Are You Stoning Your Prophets?

 

It’s folly to stone your prophets.

Yet I see it all the time: people (I include myself here) who deal with unwelcome truth by rejecting the truth-teller. The child who denounces his mother for telling him his behavior is unacceptable. The employee who grouses about her boss for giving her a less than sterling review. The wife who harangues her husband for asking her to cease her gossip, or the husband who berates his wife for asking him to be kinder.

You know the beat.

There is some device in us that resists truth and resents those who bring it. The device is very active in my own brain. I can feel my hackles rising, my breath shortening, my jaw clenching, and my mind racing as soon as I see the slightest criticism coming my way. I start thinking up excuses before I even know what I’m excusing.

One of the best disciplines I’m learning is to turn off the device. Or at least ignore it. I’m teaching myself, not just to not resist honest criticism: I’m teaching myself to actively seek it and wholeheartedly welcome it. A question I’m asking people more and more: “Is there anything about me you wish I’d change?”

And then I take a breath.

And then I get an earful.

It’s rarely as bad as I dreaded. It’s always better than I hoped. It’s usually fair and accurate. In the end, it’s always life-giving – which the Bible says is a sign of true rebuke.

So far, I’ve been talking about criticism from people who love you. From those who want your best.

But let me push this even further. What do you do with harsh criticism? With the snipes of the cranky, self-appointed prophet – the accuser in the guise of a prophet? With the attacks of your enemy? With the barbs of the one who wants the worst for you?

Here’s a hard truth: they may be right. The day King David fled Jerusalem at the advance of his son Absolom’s revolt, an old embittered enemy – Shimei – followed him and taunted him all the way. He hurled rocks and dirt at David. He unleashed a brutal litany of curses and accusations.

David’s response? I think God is telling me something here.

God sometimes uses the mouth of an enemy to tell us what we refused to hear from the mouth of a friend. When we stone our prophets, it’s actually grace when God sends a foe to take his place.

Next week. I’ll to write about responding to criticism. But I wonder if you have a story of when God has used a friend, or maybe an enemy, to tell you a hard truth?

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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2 thoughts on “Are You Stoning Your Prophets?

  1. Great article, love it!
    I know from having worked as support to pastors most of my adult life that pastors are prime targets for criticism. It’s not always pleasant for sure. I do admire the way you view criticism and your journey to dealing with it.
    I have several stories of when God used different people to try to speak a particular truth into my life. And yes, because I wouldn’t listen to those who knew me well, God did send an enemy and the message came with loud thunder and lightning and caused major havoc in my life. I’m not going to share the story however because I would have to expose the shortcomings of others and simply put you do not have the time for it.
    Speaking of stoning prophets, just recently I participated in a blog that had to do with people who are seen as dissenters. Sometimes, I think, dissenters and prophets are cut of the same cloth. I think it’s important to identify a person who has received wisdom from the Lord, to speak into our lives, from those who just want to be heard or have the last word.
    Here are two different quotes given from the blog I talked about that clarified for me who I listen to and who I don’t:
    1) “The disgruntled dissenters. These are just angry, bitter, disgruntled people with their own personal agendas. Some of them aren’t mentally stable, being delusional or egomaniacle. They live their whole lives on the fringe, not because of their wisdom or prophetic insight, but because they’re just fringe personalities. These people are easily dismissed because they usually mix their dissent with “bizzaro,” even if they happen to stumble on some things that are based in reality. Think Mel Gibson in Conspiracy Theory.”
    2) “The sober-minded dissenters. These are stable people with good judgment and extraordinary prophetic insight. They have great wisdom that exceeds their peers and they are able to predict outcomes. They may not be gifted in all areas (in fact, they are usually less gifted in many areas). But when it comes to discerning roots and offering solutions, they excel. Because of this, they are often regarded as radicals.”
    This was my response to the article: “Don’t forget though that some dissenters are labeled as disgruntled only because they are a nuisance to those who rank higher. There are times when they do have solutions but are rejected for various reasons; it usually has to do with rank or jealousy. I’ve seen it happen often, sad although to say.”
    This was a further response to me: “The classic response to dismiss a sober-minded dissenter is to say, “This person is bitter, angry, and has their own agenda.” While this description fits disgruntled dissenters, sober-minded dissenters are never bitter or angry and they do not dissent for personal reasons. So in essence they are misrepresented and ignored by those who aren’t interested in hearing their counsel.”
    As a pastor you pretty well know how to discern someone who has a prophetic message (or dissenter) from someone who is pushing their own agenda. I think for each one of us, if we don’t have that ability to discern we would be easily blown away, leave our post and go into seclusion.
    Thanks for the work you do that causes us to think deeper. Your church is lucky to have you. I’m looking forward to your next article on how to respond to criticism.