Have we got something to say?

We've engaged ourselves in many opportunities, from just a few folk pairings to large memberships. Do we ask God what he would have us do in our families, or these other places? How can we be of use to the Father? What is the Holy Spirit whispering to us? What does our brother Jesus, our King and our redeemer, ask us to do in his name?

Are we called like Jeremiah and John the Baptist?

Dear God. 

Image by Robert Cheaib

Would anyone listen to us?

By John Pearring

Jeremiah 26:11-16, 24
Matthew 14:1-12

The different outcomes for Jeremiah and John the Baptist from today's scripture excerpts deserve review. Their stories do not warm our hearts with lovely settings. We are not encouraged to follow in their paths with promises of treasures and adulation. Quite the opposite. These guys are more pariahs than prophets, constantly poking at somebody. 

What are we to do with such awful treatment of God's worthy prophets? What is the Church giving us in this pairing of martyred voices? Bad news and difficult choices. Few wanted to hear them preach. These were men who spent much of their ministries running for their lives.

The details of Jeremiah and John's personalities don't fit into any public relations list. No PR gal told them to deliver such hard messages. "Here's what you should do and say," came from God. 

Consequently, these fellas sounded more than wacko. They were whole on startling.

Jeremiah's rescue by the royalty and people of Israel in the 26th chapter of Jeremiah is just one of his several escapes from brushes with death. According to Tertullian, a historian from the 1st Century, along with some mingling of New Testament readings, Jeremiah ultimately died at the hands of some rogue countrymen by stoning. He was killed for calling out the sins of Israel's leaders, which he apparently did regularly throughout his life.

John the Baptist was famously killed for calling out Herod's sins. Herod, a Roman king of Israel, became a "practicing" Jew. (We've heard that exact phrase only recently.) Herod tried to refrain from killing John, but the subjects of John's wrath wanted him done in. John had little positive to say about his time's Pharisees, scribes, or political royalty. 

The comparisons in today's scripture are more than fair. Both Jeremiah and John the Baptist preached from outside the temple. Neither was welcome in that holy place. Nobody in power liked either one of them. God communicated to each of them, though. They were dialed into God, and he encouraged them to speak out. Ever obedient, God allowed their enemies to imprison them and end their lives with violence. 

That's not the whole story. We have significant issues to address because of their thorniness and eons of influence.

Jeremiah and John had similar run-ins with the Jewish leadership. That explains God's unique partnership with folks he hand picks for witness and testimony. These two fellas stand out by their physicality — wild-eyed, boisterous, and unflagging fealty to God as the ultimate authority. That last part — unflagging fealty — should give us pause.

While so many prophetic personalities like Jeremiah and John the Baptist seem over-the-top, that's just the viral nature of their ministries. Whether they meant to call so much attention to themselves or not, the factual claims they made about the dangers of ignoring God's authority rings true across all ages of history. 

"Now, therefore, reform your ways and your deeds;
listen to the voice of the LORD your God,
so that the LORD will repent of the evil with which he threatens you."

(Jeremiah 26:13)

The significance of Jeremiah's urgency, repeated in similar entreaties by John the Baptist, is explicitly directed at those holding the reins of a religious nation — the prevailing religious leaders. "Quit your bad example and your outrageous affront at God's authority! Or you'll get what's coming to you."

Can we bring this scriptural cry from these prophets down to our daily life experiences? Sure we can. Let me get my camouflage pants and black eye paint.

Not really. First, consider the daily stuff.

We need to own our transgressions, especially those that influence others in our charge. Bad behavior negatively impacts our families and our friends. Public displays of rude reactions, short tempers, and avoidance of everything from good manners to road rage chip away at the moral fiber of people we don't realize are watching us. Yes, that's all true. And good to remember.

There's another factor of this prophetic martyrdom found in Jeremiah and John the Baptist, which we should consider. It's their agreement with God. They zero in on the pivotal issues they could speak about. These two, and many others chosen by God, are in a position to speak out. 

Where do we have such moments? We find them in the second, special moment opportunities.

We may never get the opportunity to address Congress, chart a large corporation's course, or influence the viralized soapbox of celebrities. We are, however, captains of significant groups of people. We're members of gathered, like-minded folks in all sorts of bodies. We can tick off a dozen groups we frequent — friends, peers, associates, and social or charity organizations. We may or may not have stepped up in those groups. 

We've engaged ourselves in many opportunities, from just a few folk pairings to large memberships. Do we ask God what he would have us do in our families, or these other places? How can we be of use to the Father? What is the Holy Spirit whispering to us? What does our brother Jesus, our King and our redeemer, ask us to do in his name?

Most mature men and women should be trained and experienced in the surface requirements for good manners, proper decorum, and adherence to traffic regulations. We are told to pay attention to those who need our help. That's good and well. But .....

Jeremiah and John the Baptist weren't fashion-conscious men. They didn't fine-tune their reputations or spend hours practicing the Dale Carnegie methods of influencing folks. They looked and sounded like fools without a care for what people thought of them.

We don't have to go that far and wear shocking clothes, then shout across the room at the Lion's Club that God has a message for the guy holding a microphone. "I saw you at Cripple Creek blowing the charity's bank account!" Hopefully, anyway. 

Dear God, not me. Please. Well, only if you need me that badly.

Love goes pretty far without having to go commando. We do need to recognize that God can use us, though. Simply telling those close to us what God has done for us is pretty darn powerful. Start there.

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