I am amazed how easy it is for some people to believe the Gospel is supposed to remain within the calm halls of a church campus never daring to venture out and impact the institutions of culture. As a result, a sanitized and domesticated version of the Gospel has been created. When that faulty version is challenged, a variety of accusations are tossed at those who propose such an uncomfortable possibility.
When the Prince of Peace steps into the chaos created by an unrighteous culture and begins to bring people to Himself, it does not always produce a tender and welcoming response. A short stroll through the interactions of the Early Church in the culture of their day reveals a very different version of Christianity than the overly compliant and subdued version of our faith that seems to have overcome certain sections of the Church in America.
When Jesus was taken before Pilate the Roman governor and accused of leading people astray from the current conformed mindset of the day, His accusers said “But he is causing riots by his teaching wherever he goes—all over Judea, from Galilee to Jerusalem! “ (Luke 23:5).
When Paul and Silas preached in Thessalonica the text reveals “But some of the Jews were jealous, so they gathered some troublemakers from the marketplace to form a mob and start a riot” (Acts 17:5). This mob even invaded the home of Jason and dragged him out taking him before the city council to discover the whereabouts of Paul and Silas. Once before the city council, the accusers said, “Paul and Silas have caused trouble all over the world,” they shouted, “and now they are here disturbing our city, too” (vs. 6).
In Ephesus, Paul’s preaching disrupted the worship of false gods by leading people to Christ. This evangelism created financial jeopardy in the business community because people were no longer buying the idols crafted by the silversmiths who represented the demonic deity Artemis. Those whose financial interests were put in jeopardy from the preaching of the Gospel made an impassioned plea to the crowds and as a result, “Soon the whole city was filled with confusion” (Acts 19:29).
When Paul preached in Jerusalem an accusation was made against him, “This is the man who preaches against our people everywhere and tells everybody to disobey the Jewish laws” (Acts 21:28). The text goes on to say “The whole city was rocked by these accusations, and a great riot followed” (vs. 30).
To believe and preach a message that promises tame and subdued outcomes is not the historic Gospel message. What makes the Gospel so disruptive and dangerous to the social and religious status quo is its ability to touch the hearts of individuals. These new converts work within the spheres of influence in a nation. When these newly redeemed individuals return to work after encountering Jesus Christ and possess a new and opposing worldview, they will begin to influence the sphere of their particular influence upsetting the dominant worldview that controls that sphere. We have a name for this kind of disruptive change. It is called reformation. Whenever the Gospel is preached and lives are changed, society will be influenced.
The Gospel does not always create or promise social order. It creates righteous chaos when the Kingdom of Light begins to displace the influence of the Kingdom of Darkness. To be shocked at such consideration should motivate us all to return to Scripture and regain our biblical moorings regarding the influence of the Gospel in the marketplace of society.