1 Kings 18:17-18: When Ahab saw Elijah, Ahab said to him, “Is it you, you troubler of Israel?” 18 He answered, “I have not troubled Israel; but you have, and your father’s house, because you have forsaken the commandments of the Lord and followed the Baals.
One of the delights of working for the church is working with young people. Some of y’all think I still AM young people, but I’ve got twenty years and a decade and a half’s professional experience on the college students that join Ministry Summer Service every year.
This past summer, those intrepid interns pivoted with us to an online version of what is usually practical immersion into ministry. (Read some of their reflections on the experience here.) We met every week, and every week an intern shared a devotion. The very first devotion included a reflection on Matthew 5, and this line that struck me so powerfully that I wrote it on a post-it and stuck it on my desk, where it has remained for the last six months.
I do not consider myself to be especially “prophetic.” My experience of people who claim that adjective for themselves includes a heaping helping of hubris. I mostly try to tell the truth. I love that this note includes “witnesses” in with the “prophets.” Witnesses share what they see. They describe and proclaim, articulate and name. Witnesses tell the truth.
And truth is not always convenient or welcome. I love this exchange between the prophet Elijah and King Ahab. The King sees this guy show up – again – and says “is that you, you trouble-maker?!”
This is how it always goes, isn’t it? The ones who point out the inconvenient truths are labelled “trouble-makers.” It doesn’t matter how humble, steady, faithful or committed to the group’s flourishing the truth-tellers are; if they are telling truth that unsettles, provokes, demands change then they get filed away as “instigators.”
“Oh, there she goes again, making another mess I’ll have to clean up.” I know this is how some of my telling the truth has been received, because people have SAID it, both to and about me.
I know I’m not alone. God’s prophets and witnesses have ALWAYS gotten into this kind of trouble.
But I am committing Elijah’s response to memory: I’m not the trouble-maker here, bro; you are. You are the one ignoring reality, disregarding God’s commands, submitting to the idolatry of “don’t rock the boat.”