The Still Small Voice

The Art of Reflection - Listening for Wider Issues

 Chapter Five, Part eight





Hearing ‘beyond’ our traditions

Nobody is big enough to carry a cross and a prejudice

All that God says and does will be in line with His will as it is revealed in Scripture, but our doctrinal upbringing and past experience may have combined to make our understanding of His Word more blinkered and restricted than we realize as a result. In this section we are asking Lord to highlight our limitations, and to take us on beyond them.

It is a sobering thought what might have happened to the Church had Paul not had the courage to stand up to Peter, pleading with the leaders of the Jerusalem Church to embrace God’s call to the wider world at a time when they were reverting too narrowly to their Jewish traditions.[12]
Rising from the dead, ascending into heaven, pouring out the Holy Spirit . . . right until the end Jesus kept surprising His disciples into confronting their prejudices. Left to themselves, they would have repelled the woman with the flow of blood, scattered the milling children, and sent the Great Untouchables – the lepers – packing, to say nothing of withholding the gospel from the Gentile world.

Through the centuries, countless churches and denominations have parroted the argument that certain gifts were ‘for the early Church only.’ Ross Patterson describes how the godly Bishop Ryland rebuked the young William Carey, telling him that if the Lord really did intend to convert the heathen, He would do it without involving us.[13] How grateful we can be that Carey did not allow the bishop’s tirade to squash his missionary heart. Carey’s motto ‘Expect great things from God’ kept him going through the setbacks and obstacles – and his pioneering work in India paved the way for a host of subsequent overseas missions.

In our day, it sounds strange to believe that anyone could equate the ‘Great Commission’ as being ‘for the first disciples only’ – until, that is, we remember all the voices that bear down on us to urge us to desist from any form of missionary endeavor. In the name of tolerance we are exhorted to respect other faiths, even to the point of watering down Jesus’ directive to take the gospel to the ends of the earth. May we be as resistant to these siren calls as William Carey was – and as open to both receive and follow the Lord’s true orders.

For Reflection and Prayer

One of the best ways to pinpoint our prejudices is to ask someone who knows us well to highlight what they have noticed in that respect.

Praise God for those who have the wisdom to challenge our prejudices. But it takes courage all round . . .

Thank You, Lord, that there is no prejudice in Heaven;
You see everything in its true perspective.

Enlarge the scope of our listening, Lord!

Show us any way in which we are permitting fear or prejudice
to hold us back from following Your leading.

May we not restrict and limit ourselves to what we have always understood when in truth there are other and at least equally valid ways of seeing things.

May the Holy Spirit direct our thinking,
rather than our minds leaping to quench Your Spirit’s leading.

In Jesus’ name, Amen