By Dr. David Schnittger
Most of us, in our childhood, were warned by our parents, teachers and other adult authority figures to avoid being a troublemaker at all costs. We were told to sit still in class, to be seen and not heard, to play nicely, and not to talk back to our elders. While this is appropriate for children in relation to legitimate authorities, too many of us internalized the idea that we are to be “nice at all costs” and that we should “go along to get along.”
It is interesting to note that many of the heroes of the faith that we read about in the Bible did not subscribe to that view. One might say they were “troublemakers.” Consider, for example, the prophet Elijah. Elijah was a prophet to the ten northern tribes that comprised the nation of Israel. All 19 kings of Israel, from Jeroboam to Hoshea, were bad, but Ahab was the worst of all. Elijah was a prophet during the reign of Ahab and his charming wife, Jezebel. Israel was so sinful during Ahab’s reign that Elijah prophesied that there would be a drought of 3 ½ years as God’s judgment (1 K 17:1).
When this drought occurred, Ahab met with Elijah. The Scriptures record in 1 Kings 18:17: “And it came to pass, when Ahab saw Elijah, that Ahab said unto him, Art thou he that troubleth Israel?” In other words, Ahab accused Elijah of being a troublemaker. Notice Elijah’s response: “And he answered, I have not troubled Israel; but thou and thy father’s house, in that ye have forsaken the commandments of the LORD, and thou has followed Baalam” (1 K 18:2). Why was Elijah considered a troublemaker? Because he spoke truth to power!
The New Testament also chronicles the story of another couple of “troublemakers.” We read in Acts 16:16-21: “And it came to pass, as we went to prayer, a certain damsel possessed with a spirit of divination met us, which brought her masters much gain by soothsaying. The same followed Paul and us, and cried, saying, These men are the servants of the most high God, which shew unto us the way of salvation. And this did she many days, but Paul, being grieved, turned and said to the spirit, I command thee in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her. And he came out the same hour. And when her masters saw that the hope of their gains was gone, they caught Paul and Silas, and threw them into the marketplace unto the rulers, And brought them to the magistrates saying, These men, being Jews, do exceeding trouble our city. And teach customs, which are not lawful for us to receive, neither to observe, being Romans.”
Paul and Silas, according to these greedy and powerful “Boss Hogs” in Philippi, were the troublemakers because they foiled their criminal exploitation of this demon possessed woman. Did they care that this poor woman was freed from her demon possession? Hardly! All they cared about was that these missionaries had broken up their criminal enterprise. Hence, Paul and Silas were labeled troublemakers and were subsequently beaten and thrown into prison.
There were other troublemakers in the Bible. Moses was a troublemaker for calling down plagues upon Egypt (Ex 7-11). Daniel’s Hebrew companions were troublemakers for refusing to worship Nebuchadnezzar’s image (Dan 3). Jesus was a troublemaker for raising Lazarus, thus being perceived as a threat to the Pharisees’ position and power (Jn 12:47, 48).
Peter and John were troublemakers when they defied the Sanhedrin’s command not to “…speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus” (Acts 4:18-20).
The great heroes of church history were also troublemakers. Consider John Hus, the 15th century reformer, who was excommunicated, yet continued to write and preach the gospel until he was burned at the stake in 1415. What about Dietrich Bonhoeffer? This courageous German pastor left the safety of America to return to his homeland to minister to oppressed and persecuted fellow Christians in Germany. His active participation in a plot to assassinate Hitler led to his execution at Buchenwald just prior to the war’s end. Do you see the pattern? If you challenge corrupt leaders, you will be labeled a troublemaker.
I have been in Christian ministry for 40 years. I have known many bullies and “brown-nosers.” I have known very few “troublemakers.” We have too many “nice Christians” in our churches today. These people will not stand during troublesome times. We need more troublemakers! Troublemakers change the world!!! Are you a troublemaker?