Good Trouble

Good Trouble

“We need to get into good trouble.” John Lewis

“These men…greatly trouble our city” Acts 16:20 (speaking of Paul and Silas)

“These men who have upset the world have come here also.” Acts 17:6 (speaking of Christ-followers) – “upset” is a political word meaning “revolt”

“They are all defying Caesar’s decrees, saying that there is another king, one called Jesus.” Acts 17:7  

“We have found this man to be a troublemaker, stirring up riots among the Jews all over the world. He is a ringleader of the Nazarene sect.” Acts 24:5 (speaking of Paul)

“He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble” Luke 1:52 (Mary’s Annunciation Song about God)

Seutonius (69-140 CE), a Roman historian of the Imperial House under the Emperor Hadrian, wrote of Christ and Christians and the “disturbances” caused by them, namely not worshipping idols and, get this, “loving all, including their tormentors.”

Yes. Loving our enemies can cause disturbances. Weird, isn’t it?  

What do John Lewis, Paul, the early Christians, and God have in common?  Troublemakers.   All of them.

John Lewis was a preacher before he was a politician.  

His first congregation was a flock of chickens under his care as a child. Being a Baptist, he tried to baptize them. Ha! 

Since 1963 the country has been his congregation as he was introduced to the nation as one of the speakers at  the “March on Washington” on August 28, 1963.

Since 1987 the United States Congress has been his congregation as a U.S. Representative of Georgia’s 5th Congressional District. 

His sermons were stirring.
His teachings caused trouble to the status quo.    

Do you think it’s ok to be a troublemaker? We were taught and told, “Don’t make trouble.” But, as John Lewis, Paul, and Jesus show us, there can be good trouble.     

John Lewis’ journey along the path of trouble is instructive. Let’s start with the August 28, 1963 speech.  What he actually spoke is not what he originally wrote. His first draft of the speech was considered by the march’s organizers to be too radical. (Maybe I should have that group look at some of my sermons before I deliver them!)

For example, they asked him to remove a section  in which he pledged to “burn Jim Crow to the ground” and “fragment the South into a thousand pieces.”

 “Too much…A bit harsh,” they said. He altered it to: “We will march through the South…with the spirit of love and with the spirit of dignity we have shown here today.”    

Which version do you like? Which approach do you prefer?

The version we heard in his speech and watched in his life  showed “a spirit of love and dignity”.  

He exchanged the way of violence for the way of nonviolence. 

Lawmakers attending a memorial service for Rep Lewis, burst into a standing ovation on Monday after listening to a recorded commencement address by the “Conscious of the Congress.” You can read it here, or listen to it here

You might just want to stand and applaud as well, or sit there and cry.   

Here are the closing words from John Lewis’ speech:  

In the final analysis, we all must learn to live together as brothers and sisters. We all live in the same house. And it doesn’t matter whether we are  black or white, Latino, Asian American, or Native American. It doesn’t matter whether you’re straight or gay. We are one people. We are one family. We all live in the same house.

Be bold. Be courageous, stand up. Speak up. Speak out and find a way to create the beloved community, the beloved world, a world of peace, a world that will recognize the dignity of all humankind. Never become bitter. Never become hostile. Never hate. Live in peace. We’re one, one people and one love. Thank you very much.

Thank you, John Lewis, very much for following in the way of “good trouble.”  






“A Kinder-Gentler Nation and Person”

bush-service-dog-casket-today-main-181203_9de5b5e8b8fb1b3fdd67537267a2cc5a.1200;630;7;70;2The above pic is of Sully, the service dog who belonged to President George H.W. Bush.


On August 19, 1988, George H.W. Bush received the Republican party’s nomination for President of the United States.  In his acceptance speech, he called for a “kinder, gentler, nation.”

On November 30, 2018, “43” (George W. Bush), in a phone call, said to his dad, “41,”  “I love you.”  And President George H.W. Bush replied, “I love you, too.” And those were the last words he ever spoke. 

Our 41st President led the country, led his family, led his own life, with kindness.  Sure, there were moments of unkindness.  In the final days of the 1992 campaign, President Bush, running for re-election,  unleased this remark against candidate Bill Clinton and his running mate Al Gore, “My dog Millie knows more about foreign affairs than these two bozos.”  

The voters didn’t buy it.  Clinton beat Bush 43% to 37%.  Third-party candidate Ross Perot swung the election with 19% of the vote.  

But kindness prevailed.  In a handwritten note to Clinton dated January 20, 1993, Bush wrote, “You will be our President when you read this note.  I wish you well.  I wish your family well.  Your success is now our country’s success.  I am rooting hard for you.  Good Luck – George”

Kindness and humility.  General Colin Powell said of President Bush (41), “…He was a man of great humility.  He was humble.”  “Bush,” he added, “was a product of his parents, who told him, you know, ‘Don’t show off George; just always remember, you’re humble, you work for people, you serve people.’”  

His parents’ teaching  took.  Bush was so self-effacing that he hated to use the personal pronoun. “Don’t be talking about yourself,” his mother instructed him.  

Maybe humility and kindness are teammates.  Maybe my failure or refusal to show kindness reflects the pride in my  heart – a sense that I’m better than others and that they deserve to be treated unkindly.  I mean if they didn’t deserve it, I wouldn’t treat them unkindly, would I? At least that’s how we justify our unkindness.  Unkindness and put downs go hand in hand.  

“Kindness” is a spiritual trait.  It is used over and over again in the New Testament:

“But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be the children  of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to the ungrateful and evil” (Luke 6:35).

“…and be kind to one another, tenderhearted…” (Ephesians 4:32).

“clothes yourselves with kindness…” (Colossians 3:12).  

“Love is kind” (1 Corinthians 13:4).

Jesus’ yoke is called “chrestos” (the Greek word for “kind”), in Matthew 11:30:  “For my yoke is easy (kind)…”  It does not chafe. It does not irritate.  No splinters, no callouses from Jesus’ yoke.  

W.E. Vine defines “chrestos” as “mild, pleasant, in contrast to what is harsh, sharp, bitter.”  

Kindness needs to be the calling-card for Christ-followers. 

Kindness, though, crosses all religions.  Kindness knows no race, religion or gender.  

It is universal.  It is internal.  

Christians call this the indwelling of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22).  

Buddhists call this maitri – a kindness to oneself that then leads to a kindness toward others.

Take a close look at rude, unkind people.  What we might see behind their bullying behavior is a deeply insecure person.  People with low self-esteem often hide their own insecurities behind a mask of superiority and meanness. 

Maybe we need to be kinder to ourselves before we are kind to others?  

Meditation helps me do this.  In meditation, I can sense God’s love and kindness to me (In Loving-kindness Jesus Came).

From that place of kindness within my spirit, I can embrace in concentric circles, in ripples of kindness, those that I love dearly and deeply, casual friends, strangers, then finally, I can let that ripple include someone who has hurt me.  

All can be objects of the kindness that resides in the spirit within – in my true self.

It’s Christmas time.  The season of giving and all of that.  If you’re looking for ideas on what to give, here’s one: 

“Kindness is a gift everyone can afford to give.”  

Thank you President Bush 41 for the ripple of kindness.