Shoot the Messenger
written by Rev Gary Heard

Shooting the Messenger is a time-honoured tradition, arguably one of the earliest sports known to humanity. When the news is bad, it is much easier to blame the person delivering the message than to grapple with its reality and the consequences. Whereas in more primitive times the messenger could expect to be run through with a spear, in more modern times we have refined the method of attack and execution. Messengers today can be accused of being “un-Australian”, “anti-American”, on the side of terrorists, anti-intellectual, emotional… all in an effort to avoid dealing the truth of what is spoken.

But we need to be honest: every one has a penchant for participating in this sport… and it is much easier to identify when someone adopts this tactic in response to a view with which we agree: it is easier to pick the speck out of the eye of another, even when there are logs in our own. We have our own sharp-pointed labels by which we seek to destroy the value of any confronting comment or insight. And such labels are dependent on our own viewpoint: “liberal” can be as bad as “fundamentalist”, depending on the circles in which you move.

A messenger is safe if the message bears no threat. When we find ourselves rising up in anger, instinctively we reach for the gun: “how can I destroy this person’s credibility?” And if we find ourselves having pigeon-holed someone to the point where we are prepared to disregard anything they say, a reality check is in order. Too often have people disregarded the voice of God because it came from an unexpected place. And while we do well to consider the character of a person when we are weighing their contribution, we also affirm that God often chooses the most unexpected source for speaking His word. At a time when the priests were regarded as corrupt, God chose Isaiah to speak. When a word to the northern tribes of Israel was in order, God chose Amos from the southern tribes. At different and various times the voice of God has come from the mouths of those we might regard as enemies of his cause.

When I read in Luke 20 that the response of the Scribes and Pharisees to one of Jesus’ message was that “they wanted to lay hands on him at that very hour,” I pause to ask if there is a message I need to hear from someone whom I would instinctively disregard?

May 9, 2004
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