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Associate Editorial: Unwilling to Communicate?

“Remove me from your mailing list”

“In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea…” (Matthew 3:1). John had a message and he proclaimed it widely and publicly — “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (v. 2).  Not everyone liked what John had to say, but he was communicating the will of God. Luke tells us that “the Pharisees and lawyers rejected the counsel of God for themselves, not having been baptized by him” (7:30). Experience and history tells us that communication is sometimes a one-way proposition, though it is intended to be an exchange of ideas.

It is said of Jesus: He “went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom…” Matthew 9:35. But He knew that “The Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priest and scribes” (Luke 9:22). The Master Teacher was unable to reach many of His day and they turned a deaf ear to the proclamation of the Good News. They crucified Him even while He was willing to communicate God’s will.

Jesus warned that many would have closed minds. Referring to Isaiah’s assessment of ancient Israel (and its fulfillment in His day), He said: “Hearing you will hear and shall not understand, and seeing you will see and not perceive; for the heart of this people has grown dull. Their ears are hard of hearing and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears…” (Matthew 13:14-15). By failing to listen, they turned away from the truth.

Should We Expect Any Different Treatment?

We should expect no different treatment in our generation when we preach the same message that Jesus and the apostles preached. Jesus warned: “A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. It is enough for a disciple to be like his teacher, and a servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more will they call those of his household?”  (Matthew 10:24-25). But it still comes as a shock that many people have little spiritual interest. In light of the importance of eternity and the sureness of Judgment, each of us should be concerned that we understand what God has communicated. But just as in the parable of the sower, some seed falls by the wayside, some on stony ground, and some among thorns (Luke 8). It is that rare person that is of a “good and honest heart” that listens and meditates on God’s word (Psalms 1).

Controversial Issues

  • John dealt with controversy and was unyielding, even with those in high places. He proclaimed to all Judea that Herod was living in adultery and lost his life in the process.
  • Jesus was no stranger to controversy and dealt forthrightly with the scribes and Pharisees, using great plainness of speech (Matthew 23). He, of course, was crucified.
  • The apostles dealt with issues of their day: Gnosticism, racism, immorality, philosophy and idolatry. They suffered many persecutions and, except for John, were all probably martyred.
  • Early disciples were scattered by persecution, but they “went everywhere, preaching the word” (Acts 8:4).

Should we be any different?

Jesus said, “If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you” (John 15:20). Also, “Woe to you when all men speak well of you…” (Luke 6:26). If Jesus and the apostles were willing to speak out and be heard as they communicated the saving message in the first century, we dare not fail to do the same thing today. Are we equal to the task? Will we preach plainly, boldly, fearlessly what the world needs to hear? Are we “ashamed of the gospel of Christ” (Romans 1:16)?

Sinful Issues of our Day Need Addressing

Our society is becoming more carnal, material and sick. Abortions are a common practice. Divorce and adultery are rampant. Homosexuality is more acceptable. Immodesty is blurring into nudity. Music is nothing if not suggestive (and “country” is no exception). Movies have become gutter filth. TV is still a wasteland. And our streets and homes are filled with violence. Friends, the gospel of Christ addresses these issues and supplies the answers. The “works of the flesh” are contrasted with the “fruit of the Spirit” (Galatians 5:16-24). We must speak to a world that has no direction and help them to  “walk by the Spirit”  and not “fulfill the lust of the flesh.”  These deadly sins must be dealt with forthrightly in order that souls will be set free from sin (John 8:32). Do you hear preachers dealing with these issues today? Are they preaching “smooth things” (Isaiah 30:10) to those who have “itching ears” (2 Timothy 4:3), promoting a “feel good” philosophy instead of penitence? What do you hear from the pulpit where you worship? Is sin identified and cried out against? Has Hell been air-conditioned out of existence by your preacher? When is the last time you heard a sermon that taught that “sin is black and Hell is hot?”

Are Churches of Christ Immune?

Even among churches of Christ, major changes are taking place. We cannot point the finger at others without being honest enough to realize what is taking place among ourselves. Yes, immodesty is strong among Christians today — even in worship services. Yes, members are known to drink alcohol socially and elders look the other way. Adultery is common place and where is John and his sort today who cry out against it? Many churches are filled with those in unlawful marriages and not a word is said. In fact, error on divorce and remarriage is taught plainly and the only ones criticized are those who expose false teachings on divorce (Matthew 19:1-12). New interpretations on basic Bible themes are publicly taught regarding creation and the “big bang” theory and many say, “What difference does it make?” We are told that we must consider that there was no real serpent in Genesis 3, but that Moses borrowed a pagan motif to explain the origin of sin. Is there an outcry of alarm when such a theory is proposed? No more so than when renowned preachers tell us that eternal judgment does not really mean eternal judgment, but that sinners will be annihilated rather than punished forever in Hell. There seems to be an abundant elasticity in fellowship toward those who teach error, but only acrimony and criticism for those who expose error.

Are We Communicating?

With John, Jesus and the apostles, communication was often a one-way street: they preached, but not everyone listened or agreed with what they had to say. I know this is also true today because we get an occasional message to “remove my name from your mailing list”, as a result of the teaching we do in our mail out bulletin at Forest Hills. Of course, we will do so. But what does it cost to read and study? The truth is needed today as much as it ever was and it is available to all who “hunger and thirst after righteousness” (Matthew 5:6).