Somewhere in the massive sea of N.T. Wright writings, Wright said, “Wherever St. Paul went there was a riot. Wherever I go, they serve tea.”
I remember coming across that line in one of his books a few years ago and thinking it was a great quote. According to my recollection, he was quoting someone else (from Oxford, I believe). But when I searched for the quote on-line, I found it credited to Wright. Either way, he is the one to make it famous.
A couple of years ago, I found a great little book, an exposition of the book of Acts, called How To Start a Riot by Jonathan Storment. I highly recommend this easy-to-read book! And it seems that Storment found the same quote by N.T. Wright and then used it as the basis for his title and subsequent lens with which to examine the Acts of the Apostles.
I have never been part of a riot, nor do I really want to be. But, my ministry often – and I mean often – finds conflict with others in the field and in business. I am frequently worried that I come off as some kook – a crank, a hard case, someone who is impossible to get along with. And there is no doubt, I am a stickler for challenging the status quo with the Word of God. I am sure I am not the easiest person to get along with, but I sincerely want to be true to Jesus, and I think the church should be also.
Storment’s great little book, and Wright’s fun little quote, both validate me, I think. I am gonna stick to my calling. Prophets aren’t normally welcomed openly. They tend to get under the skin and down in your little business where they were not invited. That makes for conflict. But they speak for God in those dark places in your heart. And there are a lot of dark places going unacknowledged.
The flip side of this is… I am willing to be challenged. Come to the table with an open Bible and let’s talk. I am not infallible. But I have no desire to listen to your worldly wisdom, I want to hear from God. So often I hear back all kinds of interesting stuff – even had one Ph.D. church leader respond quoting Diogenes to me, but he failed to quote anything from Jesus. We might still disagree about a passage; that is possible. If so, I will respect a sincere presentation. But way too often I keep bringing Jesus to bear in these conflicts, and when he is not heeded, I tend to get ignored or shunned.
One more thing… Let me also declare: I seek harmony. But I stipulate that our harmony then harmonize with Jesus too. Otherwise, what’s the point?
I am not just a crank. Not at all. Like so many prophets before me, I LOVE Jesus, and I think that means changes in what God’s people to do and be more than they comfortably imagine.