What do you do when the mailman delivers a letter to you that you do not like? Let's say he brings you a large bill for an unpaid debt. Do you attack him verbally or physically? Do you hurl insults at him or incite your dog to bite him? No, of course not. That would be inappropriate behavior, as well as illogical. He is not to blame for any mail you might receive that would upset you. It is understood by all that he is not the originator of the mail, he is merely the deliverer of it. When he faithfully delivers your mail, he should be thanked for doing his job properly, regardless of the content of the mail he brings.
Alright Stephen, I'm with you so far, but what's this have to do with the Bible or Christian living? Simply this: there are some parallels that I want to explore between mailmen and gospel preachers (i.e., spiritual "mailmen," if you will). Unfortunately, it would seem that humans do not often treat spiritual "mailmen" with the consistency they do a physical one. When a faithful gospel preacher delivers a stinging message from God's word that is not well received by some of the listeners, what is the response? Sadly, the response is often a verbal attack upon the preacher (either directly or indirectly). The listeners should be asking themselves: "Was the message we heard truth?" If so, then the one delivering that truth should not be attacked. When a mailman faithfully delivers what he is supposed to, he should be supported, not attacked. We understand this simple principle physically, but do we uphold it spiritually?
Although it is true that the truth must be preached in love (Eph. 4:15), some will reject the truth and become enraged no matter how kindly and tactfully it is presented. When people complain after a sermon, "I just didn't like the way he presented that" or "He did not say it just right to suit me" or some other pride-filled excuse, such does not change the truth of the message which was preached! Even if your mailman is not as graceful as you'd like him to be or if he takes longer to deliver your mail than you think he should, such does not change the fact that he still did his duty and delivered your mail. You have no right to complain--physically or spiritually (cf. Phil. 2:14).
However, people do complain and are often dissatisfied with their spiritual "mailman." Why? Unfortunately, a fundamental reason for this displeasure would seem to center upon the fact that humans generally do not like to be corrected or rebuked. It is much easier to become angry or frustrated with the messenger than it is to consider his message openly and sincerely look into one's life with a willingness to make changes and improve.
The writer of Proverbs addressed this theme in 9:7-10 - "He who corrects a scoffer gets shame for himself, and he who rebukes a wicked man only harms himself. Do not correct a scoffer, lest he hate you; rebuke a wise man, and he will love you. Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser; teach a just man, and he will increase in learning. The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding." Those who fear God possess the proper foundation for wisdom, and they will receive instruction and correction gladly from faithful "mailmen." However, the same "mailmen" will be despised by the fools who hate correction or rebuke. Thus, a gospel preacher who is true to the Lord will be both loved and hated for his role as a messenger. Such is how it has always been and how it will continue to be. Preachers would do well to regularly remember the following words from Jesus - "Woe to you when all men speak well of you..." (Luke 6:26).
For a good example of a spiritual mailman, consider the actions of Nathan the prophet toward King David in II Samuel 12. David sinned grievously when he had sex with another man's wife and then had him murdered to cover up the pregnancy. David believed he had successfully covered up the mess when Nathan, a prophet of God, delivered a message to the contrary. David did not try to justify himself after the spiritual "mailman" labeled him as guilty. David repented. He did not blame the prophet Nathan for his sins or Bathsheba or anyone else. He could have easily done that (as Adam and Eve did in the garden - Gen. 3:12,13). In fact, David had the power to have this spiritual "mailman" put to death. But, that was not the course of action David selected. He faced up to his own past before God and repented. Nathan, being faithful to God and his calling as a "mailman" or prophet, delivered the needed message, as opposed to the convenient message. This is a lesson that all preachers must learn.
In our community today, it is understood that a mailman does not have a choice about which letters to deliver. He must deliver them all, including ours, and we hold him to that! He delivers the positive letters of encouragement from our friends as well as the bills and credit card statements. We may not like receiving the latter, but it is important that they get delivered so we can pay off our debts. Can you imagine what would happen if the mailman only delivered pleasant correspondences to us? It might seem like a blessing at first, but soon our credit would be ruined for failure on our part to pay our debts! The mailman would not be doing us a favor by only delivering the "positive" pieces of mail.
In the spiritual realm, this same principle accounts for the reason why the apostle Paul told the Ephesian elders that he had "kept back nothing that was helpful" in his public preaching and private teaching (Acts 20:20). Yes, Paul was a faithful "mailman." He did his job by preaching the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27)--not just the portions of God's will that were easy to listen to and deliver. A preacher who only delivers positive messages of exhortation from God's word is not doing his job faithfully! On the other hand, a preacher who only delivers negative messages of rebuke from God's word is also not doing his job faithfully! "Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and teaching" (II Tim. 4:2). There is a time for exhortation and a time for rebuke. There is a time to receive a letter from a friend and a time to receive utility bills. They all must get delivered--the positive and the negative alike! A faithful mailman--either physically or spiritually--delivers everything he is supposed to. He doesn't filter your mail for you and just give you what he thinks you might want. He delivers it all--even things you might not be interested in or might perceive to be worthless or offensive. A mailman is really just a messenger. He doesn't make judgments about the message he is bearing, he just delivers it day after day when it is convenient and when it is inconvenient.
Do you think you'd enjoy delivering mail from house to house when it's a warm spring day with a gentle breeze? But what about when an aggressive dog sinks it teeth into your leg--still want to be a mailman then? How about when it rains hard all day or after a foot of snow has fallen the night before? Delivering the mail might not be so much fun then, but a faithful mailman gets the job done whether the task before him is easy or difficult. Spiritually, preachers must do the same. Standing before a congregation that is united and receptive is a great blessing and a joy for spiritual "mailmen." However, sometimes there is conflict and bitterness within a congregation and delivering God's message in those cases can be difficult and even unpleasant. Nevertheless, a faithful mailman gets the job done to the best of his ability, remembering that he is a servant of the Lord and that his duty is not to please his listeners (cf. Gal. 1:10).
A faithful mailman is, quite simply, a faithful messenger. Faithful messengers should be supported because the task before them is not easy. They should be encouraged to continue on in their important work and not grow weary in well doing (Gal. 6:9). Those who benefit from the labor of a faithful messenger should share in all good things with him (Gal. 6:6). Unfortunately, it is sometimes the case that faithful spiritual "mailmen" are not treated or received as they should be. Take John the baptizer for example (cf. Matt. 14). He delivered the message of God to King Herod and ultimately lost his life as a consequence. Herod responded to his spiritual mail in a foolish, irrational way, and sadly, some seem to respond in similar fashion today. Friends, don't deny the truth or fight against it. Don't attack your local mailman if he is faithful in his work--even when he does step on your toes. Determine to repent when the word of God calls you to do such. To fight against the message of truth is to struggle against the Lord--and that's a battle you will never win!
However, if a spiritual "mailman" is not faithful in his work, then he should be rebuked and exhorted to repent and fulfill his duty. Paul spoke of certain preachers in his day who preached Christ from "envy and strife...from selfish ambition, not sincerely..." (Phil. 1:15,16). Tragically, there are spiritual "mailmen" today who still fit that description.
Dear listeners, let us resolve to always receive the spiritual mail of the gospel of Christ maturely like adults, rather than receiving it irresponsibly like rebellious children. Let us all determine to support our local "mailman"--if he is a faithful messenger for the Lord.
Thank you for listening, and may the Lord bless you as you strive to do His will.