by Stan Mitchell
Here are some signs of the times that probably communicated something that wasn’t intended:
- Spotted in a Safari Park: “Elephants please stay in your car.”
- Notice in a field: “The farmer allows walkers to cross the field for free, but the bull charges.”
- Message on a leaflet: “If you cannot read, this leaflet will tell you how to get lessons.”
- Outside a second hand shop: “We exchange anything — bicycles, washing machines, etc. Why not bring your wife?”
- Outside a disco: “Smarts is the most exclusive disco in town. Everyone welcome!”
Some mixed messages are unintended and humorous. Others are involuntary and a little more unfortunate.
- What message do we send to our children when we speak of the love of God, for instance, and “smoke” our brethren with unkind words and gossip?
- What kind of message do we send visitors to worship when we act as if our time in God’s presence is a matter of little consequence, an event which we are frequently late for, and which we ignore while we chat with our friends?
- What message do we send to the Lord when we seek his help in a crisis, but forget our covenant responsibilities to him in the good times? All of these actions send out a mixed message.
“This people honors me with their lips,” the Lord once declared, “but their heart is far from me” (Matthew 15:8, ESV).
The reason for the mixed message in this case is the gap between expression and intention, words and actions. Bloopers on signs and notices are humorous, but in our Christian walk when our sentiments and lifestyles do not match, it is time for serious self-examination.
What makes this matter so urgent is the fact that we cannot help sending out a message, of one kind or another. Even failing to act sends a message of sorts.
The only solution to a mixed message is a pure heart. Those who are “pure in heart” (Matthew 5:8), whose motives and desires match their words, will send out a consistent message. And they shall “see God.”