Sunday, February 23, 2003

Matthew 10:14
And if any one will not receive you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet as you leave that house or town.

How does this verse apply today? When Jesus spoke these words, He had sent the apostles out to preach in His name, well before His death and resurrection. The message they were speaking at the time was completely unknown, at least in the form that the Jews were used to recognizing. In effect, the Apostles would be speaking to entire towns, and as we can see by reading the Gospel accounts, entire towns did reject Jesus. One can consider these words of Jesus Christ as a model for bringing the word to as many people as possible in as quick a time as possible. Jesus knew He didn't have much time and He wanted to get His message spread out as quickly as possible to as many people as possible in as short a time as possible. Therefore it was prudent that the Apostles not dilly dally around trying to get through to people who just didn't want to have any part of it. It is quite possible that with some reasonable discussion over a lengthy process, these sorts of people may have gotten the message, but in the meantime an opportunity for an effective, quick ministry to other people willing to listen would have been lost.

Of course, after the death of Jesus Christ, one would think that as the Apostles set out, that they would have more time to sit down and explain their position in the hopes that they could convince people of Jesus' message and bring them to conversion. However, in Acts 13 we see Paul and Barnabas preaching to Antioch of Pisid'ia. They had preached in the synagogue and during that time Paul presented Christ to the people there. They stayed a week, and then Paul preached the following sabbath. However, at that meeting, Paul and Barnabas were treated with vehement opposition and in verse 51 we see them obeying Christ and shaking the dust off their feet. They didn't give these people much time to change their mind... did they?

So why am I reflecting on these words of Jesus, in particular, today? Good question. This is a verse that I have been struggling with a lot recently, and it has to do with my dealings on particular message boards. I understand that there is a lot of confusion as it pertains to the teachings of the Catholic Church, most of which is the direct result of misinformation spread by people such as Jack Chick, Alexander Hislop, Ian Paisley and Lorraine Boettner, but how long should we spend our time dealing with people who refuse to see information from such people for what it really is... a bunch of lies?

Now, we're not dealing with entire towns, but rather we're dealing with message boards. Also, we're not talking about bringing Jesus Christ to these people because they are already Christians. Is this more of an attempt to rebuke people for the lies they believe about the Catholic Church, and explaining to them patiently the truth about Catholicism and God's plan for salvation through His Church? Such a thing obviously takes considerable time, and Paul in his letters to Timothy outlines an plan of confrontation with such people... a series of approaches which does take time to mature before one considers the proposition pointless. Paul, to Timothy tells Timothy to teach, rebuke and exhort with unfailing patience. Does this mean that we need to never give up on these people before moving on to a possibly more receptive audience? Is it ultimately a decision we need to make by what we feel is the prompting of the Holy Spirit, which may vary from person to person?

There are days when my patience with people who call me a "messenger of satan", "deceived", a "wolf amongst the flock", a "willing pawn" and "hell-bound" runs thin. I've tried a lot lately... and I mean a lot, to keep my temper in check. For the most part it has worked, and I've always tried to give a response worthy of Christ. In some respects it has paid off, and I have received private messages from some people praising me for my efforts. Other private messages have not been so nice, but that is to be expected. However it is frustrating when you are posting in a Christian manner and the replies you receive are not posted in such a manner, and they replies are from people who are very proud of the fact that they are "born again Christians". I realize that perhaps the best approach is to let the chips fall as they may and ignore such people. I hope that there are lurkers who read those posts and see the difference in attitudes and that by weighing the quality of the fruit displayed, that they can see the validity of my message. However I think the moderators of at least one of those forums also know this potential and so unsurprisingly enough, the posts where I wind up presenting the strongest message of Christianity, they seem to be moved to a more remote part of the board, locked or removed entirely. How can one be an effective messenger when his hands are tied at every turn?

Obviously my dilemma needs to be reflected upon with more prayer but I am becoming more and more convinced that providing a presence at certain places is, at least for me, a pointless exercise and my talents for apologetics (if they even exist) might be better spent elsewhere. The problem though is... what is to become of the lurkers then? Have I been effective? Have I sown any good seed for Christ? If I could gauge the quality of such a crop (heck, one good seed alone might be worth the angst of staying) it might change my perception, but is it for God to reveal the potential of the harvest to me or am I to trust in Him without ever knowing?

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