A couple months ago, I was walking through Grant Park in Chicago and needed to cross Michigan Avenue to head back to my hotel. At the crosswalk I chose, unfortunately, was a guy with a bullhorn. He was railing, and confrontational. He would call out people at the busy intersection and ask them what sins they were committing. As they tried to get away from him, he would yell out, “Where are you going?”, and then loudly accuse them of running off to “fornicate,” shouting as they walked away that they were headed straight to hell.
Driving People Away
Based on a Bible verse or two that he threw into his spiel, he identified as a Christian. What he was doing, he apparently thought, was sharing the love of Jesus. I don’t know. It seemed to me that he was driving almost everyone away (including me), and the one or two people who stopped to engage appeared to be screaming right back at him. Jesus had the opposite effect on people he met, especially those that the religious leaders of his day derisively called “sinners.” They wanted to hang out with him and invite him to their homes, and even hear what he had to say! (Matthew 9:10-12 and John 4:39-41) Not so much the religious people, who were constantly plotting to get rid of Jesus. Anyway, whatever the intentions of this guy in Chicago, trying to “win” people using an approach that drives them away seems unwise, at best, and made me think of Jesus’ words: “Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters” (Luke 11:23).
Longing for a Still, Small Voice
There are a lot of loud voices in our ears, aren’t there? From the Chicago guy, to the talking heads on TV and radio, to people yapping on their cell phones in restaurants, to the guy in the back of the plane that everyone can hear, there is no shortage of people giving their viewpoint with great bombast. It makes me long for a still, small voice.
The prophet Elijah was once quite depressed and running for his life. He had angered King Ahab and his notorious wife Jezebel (yes, the original Jezebel), who vowed that Elijah would be dead by the next day. Hiding in a cave, Elijah got word that the Lord God would be passing by:
The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.” Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave. (1 Kings 19:11-13)
I know how surprising it is that God spoke to him in that quiet voice. We are conditioned by life to think that it is the loudest voice that gets heard, so we naturally expect God to be the loudest of them all. Only God seems to operate differently than we expect, or than some of his self-appointed representatives model. Instead of speaking so loudly that we can’t help but hear, God calls us to listen carefully so that when he does speak, even in a gentle whisper, we won’t miss what he has to say.