If only John would have known the teachings of many pastors today. John the Baptist was too negative. He should have known that the kingdom of heaven has nothing to say about what goes on in the privacy of people's homes and bedrooms. He should have kept his opinions just to his disciples and not publicly taken his criticism before the state authorities. Why did John always have to preach about repentance? Why did John have to speak on a secondary issue like family relationships? Didn't he know that is way too personal?
I work for a ministry that tries to convince the church to be properly involved in the formation of sound public policy affecting families and the protection of religious freedom. FamilyVoice Australia conducts ourselves as a prophetic ministry.
I was invited to speak to a church during two of their Sunday services about our ministry and our efforts toward making abortion unavailable. During the first service I referred to abortion (in the context of all Christians being saved by grace) as mothers choosing to murder their children. Between services their loving pastor pulled me aside saying, "I am not telling you what to say..." Whenever someone tells you that, they are about to tell you what to say. He gently scolded me for being too harsh. He feared that my words would stir up angst and guilt among the people in his congregation who had decided to abort their children. During the second service, he skillfully directed the interview so I wouldn't have the opportunity to repeat my 'mistake'.
Now for fear of having this specific example distract from the larger point I am trying to make, let me say that I understand the importance of bringing love and compassion to both women in crisis pregnancy and women who have aborted their children. I am the proud husband and partner to a loving woman who personally loves these women on a daily basis. She tells me that these women, quite often, tell her and her staff that they are the first ones to put their situation in a positive light and encourage them that, yes, they can do this.
The Christian principle when it comes to teaching and communicating with others is to speak the truth in love. We are to speak the truth in love to those who do not know Jesus in order that they may come to know him. And, we are to speak the truth in love to those who do know Jesus, that we may in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. Truth and love are both necessary when communicating with one another. As Warren Wiersbe once said, "Truth without love is brutality, and love without truth is hypocrisy."
In the kingdom of heaven, pastors and prophets have a hard time getting this balance right from both ends of the spectrum. Pastors are shepherds who just love taking care of the sheep that have been entrusted to them. Prophets are the alarms that shake up the comfort and safety of the flock by trying to tell them the truth of the wolves endangering them from both outside and within the flock. Because of these different roles and perspectives, pastors and prophets don't get along very well. But, they need to work together and see that both are needed for the good of the entire flock.
"See, I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves..." While we need to speak the truth in love, even if we are flawless in holding to this principle, it does not guarantee our comfort or safety. Followers of Jesus are still sent by a King to speak his message to another kingdom that has rejected him. And some see the news that the kingdom of heaven is near as a declaration of war. They will do whatever it takes to propel the invaders of their kingdom.
It is nice to think of a world where everyone regards the message of "the kingdom of heaven is at hand" as good news. Sadly, this is fantasy, it is not reality. Believe me, I hate talking about any kind of rebellion against God, because it is all ugly and not nice. It would be much easier to speak that everyone is doing the right thing and none of us need to change. It would be much easier to not criticise or accept criticism and to brush off bad stuff in this world as necessary evils that is the made up fantasies of people looking to control others.
But Jesus never, ever regards evil or the suffering in this world in this way. To follow Jesus is to follow the whole Jesus and not just the parts of Jesus that make us feel comfortable and safe. To follow Jesus is to stay loyal to our Father and King trusting that he is good and will not forsake his children. Even if that means that others will mock us, despise us and seek to shut his message up by any means necessary.
To follow Jesus is to believe his words about the one whose head was delivered from a daughter at the request of her mother through her compliant father, (Please don't tell me that if women ruled the world, we would have a more peaceful place. Sin is our universal problem, not gender.):
"I tell you, among those born of women there is no one greater than John..."