On Receiving News
Our current cultural environment doesn’t seem to be good at giving or receiving news. Many major news outlets seem to cultivate an environment of shock and the willing audience complies with cries of outrage. Going viral for any reason seems to be the goal now; more clicks I suppose. Newsworthiness seems to be defined as whatever is outrageous, sensational, or salaciously violent or sexual.
Of course, this isn’t new. Fleshly creatures have always been drawn to the tantalizing indulgence of the flesh. “Itching ears” is how 2 Timothy 4:3 describes it. In one sense, it’s not the media’s fault, because that’s exactly what many people want to hear.
When the Bible talks about our responses, specifically to the word of God spoken to us, it uses the language of softness or hardness. Consider Hebrews 3:7-15
“Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says, "Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, on the day of testing in the wilderness, where your fathers put me to the test and saw my works for forty years. Therefore I was provoked with that generation, and said, 'They always go astray in their heart; they have not known my ways.' As I swore in my wrath, 'They shall not enter my rest.'" Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called "today," that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end. As it is said, "Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.”
One of the things that I find most interesting in this passage is how the hardness of hearts is related to the timing of the message. “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.” It’s almost as if to say that the tell-tale sign that someone has a hard heart is when they say, “I can’t hear this right now, not today.” Have you ever said that? Have you ever said, “I’ll listen tomorrow, but not today.”? Is it possible that we put off God’s word to us because we are preoccupied with what itches our ears? If so, such a person may have a hard heart.
There’s an urgency and immediacy to the call to hear God’s voice today. And that urgency belongs to knowing God’s word rather than hearing the daily news. We often don’t have that necessary sensitivity to receiving something from God today, and yet how patient God is with us. For forty years he called out to that generation with the message of “today”. How could we be so hard hearted? We are not just hardened against what God is saying to us, we are hardened against his timing. If God were to suddenly and abruptly introduce a change into my life, would I rebel against him by say, “not so fast God, couldn’t you slowly break this news to me?”
One of the marks that we don’t want God’s word and we don’t want his timing is that we complain. This is what the Israelites did in the wilderness. They weren’t content with the manna from heaven and the water from the Rock. They wanted the meat of the past or the milk and honey of the future, but they didn’t want what God had for them today.
This has great implications for our communication with each other in the church. Our first thought when it comes to interacting with one another should be thankfulness that this is the body of Christ God has given me today. We are to receive one another with thanksgiving and contentment without a mournful nostalgia of the good old days or a discontented pining for an idealized future that we don’t have now. This is especially challenging to us because we keep getting new people in our church! While that is something that should excite us, sometimes it unsettles us instead. We sometimes want to stop time and keep everything the way we want it. Our openness to receiving from God what he wants from us applies especially to the people he has brought into our lives. We don’t get to choose our family (and that’s a good thing).
What about the implications for this on all the changes that will take place with our church plant? Sometimes it can seem like things are happening fast. But maybe we are taken aback not by the pace of information, but by the newness of the information. All news that comes to us comes all of a sudden. There is a point in time where we didn’t know the news, and then the next moment we do know it. Please rest assured that the elders of our church do not dictate what is going to happen, only the word of God can do that. We seek to follow God in his ways and his timing. That may mean that you have a legitimate concern and as you raise that with us, we’ll consider it and may have to adjust our methods or our timing. So, don’t be timid in asking questions so that you can receive the news well, whatever those changes may be.
I pray that we have not been trained by our culture of outrage to immediately assume that the change that we see coming down the pipes is bad. Instead, as we walk together, we have the posture of love: “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” (1 Cor. 13:4-7)
You’re not going to get that on the 10:00 news.