Dear Preacher: Do you really speak for God?
I have a thing or two to say to you.
In church Sunday, the preacher I was listening to was talking about how to listen to a sermon. He was teaching us how to listen to him and apply what he told us. I powerfully resisted the inclination to consider how self-serving such a sermon might be and my heart instead acknowledged that the points he made were valid...and biblical...and wise.
Still, I could not help myself. When he talked about how listening to him was listening to God speaking to us through him, it gave me pause for reflection.
I reflected on how many times I might have said a similar thing...and meant it. I reflected on how natural such a thought once seemed to me. How I might think and say such a thing without much consideration of what I was actually saying.
How many preachers really stop to think about the gravity and enormity of such a claim?
In researching the size of the universe (aka, Googling), I found this interesting scale.
When it comes to how big a statement it is to claim to be the mouthpiece of God, you have to consider: Just how big is God? By how big, I mean how big of a deal; not His size. God is, after all, spirit and hardly seems quantifiable as to dimensions. He is also, we believe, Creator of all that we see and all that we cannot see.
I do not know how big the universe is and neither does anyone else. But, it's big. Wiredscience.com puts the size of the universe into perspective, sort of:
To try imagining how big, place a penny down in front of you. If our sun were the size of that penny, the nearest star, Alpha Centauri, would be 350 miles away. Depending on where you live, that’s very likely in the next state (or possibly country) over.
Attempting to imagine distances larger than this quickly becomes troublesome. At this scale, the Milky Way galaxy would be 7.5 million miles across, or more than 30 times the distance between the Earth and the moon. As you can see, these are rather inhuman dimensions that are almost impossible to really get a sense of.
But that doesn’t mean it’s completely impossible. Astronomers have made observations and simulations that in some way capture the enormity of our cosmos. In this gallery, Wired will look at the size and scale of the universe’s largest, farthest, and most mysterious objects.
We know that, in the grand scheme of things, we have no idea how grand the scheme of things is. Whatever its grandeur, we are—you and I—but a mere speck. Heck, less than a speck. We are to a speck as a speck is to earth, or something of that order.
You see, then, how enormous an undertaking it is for a speck of a speck to purport to speak on behalf of the One that designed and created everything. To claim to know His mind, His will is rather a big deal.
I am not saying the preacher doesn't or cannot know the mind of God. I am just saying most preachers I know never seem to consider how big this thing they do really is. Look, I don't want you speaking my mind. I don't want you presuming to know what I want or think or need or desire. And I am nothing more than you.
Speaking on behalf of anyone that isn't you is a great responsibility, fraught with snares and entrapments. Just ask any presidential press secretary
If you are going to speak for the God of the universe, you ought to at least let the awesome weight of that responsibility wash over your soul. If you do not feel the awe of it, if you do not feel the weight of it, if you do not somehow try to grasp just what it is you do...then, please, don't.
Please do not reduce God to some low-grade level of ignorance just because you undervalue what you do. And please don't use God's name to get YOUR message across. Don't sully the great and holy name of Jesus to further your own agenda or validate your personal beliefs. If what you are saying is to your benefit, then just say so. If it is to prove yourself right or some adversary wrong, then say so. If it is for the purpose of keeping the people over whom you preside in the kind of order you want them, then say so.
That is all just fine. It just isn't real biblical preaching. It isn't responsible. And—tell the truth, now—it isn't God speaking through you.
Please, for the sake of all that is holy, preach responsibly.
By the way, this is not God speaking through me, either. It is me observing what I believe to be the flippant way too many people claim to be God's mouthpiece and calling foul on it. Feel free to disagree.
The comment section below awaits.