I saw a man wearing a tee-shirt with words that said, “Do not disturb. I am disturbed already.” I chuckled to myself. Then I got to thinking about it from a Christian point of view. I wondered, What does it mean to be disturbed? Should Christians try to avoid it? Is it possible that something good could come from it?
The word, “disturb,” is a verb that is defined as (1) “interfere with the normal arrangement or functioning of; (2) cause to feel anxious; (3) interrupt the sleep, relaxation, or privacy of. Synonyms include disorder, mix up, and turn upside down.” (bing.com) That last one caught my eye.
It reminded me of an incident in Acts 17:6 which says, “But when they didn’t find them, they dragged Jason and some other brothers before the city authorities and shouted, ‘These men who have turned the whole world upside down have come here too!'” (Complete Jewish Bible, CJB) Obviously, the city authorities were disturbed to the point that they became violent, threatening the very lives of the Christians dwelling there. How could anything good come from this?
The scene is in the city of Thessalonica. The Apostle Paul, who was in his second missionary journey, along with his partner, Silas, went to the synagogue as was their custom to share the Good News of Christ. For three weeks, they spoke to the Jews “explaining and proving that the Messiah had to suffer and rise again from the dead” (CJB) and that this Jesus is the true Messiah (17:1-3).
A number of persons were won over to Christ. Converts who joined with Paul and Silas included some Jews as well as a number of “God-fearing” Gentiles along with many leading women of the community. These women were probably “the wives of prominent Gentile citizens and governmental officials, as was the case at Antioch of Pisidia,” (Acts 13:50, The Acts of the Apostles, Carter and Earle, 1973, p. 244ff). You can imagine how all of this didn’t sit well with the unbelieving Jews there. It says, they “grew jealous” of Paul and Silas and their success. The Jewish leaders hated the two missionaries for (1) turning fellow Jews against their traditions; and (2) for drawing Gentiles away from any chance they had for proselytizing them to Judaism. (ibid.) So, these Jews incited a mob made up of “some vicious men from the riffraff hanging around in the market square, collected a crowd and started a riot in the city,” (CJB).
Evidently, the opposition had heard a rumor that Paul and Silas were staying at the house of Jason, one of the new converts to Christ. So, the violent mob stormed into his residence, hoping to find the missionaries but to no avail. That brings us to verse 6 and their accusation that “these men [Paul and Silas] who have turned the whole world upside down have come here, too!”
The rendering of “the whole world” is more specifically the whole inhabited Roman world. Anyone who lived outside of the Roman world were considered of no account. They couldn’t stand the idea of these two outsiders coming in and disturbing them with teachings foreign to them. Indeed, they felt their world was turned upside down. But were they justified to use violence and make threats toward the missionaries and their new converts in Thessalonica? Who was disturbing whom, any way? These disturbed Jews were actually trying to disturb the work of the missionaries and prevent the spread of the Good News they were proclaiming.
Moreover, as it is accurately pointed out by Carter and Earle,
These accusers appear to have had an inverted perspective of the world. Actually, it was already upside down, and the missionaries were simply turning it right side up. Men may be so accustomed to inverted circumstances and ways of life that wrong appears right, and right appears to be wrong. Widespread knowledge of the power and effectiveness of the Gospel at this early stage of Christian progress is suggested in these words of accusation. (ibid.) (cp., Isaiah 5:20.)
The Greek meaning for “upside down” means “turn something over, up to down, upset, unsettle.” (Strong’s Concordance) Paul and Silas traveled all around the Roman world disturbing and upsetting many Jews and Gentiles but in a good way. Wherever they and all the church leaders went, they stirred the minds and hearts of others, leading them to salvation through Jesus Christ. The unbelieving world was disturbed because they refused to accept the truth. But those who accepted the Good News of Christ and the Kingdom of God were changed to receive the blessings of faith, fellowship, and hope.
At the same time, those like Paul, Silas, Peter and the rest were constantly disturbing their fellow Christians by reminding them of the commitment to remain loyal followers of Christ. In writing to the church, the Apostle Peter said, “This is now, beloved, the second letter I am writing to you in which I am stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder, that you should remember the words spoken beforehand by the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior spoken by your apostles,” (2 Pet. 3:1-2, New American Standard Bible, NASB). One of the worst things we can do as Christians is become complacent about our beliefs, and take them for granted, to do nothing instead of something, to neglect growing in grace and the knowledge of Christ. The closer we get to the second coming of Christ, the more we need to stay awake and stay sober for the night is coming and time is short. Now is not the time to put out the DO NOT DISTURB sign (1 Thess. 5:4-11; also Rom. 13:11; Ephesians 5:14; 2 Cor. 6:2). We need to be disturbed now and then, provoked to love and good works (Hebrews 10:23-25).
If we, as believers, are not stirred up and disturbed enough to care for a world that is lost in sin, how are we going to be prepared when those opposed to the truth try to discourage us from following Christ? The unbelievers of this world usually respond with jealousy, often like those who attacked the house of Jason. But this is known to happen when people are disturbed. As a result, there will be those who WILL respond positively toward the Good News.
It’s okay to be disturbed if it makes us better Christians and improves the world we’re living in. Many centuries ago, an English navigator and seaman, Sir Francis Drake, traveled the world. The son of a Protestant minister, Sir Francis, came to terms with his own strengths and weaknesses as he tried to live his faith in Christ. On his world-wide voyage in 1577, Drake wrote a prayer in the form of a poem titled, “Disturb Us, Lord.” It speaks well of the way we should look at our own need to be disturbed as we sail on the voyage of life:
Disturb us, Lord, when
We are too well pleased with ourselves,
When our dreams have come true
Because we have dreamed too little,
When we arrived safely
Because we sailed too close to the shore.
Disturb us, Lord, when
With the abundance of things we possess
We have lost our thirst
For the waters of life;
Having fallen in love with life,
We have ceased to dream of eternity
And in our efforts to build a new earth,
We have allowed our vision
Of the new Heaven to dim.
Disturb us, Lord, to dare more boldly,
To venture on wider seas
Where storms will show your mastery;
Where losing sight of land,
We shall find the stars.
We ask You to push back
The horizons of our hopes;
And to push into the future
In strength, courage, hope, and love.
Here is Chris August singing, “The Upside of Down”: http://youtu.be/gCr3hgPgoJI
Good News to YOU!