I hear voices that tell me what to do and what to think. I hear them coming from the TV, the radio, the internet, books, magazines, teachers, colleagues, friends and family – and even my church. And these voices are hardly in agreement. They pull me every-which-way and rip me up in pieces.
I want more than anything to hear the voice of God – to trust what he tells me to do and think. And the purest way (theoretically) is for his voice to manifest in my ear while my heart trusts that it actually is him and not JUST my imagination. I have rarely, if ever, experienced that (or anything close to it).
Second to that ideal, it seems, would be the Bible – the Word of God.
But hold on. The impurities of all the other hearings of God’s voice that I might perceive pretty much are constituted in the media by which I hear it. The TV, radio, internet… friends and family. All of these have been my teachers at some points. All of these resources have contributed to and/or distorted the way I hear God’s voice and trust him – and they are the very voices that tear (schizo) me apart.
But at least the Bible has a remarkable track record of consistency. Despite issues of canonization (what books are included/excluded), textual variants (errors in ancient copies), and a few other concerns, the Bible puts us in almost direct touch with the writer (or better yet – the Inspirer). If we let the Bible be authoritative over us and submit ourselves to the voice therein, we are in a much better place to do and think what God says and trust him with our lives even where some bits don’t readily make sense to us.
It’s an ideal, I know. Lot’s of room for variance of opinion still, even on important and delicate matters. But the moment we abandon the ideal, we are left with the chaos of Schizophrenia! No?
Even so, there are those voices, and yet I too venture into the echo chamber adding my voice to the cacophony. I do so largely through this blog. I dare to speak for God! That is a prophet’s raison deter. And prophets are called by God to do this work even in the Bible, which suggests that even the Word of God tells us that his voice is heard in the cacophony!
And I really struggle with this. I want to be heard! I believe that I have a message from the master! It is an urgent message for his people! It is a word of love, a word of warning, a word with a cutting edge and a pointing finger. The finger points to guilt on the one hand, but in the direction of correction on the other. And it suffers indifference from hard hearts, stiff necks, and closed ears on the one hand and drowning in the cacophony on the other.
I find myself somewhere between “conservative” and “liberal” on a lot of meters. I find myself somewhere between soft and loud on others. But I don’t see myself, or this message with which I have been entrusted, as free floating on an apocalyptic sea of chaos somewhere between shores. Instead, I see it asleep on a cushion in the belly of the boat while all the sailors are fighting the winds and waves!
And so it seems even my voices hear schizophrenic voices.
On the right of me, I hear one deeply devout and careful blogger (and a number of church friends) preach the love and gentleness of Jesus. This love and gentleness (an invitational approach) goes to extraordinary lengths to avoid offending anyone, lest the message get lost in the offense. The only demand, it seems, is not to demand anything! But in today’s world of political correctness, which seems to have become a pacifist’s blade that replaces yesterday’s politeness, it seems Jesus does not even amount to a speed bump on the road to destruction.
On the left of me, I find more than a few bloggers of deeply devout conviction who preach blistering, scathing reviews of Evangelical pop-religion (and the politics that go with it). The message there has all the heat of the hell-fire-and-brimstone sermons of yester-year with none of the commitments and little of the content of those old fashioned sermons. A real Give-me-Jesus-keep-your-backward-ass-politics message. It’s all demand with no invitation.
Which voice has the True Jesus? Is my addition to the cacophony somewhere in between or somewhere completely off the Spectrum? We could place Pastor Phelps out there between… No? But he certainly would not have me! Nor do I resonate with him, except I appreciate his tenacity.
Didn’t Jesus make demands? Didn’t Jesus get shrill sometimes? But then again, didn’t Jesus carry lambs on his shoulders back to the fold after leaving the 99 in search of just one that was lost? Was he not both on different occasions?
But then that raises the question: Was Jesus schizophrenic? Was his message?
The daily prayer of the Jews, dating back to the Hebrews of old, is the Shema – “Hear O Israel! YHWH our God is One!” (Duet. 6:4).
I am clear about this: God is One. To be with him is to find harmony with him. The humility of the invitation on the one hand and the humility of submitting to the demands he makes on the other are the only way of harmony with him. A crucified King of kings both inviting you to love the impossible and taking the punishment for not submitting while placing a demand to follow only him as the way, the truth, and the life requires a humility down at everyone’s core.
Jim Morrison (one of the voices in the cacophony) said, “No one here gets out alive”. Bob Dylan (another voice in the cacophony) said, “Those not busy being born are busy dying”. You have heard it said… but I tell you, you cannot hear, obey, or join the voice of God without humility. You cannot really live with out humility.
I speak particularly to believers. Non-believers are welcome to listen in – and hopefully find conviction. But only the humble will hear the voice of God. If you can’t humble yourself to hear it, then one day you will find yourself humbled by his wrath. Woe to those who think they can wield his wrath casually! Woe to those who give up their spine to the wrath of lesser principalities and political correctnesses. Both approaches have my sympathy at various points, and I share some characteristics of each. But in listening to both among the cacophony, I am sent back to the Word of God to humbly examine myself, and I urge others to do the same.
Otherwise, you will be ripped apart by the voices.