Tuesday Morning Devotion (Listening to People We Don’t Like)

1He went out from there and came to his home country, and his disciples followed him. 2And when it was Sabbath, he began to preach in the synagogue, and many were amazed when they heard him. They said, “Where did this guy get these things, and what is this wisdom that has been given to him, and the these miracles that happen through his hands? 3Is this not the carpenter, the son of Mary and the brother of James and Justus and Jude and Simon? Are not his sisters here with us? And they were offended by him. 4And Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own country and among his relatives and in his household.” 5And he wasn’t able to perform any miracles except to place his hands on a few sick people and heal them. 6And he was amazed because of their unbelief. Then he traveled in the surrounding villages teaching. — Mark 6:1-6

We normally teach and preach this passage from the point of view of the prophet. Poor prophet! Can’t get heard in his own country. And it’s true that it’s very difficult for anyone with any expertise to get heard by people who know him well. The people who remember you when you were in the church nursery in diapers have a hard time respecting you as an expert, particularly in spiritual matters. The bigger the claims, in that case, the less likely they are to be accepted. Or so it seems.

But what about the other side, the family, friends, and neighbors who refuse to listen? Yesterday I wrote about listening to God, and asked whether we were ready to listen to God as Abraham did. I asked if we would be willing to do what Abraham did and move out of our homes without knowing where we’re going, just because God has spoken.

Even though that sort of idea tends to scare us, and sounds somewhat like insanity, there’s a certain dignity to it. “I heard God’s voice,” someone says, “And I’m doing just what he said.” It sounds so pious and close to God.

But supposing God wants to speak to you through that child you cared for in the nursery? What’s going to happen then? Will you say, “I knew you when you were in diapers,” and miss the message God has for you? What if God wants to speak to you through a teenager in your church? Will you be so busy remembering all the annoying teen behavior that you can’t hear the message God has for you? What if the messenger is a homeless person who has come to you for help? Will the economic status of the messenger shut your ears?

I think this is critical, because in my experience God is much more likely to tell us something through a person we’re involved with in daily life than he is to speak with a voice from heaven. I’m not talking about the person who puts on a solemn “prophet face” and announces “thus saith the Lord,” followed by a supposedly divine message. Rather, I’m thinking of the person who says something to you and you suddenly know that you really needed to hear that.

Sometimes we’re eagerly waiting for a voice from God, or someone to show up with the proper credentials, such as degrees or the endorsement of anointed leaders, when God has been speaking to us through the normal, subtle channels he prefers, and we just haven’t been listening. Remember that the most thunderous messages of the prophets were reserved not for the especially deserving, but rather for the stubbornly unhearing and disobedient. Elijah was not sent to the 7,000 faithful in Israel, but to Ahab, who rejected God’s voice to the last.

What does God have to do to get your attention?

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