When I was in my third year of university, I read the Bible cover to cover in two weeks. This is what caused me, finally, to become Christian. One of the things I noticed immediately was that there were some subtle differences between Paul and Christ that I found objectionable. I have since come to a greater appreciation of Paul, but initially it was very off-putting, especially since so many people seemed to value the Pauline epistles so highly.
Throughout the Pauline epistles, there is the occasional reference to leaving no one cause to complain. One of the underlying threads is that Paul is very concerned with appearance. This is understandable–the Christian faith was small and struggling, oppressed both by the Romans and the Jewish leaders at the time. In all practicality one had to be careful what one said or did, or risk losing one’s life. Yet this valuing of appearance has always stricken me as a sharp contrast with Christ, and the way he lived. For Christ ate with sinners and tax collectors, performed healing on the sabbath and on those who were traditionally unclean, and broke a number of the practices, traditions, and customs left, right and centre. About the only indication we have that Christ was at all concerned with appearance were his constant adjournments to keep some of his miracles secret and to keep his identity as Messiah secret.
Let us turn for a moment to two fictional series. In the Dragonriders of Pern series by Anne McCaffrey there is a wonderful scene that takes place in Dragonsinger between Masterharper Robinton and his apprentice, Menolly. The Harpers are the teachers, arbitrators, mediators, artists, and historians of Pern. They value highly music, and use it to teach, much like the ancient bards of the Middle Ages. At the time of Dragonsigner, the idea of a female Harper is virtually unheard of, remembered only by a few. Menolly is the first in several decades. Robinton is the head of the Harpercraft and is a wise and enlightened man. In a scene early on in her apprenticeship, Menolly states that she doesn’t wish to be a nuisance; Robinton responds that she’s overyoung to appreciate the value of a nuisance. Because Dragonsinger is a young adult book we don’t get much more than that, but the events of the book, and the DRoP series in general, teach us the lesson again and again.
In Harry Potter, the character of Albus Dumbledore is a wise and enlightened Headmaster at Hogwarts, in part because he knows his own weaknesses and frailties well. The average reader may think nothing of Dumbledore’s support of Harry throughout the series; indeed, some may conclude Dumbeldore is actually terrible. But time and again, Dumbledore shows the same tendency as Robinton to recognize the value of a nuisance.
And it doesn’t stop there. In Star Wars, Qui-Gon sees value in Jar Jar Binks; the heroic cast of the original trilogy see value in C-3PO; In Star Trek, people find value in characters like Wesley Crusher and Reginald Barclay–both of whom can definitely be described as nuisances.
What is the value of a nuisance? From Google: “A person, thing, or circumstance causing inconvenience or annoyance”. We as a society are quick to dismiss people or things that cause inconvenience, and we all react poorly to annoyances. Yet I feel we must ask ourselves WHY we are annoyed or inconvenienced. Does our annoyance spring from the fact that the person or thing is causing us to take a good look at ourselves and we don’t like what we see? Is the inconvenience because it challenges an established and unquestioned way of doing things–which might not necessarily be the same as the best way of doing things?
Christ broke traditions, rules, regulations, and norms left, right, and center. And yet he had the capability to point out to the priests and people who questioned him time and again the reason he had done such things—and often the reason is what we, in retrospect, can see is right–even though it was the height of nuisance at the time. Indeed, the fact that Christ wasn’t killed sooner points to the fact that his arguments, while a nuisance, also seemed right to the priests and people at the time. Right enough to refrain from instant death at least.
So, I encourage you all to reflect on how you react to nuisances in your life. Next time you encounter one, ask yourself why you are annoyed or inconvenienced–and whether there is value in the nuisance. And if you are one who is accused of being a nuisance, remember that you are in good company.