Shooting the Messenger

One part of discipleship, that is neither pleasant nor enviable, is the task of correcting another Christian brother or sister. Confrontation is always uncomfortable, and we typically choose to avoid it, especially when it comes to those for whom we care.

Even less comfortable is being the one so corrected. When a behavior, pattern, sin or attitude is serious enough to draw even the most loving of rebukes, it can be mortifying and embarrassing, putting strain on a valued relationship or causing hurt where none was intended.

Fr. Steven would probably be quick to remind us that our pride often intercepts messages delivered with the very best of intents, twisting our reception of what may well be the voice of God through a family member, friend, song on the radio, billboard slogan, bumper sticker or even (gasp!) church message marquis.

It is so disappointing to think of how many times I have either missed, ignored or rejected some wisdom from God on the basis of the medium through which it came. As embarrassed as I have been at having had to hear, especially from a friend, that some aspect of my behavior was out of alignment with the will of God – out of character with the person God is/was calling me to be – in looking back, I am dramatically more embarrassed, and even ashamed, at having failed to repent.

The moment we are approached personally and told the bad news that something must change — and generally we’re aware of the problem the moment it’s brought to our attention — we instantly turn to excuses, defensiveness or we dispute the claim. I might suggest that when the message comes from another avenue, we miss it altogether because we do not think of such avenues as having anything to do with God: what does blind coincidence have to do with my gambling, drinking, lying, violent tendencies or internet-browsing habits?

At our worst, we lash out in defiance, knowing with veracity in our hearts that the truth has come out, and, one way or another, our worst choices are laid bare, as if we were hiding them from God at any point anyhow. In our foolishness and, yes pride, we discount the message because of the source. Rather than accepting correction as from one who loves us, we scorn it as if from a detractor, or we assume it to be spurious or merely judgmental.

I believe the voice of conscience is far stronger than we often wish it were, though perhaps some of us have grown selective in our heeding of its direction or deaf to its dictates. Furthermore, if we allowed it, we would find God’s voice to be far more apparent than we thought possible. We should became dot connectors — taking many of the dumb coincidences we throw away as possibly holding some meaning or value. Of course, not everything is meant to be an oracle direct from the Lord, but sometimes events work out in such a way, or words and phrases strike us as poignant, because there is something we ought to learn or take as instruction from God.

On the other hand, let us not fall into superstition, ascribing to divine authority every little circumstance. By praying first that we trust the Holy Spirit to guide us and then weigh those things that resonate within our hearts, we may see whether there is value or whether it might contain a means by which we can grow in holiness.

As I’ve mentioned in the past, I once heard it said, “if you want God to take you seriously, you have to start taking him seriously.” If we want God to hear our prayers, we have to expect that he may answer us in various ways. Wherever we hear him then, we have a duty to listen, regardless of whether we like the message or the messenger.

God is truly Master of all Creation, so we would do well to be willing to hear him speak through various channels. They may include friends, enemies, authors, philosophers and (heaven, help us) even politicians or celebrities. Sometimes, the right words come from the wrong place, or at least the unexpected place. Don’t despise wisdom, no matter where it reveals itself.

David Dunst

Music Director

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