This year’s MLK theme is “Good Trouble,” a phrase that civil rights activist John Lewis often used to spur people on in the struggle for justice. John Lewis died this past year, but his words continue to ring out.
We’re not used to hearing the words “good” and “trouble” paired together. But during the civil rights movement there was a good kind of trouble to get into: trouble that pushed back against the evils of racism.
As a little boy, John Lewis asked why black and white people were segregated, but his parents only said, “That’s the way it is, don’t get into trouble.” However, when he got older and heard about some of his heroes getting into trouble, he thought maybe there was such a thing as good trouble. He heard Martin Luther King Jr. preaching on the radio and he heard about Rosa Parks and the bus boycott. Both of them were arrested for bringing trouble to the established systems of racism, but it was a good kind of trouble that John was determined to join.
Soon, John Lewis was in the middle of the movement, participating in marches and sit-ins. He too was arrested—a total of 45 times!
Good trouble didn’t originate with John Lewis, though. Throughout the pages of Scripture, God’s people got themselves in trouble standing up for what was right. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego refused to bow down to Nebuchadnezzar’s statue. Queen Esther put her life on the line for the Jewish people. Peter and John continued to preach the gospel when it was forbidden. Even Jesus was known as a troublemaker.
Throughout church history, Kingdom people have gotten themselves into this kind of trouble: caring for the outcasts, fighting to end slavery, pursuing peace, worshipping in underground churches, translating the Bible, and yes, throwing their support behind the civil rights movement.
The good trouble of the Kingdom is disruptive. It disrupts violence with love, hatred with forgiveness, fear with peace, despair with hope, and death with life.
We hope that this MLK weekend will encourage you to join Dr. King, John Lewis and Rosa Parks in getting into good trouble for the sake of justice.