A Matter of Faith: Get into some good trouble


By Emrys Tyler

Special to The PREVIEW

Early in his ministry, Jesus returns to his home town to teach. He announces that he has come on behalf of God to bring good news to the poor, release to the captives, sight to the blind and freedom to the oppressed. People get very excited about this. Then Jesus warns his hearers that they will not actually accept his teaching and that these good gifts of God will be delivered to people outside the traditional boundaries of God’s blessing.

At this point, the people become incensed at Jesus and attempt to throw him off a cliff. Jesus escapes, but his ministry begins to rankle the authorities more and more until they finally have him executed. (Read this episode in The Gospel According to Luke, chapter 4, verses 16 and following.) As a result of his prophetic challenge, Jesus spends the rest of his earthly life in varying degrees of trouble.

In February 2018, NPR’s Story Corp broadcast an interview with John Lewis, congressman from Georgia and iconic leader of the American Civil Rights movement. During his decades fighting for civil rights for blacks in the U.S., Lewis was beaten, arrested and jailed, along with thousands of others. His mother, meanwhile, would tell him over and over again just to stay out of trouble. Lewis would respond that he was getting “into good trouble, necessary trouble.” He still tells people, “We need to get in good trouble.”

What’s “good trouble?” Trouble that comes to us because we stand up and speak out against that which is “not right, not fair, not just,” Lewis said. “Get in good trouble.”

Jesus got himself into trouble by taking grace and mercy outside the bounds. He offered forgiveness to sinners and belonging to outsiders. He challenged unjust leadership and institutions. He did good works even when the legal experts said it was wrong. These are the best reasons to get into trouble.

It is easy to stay out of trouble: to stay quiet, keep our heads down and mind our own business. It often looks like prosperity and comfort come most to those who just stay out of trouble. I suppose Jesus could have stayed out of trouble.

But love demands good trouble, just as justice demands the nonviolent work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks, Lewis and so many others. Jesus’ announcement of grace to the outsider confronts us with the question: Are we getting into good trouble?

The people around Jesus’ country needed the good news that Jesus offered. They needed to be invited into the reign of God that Jesus brought with him. They needed mercy, healing and justice, even if it meant disturbing the comfort of the people in a privileged position. Who around you needs mercy, healing and justice? Who needs someone to speak up for her, to stand up for him, to bring justice to them? Who loses out when everything just stays the way it is?

Answer those questions and then get into some good trouble.