‘So I am sending you to those who are impudent and obstinate children, and you shall say to them, ‘This is what the Lord God says:’ But you shall speak My words to them whether they listen or not, for they are rebellious’ (Ezekiel 2:4,7).
Anyone involved in sidewalk outreach ministry in front of abortion centers will experience the despair and frustration of speaking to people who do not listen and often are antagonistic to the message of the preborn child’s right to life. The anger and frustration can become so discouraging that people will step away from serving God in this way. They cannot overcome the bitterness such obstinate rejection of God’s truth evokes in them.
I would urge us all to resist this mindset. When we focus on frustration or anger, or the fact that people do not listen, it can spread to an entire team. Discouragement and anger is contagious. The opposite is also true: Joy and encouragement of the Lord can infect an entire group!
We are called to be light and salt to the world. Every morning, I start my walk in the pre-dawn hours. It is cold and dark. I am willing to do that so I will have time to pray and be totally alone with God; however, I am EAGER for the first rays of sunlight to escape the horizon. I rejoice as the light begins to dispel the darkness. The change in temperature on those cold mornings as the sun rises is precious.
This is a fitting symbol to what we need to be in our own hearts as we face down the darkness of abortion, and as a catalyst to help our team members. We need to be those warm rays of sun that chase the darkness away.
Easy to say … but HOW?
I think Ezekiel contains the answer to how to manage this seemingly impossible shift in our hearts. Yes, he will face darkness and evil. Yes, they will not listen. Yes, they are rebellious, obstinate, wicked and headed to hell.
God tells him and us: ‘Do not be afraid of them or terrified by them’ (v.9). Ezekiel is not responsible for the people’s response. That is up to God. We are to listen to God and then speak what God has commanded us to speak.
Notice God’s antidote to resentment or discouragement:
- Do not be afraid.
- Be aware that God knows they will NOT listen.
- We may not know the outcome, but that is not our responsibility.
- Our responsibility is to speak anyway, no matter what.
The further admonition
We are to speak. We WILL be held accountable: not for the result, but for the admonition to warn the wicked of the fate that awaits them if they do not turn from their wicked ways. We can do so graciously and lovingly. It is almost always counterproductive to do so in anger, but we are there with a commanded purpose: SPEAK AND WARN.
“When I say to the wicked, ‘You will certainly die,’ and you do not warn him or speak out to warn the wicked from his wicked way so that he may live, that wicked person shall die for wrongdoing, but his blood I will require from your hand” (Ezekiel 3:18)
“However, if you have warned the righteous person that the righteous is not to sin, and he does not sin, he shall certainly live because he took warning; and you have saved yourself” (Ezekiel 3:21).
The outcome may be that the wicked turn from their wicked ways. Most will not. God is pretty clear that our words may have no effect. If they hated and crucified God Himself, how can we expect that we will convince the world better than He did?
Yet, as Jesus was dying on the cross, He did not lament or voice bitter resentment and anger that the sinful world rejected Him. He did not complain to those suffering on the crosses beside Him. He did not bemoan the obstinate mindset of the world to His followers.
He asked the Father to forgive them. He acknowledged their lack of understanding in what they were doing to Him. He cared for the needs of His mother who He knew was suffering the death of her son. He comforted the sinner (the thief on the cross) who repented of his sin and recognized who Jesus was.
This is the attitude I believe we are to emulate.
We are to speak truth, warn the sinner, expect opposition, present the need for repentance and then forgiveness, and show love and compassion. We are to lift others up with encouragement, not wallow in the darkness of what we encounter.
The call to action
Too often I hear others (and myself) sink into discouraging complaints of the hard hearts of those to whom we minister. Some of us resort to name calling. It almost never has the effect of compelling us or others to action. It usually is disheartening to both us and others.
I would encourage us all to instead focus on the incredible beauty and privilege and joy of being called to God to do this work. Speak, and expect miracles. We are not the miracle workers: God is! But He has given us a place on the stage to speak and rejoice that His light is now cast upon the audience through us. To Him alone be the glory and the harvest!