pulpit
Troublemakers! We have all met them. They are like a fly in your milk, a stump in the field you are plowing, a barricade in the road you are traveling, a first-class aggravation and a genuine pain. If you examine their lives closely you will discover that they have been shortchanged somewhere along the line — either in their home life, or in their education or on the job. And they make noise — lots of it! They create havoc whenever and wherever they can — usually in public for all to see, but sometimes behind the scenes as well.
Troublemakers are dissatisfied with the status quo and want to change things, when most of us do not want either to change things ourselves, or to see change take place in our environment. Troublemakers are bad news! Nobody really likes them, and for good reason. They disturb the peace. They rock the boat.
But, lo and behold, when I read the account of the trial of Jesus in the twenty-third chapter of the gospel of Luke, I discover that one of the charges made against Him was that he was a TROUBLEMAKER. His own people constantly hounded Him and wanted to get rid of Him. Finally, He was carried before the Sanhedrin, the ruling body in Jerusalem, to be tried. Their charge? He dares to call Himself “the Son of God.” The Sanhedrin considered this to be blasphemy.
Jesus was then carried before Pontius Pilate, the Roman Governor, who alone had the power to crucify anyone. Since Pilate was not Jewish, he was not troubled by the charge of blasphemy. Thus, the charge was changed: “He calls Himself a king,” they said. Pilate considered this charge to be sedition, for his primary aim was to please Caesar. Even this charge didn’t impress Pilate all that much, so they brought their trump charge: “HE STIRS UP THE PEOPLE!” In other words,” He is a troublemaker! He dares to challenge the status quo! He wants us to change!”
Words we normally use to describe Jesus are: “Son of God, Messiah, Redeemer and Lord.” I would never have thought of calling Him a troublemaker. Yet it is an accurate description. In the sense that He stirred people up and challenged the status quo, He was guilty. He is still guilty of stirring people up. And He will stir you up!
There are people who stir things up in ways that are not constructive. For example, there are those who want to return to live in the past. They constantly think of how wonderful things were in “the good old days.” They hate progress, and they make all kinds of noise to try to stop it. The tragedy that people experience when they over-glorify their yesterdays is that they become unplugged to today’s opportunities and totally oblivious to the challenges of the future.
Then there are people who thrive on negative issues. All of us have encountered them. They are much better known for what they are AGAINST than for what they are FOR. They were born in the objective case, and live in a combative mood. I am a firm believer in the fact that any church can do what Christ commissioned it to do if it has vision and commitment, and if pessimists do not work overtime in an effort to block it.
Satan is seldom more pleased than when he can convince a Christian to be a pessimist. Pessimists tend to burn bridges even before they get to them. They absorb sunshine and radiate gloom. No church should allow the status quo servants in its midst to cause it to fear being stirred up in the right direction.
Why do we human beings dislike being stirred up? First of all, it asks us to change. To grow or to change can cause pain — for a city, for a church or for an individual Christian. Maintaining the status quo is a more peaceful lifestyle than challenging the things that need to be changed. Challenging old patterns and ingrained prejudices in order to practice Christian truth can lead to opposition and conflict, and often does. This is precisely why Jesus was crucified. He dared to challenge the status quo. He challenged people to change. In other words, He stirred people up. He still does.
If you are a Christian, ask yourself this question: “Do I need to be stirred up by the Divine Troublemaker?” It is very easy to sink into habits of complacency, isn’t it? When we do this, we forget the importance of worship, of witnessing to others and of being good stewards. A damper is placed on the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives.
If you have become lax in your spiritual growth, Jesus, the Divine Troublemaker, wants to stir you up.
The Rev. D.E. Parkerson is retired pastor of First Baptist Church of Sanford.