The Problem with Communication is: You Think it Happened

Why did tens of thousands of people and the majority of first-century Jewish leaders reject Jesus, the promised Messiah, the man written about in the 39 books of the Old Testament? Millions of people living and traveling throughout the Middle East knew the Messiah was to come. Multitudes, both Jews and Gentiles, had access to the Old Testament, and those Scriptures were read every Sabbath in thousands of synagogues and temples. Was it a failure on God’s part to effectively communicate what the Messiah would be like? Did God fail to paint the picture clear enough? Was it incomplete and fuzzy and hardly discernable? Was it so sketchy that people had to guess who was and who was not the Savior of the world?

Deaf Ears

I have this same problem at work. In many and various ways, I have tried to describe to my superiors our office’s plight. We need funds and personnel to implement the new Wilderness and recreation areas Congress just authorized in Utah, and my pleas landed on deaf ears. I wrote memo after memo and hosted meeting after meeting delineating in fine detail our office’s pending doom. And when we talked, they nodded their heads; they actively listened, repeating back to me some of the key points I was making. They gave me their full attention and didn’t fidget, yawn, or text while we were talking. They looked like they were listening, but when it was all over and we said our goodbyes, there were no dollars offered, no increases in staff suggested or even proposed. There were, however, cordial smiles and several thanks for taking the time to meet, but nothing more. Zip.

My question is: did I fail to communicate? Was there more I could have said? Should I have stood on my head and juggled to make a better point? Should I have held my breath like a four-year-old until I got what I wanted? Maybe I should have fasted for a week or two to look appropriately emaciated and pointed out the parallel. How much does a person, or God, have to do to communicate an important point?

Who is to Blame?

Granted, we are in a war, and Satan does not want us to understand what God wants. Granted, Satan tries very hard to occupy our minds with everything except God’s word, so we don’t know it as we should. And Satan does sit on our shoulders (figuratively) suggesting errant explanations for what we read. So, who is to blame? Should we say, “The devil made me do it,” and leave it at that? Consider this Bible promise:

You will find me when you seek me, if you look for me in earnest.

Jeremiah 29:13 (GNT)

Did you catch the “If”? Evidently, it’s conditional, and there needs to be some effort on our part. And it specifies we look–in earnest–that is, with heart or sincerity. It needs to be an honest effort, not half-hearted, and probably with a willingness to change course if persuaded. Could that be the problem with my supervisors? Are they listening with their ears but not with heart and sincerity? Could it be, they don’t really want to know the truth because they are not willing or able to change their course of action. They used their “Stephen Covey active listening skills” to make it appear they were listening because that’s what we are taught in management training, but they were only checking off a box.

Why did the People Reject Jesus?

Could that also be the reason why thousands of people rejected Jesus when he came? They actually did have the correct information; they just didn’t want to be persuaded, but still wanted to look like they were open and honest and respectable members of a just society. Could that be why so many people accept evolution and reject a Biblical creation scenario? Is that why people reject Jesus today? I think it’s one of the reasons, but I would suggest adding two others. First, worldwide, people don’t read the Scriptures for themselves; they let others read it and interpret it for them, so they don’t really know the God of the Bible or what he wants. They only know a few snippets, a few thirty-minute sound-bites taken from sermons heard at Christmas, Easter, and Mother’s Day. Second, because they only see a shallow caricature, which they effectively emulate, they misrepresent God to the world, and the masses don’t want to be what they see portrayed.

Are Christians Known for Their Selflessness?

Are Christians recognized as being more compassionate than secular groups or other religions? Are they known more for their selfless devotion to healing and feeding and housing the outcast than even the low bar set by the government? That’s the God that Jesus revealed. Are they known for their intense love for the oppressed and downtrodden? Are they known more for being gentle, meek, patient, and kind peacemakers or for their political stances and their preference for an eye-for-an-eye international policy? Are they not known more for their retaliation than their sympathy? Did Jesus even have a political stance or did he coin the phrase, “Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and unto God what is God’s”?

I think God has communicated his will to us, but we need to read it for ourselves and do a better job listening.

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