Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Sending the Seventy, part 20: Rejecting the Sent-Ones

"The one who listens to you listens to Me, and the one who rejects you rejects Me; and He who rejects Me rejects the One who sent Me."  (Luke 10:16 NASB)  

We read "When you have done it unto the least of these, my brethren, you have done it unto Me" (Matthew 25:40) and we understand that we have served Christ when we have served others. This verse, however, tells us something we may not want to hear. When we "reject" those whom Christ has sent to minister in His name, we reject Him.  We read about rejecting ministers and think to ourselves that we would never do that. "Of course, we do not persecute ministers," we think, but persecution is not exactly that to which Jesus was referring.

Matthew Henry wrote some very hard words that we do well to consider. "And they who despise the faithful ministers of Christ, who, though they do not hate and persecute them, yet think meanly of them, look scornfully upon them, and turn their backs upon their ministry, will be reckoned with as despisers of God and Christ." 

It's all I can do to read that, and yet it rings with truth. When God calls someone to minister in His name, He literally sends them in His name, or in His place. They are His representative. There are some ministers, just as there are some who are not ministers, who will be drawn into sin and live in rebellion. This is not written in reference to them. This is in reference to that sent-one who is a faithful minister. When we reject those faithful ministers, "think meanly of them", scorn them (even "behind their backs") and turn our backs on them, we are rejecting, scorning, and turning our backs on Christ, and on His Father who sent Him. 

The word translated as "reject" is atheteō and means "to reject, to refuse, or to slight." What does this look like in today's world? When we avoid worship service because we do not like the minister's style of preaching, we atheteō him and his ministry, and, according to this verse, we also atheteō Jesus and our Heavenly Father, as well. When we indulge in negative thoughts or complaining about the minister God has sent, we atheteō the minister, Jesus, and our Heavenly Father, as well.Whoa! That sounds harsh, doesn't it? Perhaps so, but Jesus was not just talking to hear Himself talk here. He is serious about His sent-ones, and He expects us to be, as well.  

The sent-ones were not sent to entertain the crowds. They were not sent to tickle their ears. They were sent to tell the good news of Jesus and to heal the sick. The towns to which they were sent were responsible for listening, receiving, and providing. The people to whom these ministers were sent would, ultimately, care for them as they did their own family by welcoming them into their homes, and we do well to take note of their response to the sent-ones. 

Those who minister in the name of Jesus will, of course, give account of the way in which they minister. Ministers are not called to be entertaining, and we should not expect entertainment. They are not called to preach pithy sermons with cute alliteration nor lead worship in the way to which we have become accustomed. They are called to share the Word of God in a clear manner and glorify Christ in whatever they do. Does the music glorify God? Does the preacher's message come straight from the Word of God? If so, then it is our job to respect their efforts.

We who are not ministers will give account of the way we treated those ministers. Did we grumble and complain that the music was not to our liking? Did we refuse to listen to the minister with a "boring" style? Did we reject the sermons because they were too deep or too shallow? Oh, dear ones, I am as guilty as anyone of not respecting the ministers of Christ as I should, but this verse has pierced my heart, bringing conviction and change.

Not long ago, I was in a worship service where the sermon was not organized to my liking and the manner of presentation was less than stellar. It was all I could do to stay in my seat through the entire sermon. Afterwards, someone mentioned a very astute insight the preacher had said and I was shocked. I had not heard anything helpful at all. The fault was not in the minister, but in the listener. 

If we are tempted to reject, think meanly of, and scorn the ministers God has sent, let us first examine our own hearts, then let us pray for His servants to glorify God in all they do, regardless of the skill and finesse with which they do it. Let's be sure we listen to Christ by our response to His sent-ones, and not reject Him.

The link to last night's story, Mamie Invents a New Game, is here.
We often want a "fast food" answer to our prayers when what we need is the "crock pot" solution that allows God to do His work completely, both in us and our situation. If you are weary in waiting for the answer to your prayer, here's something that can help. The Waiting: When the Answer to Your Prayer is Delayed and Your Hope is Goneis available here. Also available in Tupelo at Joyful Creations and Park Place Salon.