Conflict stinks. I don’t know many pastors that love conflict. It steals your time, saps your energy, and plunders many of your resources. Most pastors also know how they could avoid conflict—they are discerning enough to know the status quo. They could easily go with the crowd and preach to the “Amen’s”. False peace is a tantalizing lure.
I think about that sometimes when I read about the Reformation. Guys were being burned at the stake. When most people hear that Protestants were thrown in jail and burned at the sake during the Reformation period we assume it was because they were heralding one of the Five Solas. While that’s what got some of them on the pyre, many of them were engulfed in flames because of their view on things like the Lord’s Supper. They refused to believe and proclaim the doctrine of transubstantiation.
I hear stories like that and I think to myself, “man, is that doctrine really worth your life? Is it really worth losing your family over?” After all, isn’t this what we would call a secondary or even tertiary doctrine? It would have been so easy for them to have just shut their mouths, call it a non-essential and went about their merry way preaching Jesus and reforming churches.
Then I remember Elijah.
Elijah was the one of whom Ahab called, “you troubler of Israel”. It wasn’t Ahab and his idolatry that was bringing about trouble to Israel. No, it was Elijah because he had the chutzpah to make waves. He was the one who stood before the powerful men of his day and accused them of rank idolatry. In Ahab’s mind if Elijah would just shut his yapper and fall in line then there wouldn’t be these problems in Israel.
This is like when my kids get upset with me because I discipline them for breaking the rules. After all, it’s my fault that a privilege is taken away. I’m the bad guy who didn’t just let the bad behavior slide. If I’d have just looked the other way then we wouldn’t have to have this problem. That’s what Ahab is doing to Elijah. And pastor, there might be times when folks in your congregation view you the same way.
Now don’t get me wrong. There are times when the pastor is just as much given to idolatry as any person in the congregation. In these moments he is the Ahab. He’s the one bowing a knee to the Baal of cultural acceptance or some other hobby horse that has captured his heart. So just because a pastor is “stirring stuff up” it doesn’t mean that he’s being faithful. It might just mean that he’s being ignorant and kicking hornets nest that shouldn’t be kicked. Or maybe he’s kicking at a nest he ought to but he’s doing it without a shred of wisdom. In these instances he isn’t being an Elijah type troubler of Israel.
But there are times when the gospel is at stake. Times when we must be willing to go as far as the pyre to “guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you”. If you are in a season when God is calling you to take on the prophet’s voice and rattle dead men’s bones, you’d better believe such stirring of the dust will get some folks to coughing. And you’ll be seen by some as the “troubler of Israel” because you are the instrument God is using to graciously rescue the church from her infatuation with the deadly Baal’s of her day.
This isn’t a call to be a troublemaker for the sake of trouble. It’s a call to boldly proclaim the gospel and all of it’s implications. It’s a call to proclaim Jesus as sweeter than every other Baal. That sounds all nice and good, but gospel-centeredness is a bloody mess that can actually stir up division. The Messiah was the greatest “troubler of Israel” and it is in His steps that we follow. We must not shrink from our calling for the sake of false peace.