Have you every noticed a tendency within yourself to be skeptical of words coming from strangers, but willing to receive words coming from friends? I have. Im sure you have also. There are undoubtedly some good reasons we trust our friends. There are likely some hard lessons learned that have caused us to not trust the words of every ‘guest speaker’ or new voice we hear.
I don’t want to talk about all the reasons why we may or may not trust people who speak into our lives, but I do want you to consider this question with me. Is this tendency to receive words from ‘familiar speakers’ and dismiss words from ‘guest speakers’ always a virtue? Or, is it possible that this natural tendency is at times leading us astray?
It seems that we often are willing to receive or dismiss words/messages almost entirely on emotional grounds. If we like the person speaking, know the person speaking, or feel comfortable because the person speaking is echoing what we enjoy to hear, then we almost instantly receive those words. On the other hand, if we don’t particularly care for the person speaking, or we don’t particularly care for the words being spoken, we often hastily reject those words. Why is this so? Human nature I suppose.
Luke, the author of Acts, writes about the Apostle Paul’s experience in Berea. The Bereans had a virtuous methodology when listening to their ‘guest speaker’, Paul.
“These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.”
The Bereans measured the words of Paul by the objective standard of truth. They listened to Paul, they payed attention to his content without really knowing him personally, but they measured the weight of his words correctly. How did they measure Paul’s words? They used the Old Testament scriptures, knowing them to be the Word of God, to affirm or deny Paul’s claims. Their acceptance or rejection of Paul’s message wasn’t based upon their preferences or some emotional grounds. They searched the scriptures because they believed the Word of God to be the objective standard of truth that all other truth claims about God need to be measured by.
Let us as New Testament believers recognize our own natural tendency to falsely weigh other people’s words with the wrong scales. Its our tendency to measure the words of the ‘guest speaker’ and of the ‘familiar speaker’ with questions like this: (1) ‘Do these words tell me what I want to hear?’ (2) ‘Did the speaker take the time to get to know me first?’ (3) ‘Do these words sound right to me?’. All three of these examples are wrong because they place self as the arbiter of truth. We are not the arbiters of truth. Truth is not relative. We are Christians, and therefore we believe the Bible to be the objective standard of truth. Truth is able to be observed, learned, measured, and acted upon. The Holy Scriptures, 66 books of the Old and New Testaments, are the “only sufficient, certain, and infallible rule of all saving knowledge, faith, and obedience.” (Baptist Confession of Faith 1689, 1.1)
So then, we should all seek to be a bit more like those Bereans. Let’s rely upon the Holy Scriptures to help us measure the words of all ‘guest speakers’ and ‘familiar speakers’ rightly.