Quite a few years ago, my younger and more naive self, found a prayer by Jim Elliot. It said:
“Father, make of me a crisis man. Bring those I contact to decision. Let me not be a milepost on a single road; make me a fork that men must turn one way or another on facing Christ in me.”
It sounded like such a great thing to pray! It captured my heart. I had had enough irrelevance and been ignored too many times. I wanted to make a difference. So I told God that this was my desire. I made Elliot’s prayer my prayer.
I’m still glad I did but I didn’t realize what I was asking for. I found that this had made me a polarizing presence in people’s lives. Sometimes, I love it. Sometimes, I hate it.
But, that’s who I am. I have discovered about myself that I have become an agitator. I provoke people. Sometimes the only way to help people take their next step toward God is to shock them…challenge them…do something to upset their current pattern of thinking. I’m no big fan of sympathizing with bad thinking. Sometimes, pastors just try to be nice guys and supportive. I don’t do that.
I once told a guy who was trying to rationalize his extra-marital affair that I thought he was the stupidest guy I had ever met. I know. It doesn’t sound Christlike. And it may not be. In that moment, it seemed like the right thing to say. Later, I wondered…
I do think Jesus challenged people. Maybe he even provoked them. But I know myself well enough to know that I’m not always being Jesus. Sometimes, it’s just fun to tweak people.
So, submitted for your consideration: is it possible to be too nice to people? Do we support people in their bad thinking and bad behavior because we don’t want to risk losing a relationship? Can it be Christlike to provoke? Is making people uncomfortable…or even angry…always a bad thing? Have you ever wanted to be a fork in someone’s road rather than a billboard along the way?