These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: “Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel. As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give.
“Do not get any gold or silver or copper to take with you in your belts— no bag for the journey or extra shirt or sandals or a staff, for the worker is worth his keep. Whatever town or village you enter, search there for some worthy person and stay at their house until you leave. As you enter the home, give it your greeting. If the home is deserving, let your peace rest on it; if it is not, let your peace return to you. If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, leave that home or town, and shake the dust off your feet. Truly I tell you, it will be more bearable for Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town.
“I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore, be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves. Be on your guard; you will be handed over to the local councils and be flogged in the synagogues. On my account you will be brought before governors and kings as witnesses to them and to the Gentiles. But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time, you will be given what to say, for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.
“Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death. You will be hated by everyone because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. When you are persecuted in one place, flee to another. Truly I tell you, you will not finish going through the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes. (NIV)
How do you view Jesus? I trust it includes plenty of compassion. I hope your view of Jesus also encompasses taking on the establishment and causing trouble. “I am sending you like lambs into a pack of wolves,” said Jesus to his disciples. Well, my goodness, that sounds unsafe! Sometimes we might lose sight that Jesus is much less concerned about our sense of safety and security than we are. That doesn’t make Jesus uncaring; it just means he sometimes has a different hierarchy of values than we do. Those who follow Jesus will need to take his concerns and ideals into consideration.
Frankly, the Lord Jesus was often a troublemaker who continually agitated for change. And, what is more, he warned us about trouble in the world. It is not that Jesus was intentionally pressing everyone’s buttons; he was just being himself, and that sent a whole lot of people gnashing their teeth at him. Our Lord Christ got all up into people’s grill and confronted them with bold assertions about justice and righteousness taken at God’s terms, not ours.
Therefore, as Christ’s followers, we can expect opposition and trouble. We need to anticipate we are going to sometimes disrupt and upset relatives, co-workers, neighbors, and those around us. Please understand this is not about being intentionally obnoxious or callously abusive. In fact, what personally drives me batty are Christians who take stupidly stubborn stands on the wrong hills of life, thus hurting others and damaging the cause of Christ. We really must be vigilant if someone’s hackles are raised that it is not because of our own foolish words and actions based in notions which Jesus never espoused.
The model of our Lord Jesus is that he was simply himself – advocating for the lost, the least, and the lonely – challenging systems which kept people burdened, oppressed, and lacking justice. This is the kind of stuff God has always done throughout history. Those with power and privilege discern quickly that advocacy and agitation for systemic change is a threat to them. Thus, we find ourselves like little lambs in a den of wolves. By simply loving Jesus and seeking to follow him we are, at times, going to upset people – and that is okay. Facing trouble is not the worst thing to be experienced – to be separated from God is.
It is okay to rock the boat, shake the tree, upset the fruit basket, stir the pot, and make waves if you are doing it because you value the ethics and methods of Jesus. So, count the cost. Give your life away. In doing so, you will find it.
Grant us, Lord God, a vision of your world as your love would have it: a world where the weak are protected, and none go hungry or poor; a world where the riches of creation are shared, and everyone can enjoy them; a world where different races and cultures live in harmony and mutual respect; a world where peace is built with justice, and justice is guided by love. Give us the inspiration and courage to build it.
Grant, O God, that your holy and life-giving Spirit may so move every human heart [and especially the hearts of the people of this land] that barriers which divide us may crumble, suspicions disappear, and hatreds cease; that our divisions being healed, we may live in justice and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.