"Good Trouble"

"Do not get lost in a sea of despair. Be hopeful, be optimistic. Our struggle is not the struggle of a day, a week, a month, or a year, it is the struggle of a lifetime. Never, ever be afraid to make some noise and get in good trouble, necessary trouble."

The disciples examine the fresh wounds on Jesus's body after the resurrection

​Acts 5:27-32

April 24, 2022

Dr. Todd R. Wright Perhaps you heard about this individual. Records show he was arrested more than 45 times for things like disturbing the peace, disorderly conduct, and resisting arrest. In response he said, "Do not get lost in a sea of despair. Be hopeful, be optimistic. Our struggle is not the struggle of a day, a week, a month, or a year, it is the struggle of a lifetime. Never, ever be afraid to make some noise and get in good trouble, necessary trouble." Of course, I am talking about John Lewis, who was first arrested in Nashville in 1963 while leading an effort to desegregate the city’s lunch counters. But I could have been talking about the apostle Peter. He had quite a rap sheet too!

 

The last time we talked about him, last Sunday, was before his “good trouble” days. He was at the empty tomb, but scurried off as if afraid the authorities might be waiting for him in some sort of sting operation. He had reason to be concerned. He was there when Jesus was arrested. Luke tells us that someone (John says it was Peter!) “struck the slave of the high priest and cut off his right ear.” That’s bad trouble! That sounds like resisting arrest, and probably assault, and maybe attempted murder kind of trouble. That’s get yourself locked up right on the spot type trouble. Fortunately, Jesus healed the man, calmed everybody down, and, as a result, only he was arrested. So, what happened to transform Peter into a good trouble kind of guy? What allowed him to face the authorities and not back down? What made him willing to endure arrest and abuse? What changed?

 

The answer is obvious, isn’t it? He saw his Lord get in good trouble. He saw Jesus teach and preach and heal despite powerful opposition. He saw these actions result in Jesus being arrested and beaten, mocked and killed. He saw his bravery and his determination, but also his grace, his humility, his peace through it all. He was an inspiration! Still, as bold as Peter was, he had no illusions that he was cut from Messiah cloth himself. Maybe it helped to remember the heroes of the faith: Moses confronting Pharaoh, or Elijah standing up to Jezebel’s priests, or Daniel refusing to bow to a foreign king or his gods. The scriptures are full of ordinary people getting in good trouble, led by their faith! If they could, maybe he could. You better not, I suspect the voices in his head whispered. You have a reputation for being bold, but on the night of Jesus’ arrest, you denied even knowing him, three times! You felt threatened and saved your own skin! How did he overcome such doubts? How did he come to willingly seek out good trouble? It must have been seeing the risen Lord. It must have been being forgiven his failures and commissioned to serve. It must have been being filled with the Spirit. That’s what chased away his fears. That’s what cut the authorities down to size. That’s what took the sting out of even the threat of death.

 

That’s also why the authorities are baffled. They have not experienced what he has. They are politicians who fear a loss of power.[1] Peter followed a leader who raised the dead and stilled storms … and went willingly to the cross. Peter understood that true power can be vulnerable. They are religious officials who don’t like being humiliated. Peter followed a leader who washed his feet and asked a Samaritan woman for water. He understood that humility is not weakness. They are spiritual beings who don’t welcome the idea that they have become distant from God. Peter followed a leader who prayed desperately in a garden and cried out from the cross. He understood that God’s presence does not guarantee an easy road. So, he kept on preaching the gospel even when they told him to stop. He endured prison because God had set his soul free. He got in good trouble because that was his new calling!

 

So, what would it take to get you into good trouble? An experience of a Savior who charted the path and beckoned you to follow? A reminder of the ordinary people who have spoken up and stood firm and sacrificed? A realization that the worst threats of the powerful no longer threaten you? Or just a reminder of who you were created to be? Lewis once said, "You are a light. You are the light. Never let anyone — any person or any force — dampen, dim or diminish your light … Release the need to hate, to harbor division, and the enticement of revenge. Release all bitterness. Hold only love, only peace in your heart, knowing that the battle of good to overcome evil is already won."[2]

He spent a lifetime getting in good trouble, as did Peter. That’s what people do when they understand that God’s love for them guides how they live among their neighbors. May that be true for you! Amen

[1] This three-fold description of the authorities is from “Fanning the flames” by Heidi Peterson in The Christian Century, 4/11/01 [2] From Across That Bridge: A Vision for Change and the Future of America
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