“Then it happened, when Ahab saw Elijah, that Ahab said to him, “Is that you, O troubler of Israel? And he answered, ‘I have not troubled Israel, but you and your father’s house have, in that you have forsaken the commandments of the Lord and have followed the Baals.’” I Kings 18: 17-18
Trouble is a relative thing. People view something as trouble based on their point of view or position in the troubling circumstances. One person’s trouble could even be another person’s blessing.
As Christians, we may often find ourselves in a position where we are viewed as a troublemaker. This should not be surprising because our goal is to become more like Jesus, and He was viewed as a troublemaker. This is what Jesus said to His followers about this:
“ If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. “ John 15: 18-20
When we die to this world, in obedience to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and put our hope in the promise of eternal life, we put ourselves in a position that the people who still have their hope in this world will see us as a source of trouble. As we align our lives with what we come to know as truth, it becomes troublesome for those who are still living according to lies. When we do what we know is right and true in obedience to God’s commandments and the guidance of our conscience with the Holy Spirit’s help, we find ourselves in circumstances where other non-believers see us as troublemakers.
I wish it wasn’t this way. I wish we could just mind our own business and do what we know is right and be left alone, but this is not the case. For some reason, this is part of God’s plan for His children, that we must stand against the opposition of the world, that we must stand firm in doing what we know is right, even when the majority of others don’t agree, or see us as troublemakers, even hate us for it.
My personality is such that it is important to me to be liked by others. I am really uncomfortable with conflict, so I try to keep my relationship with others in good standing and even go out of my way to make people happy. Unfortunately, there are circumstances when I must stand for what is right and not worry about what people think. Standing for the truth or doing the right thing will not make you popular in most cases.
I have found myself in circumstances throughout my life where I knew that I had to act in a way that was not going to make me popular with others. Even recently with my fellow workers, I had to do something that was aligned with my conscience, but I knew was going to be perceived as trouble by them. There was a time years ago where I had to object to a situation in the workplace what I felt was my responsibility to expose, and it caused me to be disliked by the rest of my coworkers. These situations are hard, but we must be committed to please God first, and not allow our desire to please men to override this commitment.
I encourage you to arm yourself with the determination to do what is right even when you are misjudged or unfairly persecuted for doing so. Recognize that being seen as a troublemaker is not unusual, but rather, it is most likely a sign that you are following Jesus. Remember that although Jesus committed no sin, He was put to death by the unbelievers of that time.
Elijah was a prophet during the time when Ahab was king of Israel. Ahab was one of the most evil kings up to that time:
“Now Ahab the son of Omri did evil in the sight of the Lord, more than all who were before him. And it came to pass, as though it had been a trivial thing for him to walk in the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, that he took as wife Jezebel the daughter of Ethbaal, king of the Sirdonians; and he went and served Baal and worshiped him. Then he set up an altar for Baal in the temple of Baal which he build in Samaria. And Ahab made a wooden image. Ahab did more to provoke the Lord God of Israel to anger than all the kings of Israel who were before him.” I Kings 16:30-33
Because of this evil, the Lord caused a severe drought to come upon the land of Israel and the people were starving and dying as a result. Because Elijah prophesied about the drought, and because he represented God, king Ahab called him a “troubler of Israel”. The truth was that Ahab was the “troubler” because of the atrocities that he introduced to the people, leading them away for the truth into idolatry. Think of how absurd it actually was for this evil king Ahab to turn the situation around and blame the trouble on Elijah. Yet this is what people do, and they may even sincerely believe it based on their view of the situation.
Although Elijah and Ahab lived thousands of years ago, we face this same situation today. When we represent God, we will be seen as evil and a troublemaker by unbelievers. Here’s what the apostle Paul said about this:
“For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing. To the one we are the aroma of death leading to death, and to the other the aroma of life leading to life….” 2 Cor. 2:15-16
Right now, in the U.S., the price we pay for having this “aroma of death” to “those who are perishing” is probably rather small, but this could change in the future. In some parts of the world, the price could be very high, even costing Christians their lives. We should prepare our hearts and attitude to follow and obey the truth no matter what the cost. I pray that God’s grace and mercy be available to us, should we face that type of persecution.
Know that those who stand for the truth have always been misunderstood and persecuted. One of my favorite secular quotes is from an 18th century German philosopher named Arthur Schopenhauer who said this:
“All truth goes through three phases: First it is ridiculed; second, it is violently opposed; third, it is accepted as being self-evident.”
It seems that part of our nature is to oppose things that are different and may threaten our current comfort zone. Change is always hard for people and they naturally resist what is different. As Christians, we represent a truth that requires a radical change that is more likely to be violently opposed and may never be accepted as true by some.
I have also heard an interesting view of peacemakers that has stuck with me for many years. It says that true peacemakers are often viewed as troublemakers. False peacemakers are not viewed as troublemakers because they are whitewashing over the problem and not getting to the root cause, so they are creating only a shallow, temporary peace that soon gives way to an even greater source of trouble. True peacemakers get to the root cause of the problem and remove it, causing a permanent and lasting peace, but while they are getting to the root cause, they are seen as troublemakers because they often need to dig deep into the problem and disrupt or change things to correct the root cause.
As Christians the stakes are higher. We hold the answer to eternal life. We have the solution for the pain and suffering that the world endures. We know the root cause. The answer is encapsulated in the Messiah, Jesus Christ. His light shines into the darkness of this world exposing the lies. Those who are not “of God” or “of the truth” will hate the light because it exposes their evil. As the world gets more and more evil, the hatred for those that represent the light will also increase.
“He who believes in Him [Jesus] is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God.” John 3:18-21
I will end with encouragement from Paul’s second letter to Timothy, that touches on this topic:
“Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. But evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived. But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” 2 Tim 3:12-17