Jesus was often in trouble with the authorities because he regularly, and quite intentionally, broke the religious rules of the day.
He clashed with the religious leaders because his disciples picked corn to eat on the Sabbath. He got in trouble with them for healing a disabled man on the Sabbath. The wonder of the miracle was completely lost on them, because they were so focused on a rule.
Jesus being a rule breaker was not incidental to his identity and message, but central to it. And it is why, in the end, he was condemned by the religious authorities and executed by the state.
It is ironic that many who claim to speak in the name of Jesus today are fervent defenders of the rules, even when those rules are unjust.
In 2016 Congressman John R. Lewis of Georgia admonished the Bates College graduating class to “Get in trouble — good trouble.”
He told them that as a child in Alabama, he was puzzled by the evidence that he saw around him of the South’s Jim Crow laws — segregated rest rooms, segregated movie theaters. He wanted to know why. His mother told him to stay out of trouble, but he didn’t. “I was inspired to get in trouble. I was inspired to get in the way.”
On March 7, 1965, Lewis led peaceful protesters attempting to march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama. As they crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge armed police viciously beat them. I was 16 and watched it on TV, and it shocked me. Those images of violence troubled the conscience of the nation, and President Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act later that year.
“Good trouble” challenges unjust systems, laws and institutions. It upsets the status quo in the name of a better good. So to be a follower of Jesus you may need to get into trouble—“good trouble.”
Prayer: Grant us the courage, O God, to get in good trouble when you call us to do so, as Jesus did.
(This is my United Church of Christ Daily Devotion for June 6, 2018. To see the original go here. To subscribe to the UCC Daily Devotional and receive it every day by e-mail go here. Photo: John R.Lewis leads marchers across the Edmund Pettus Bridge just before being attacked by armed police)