Letters to Which I Cannot Respond

complainI once had a pastor who told me about receiving some anonymous letters. They were letters of complaint. He said, although they were unsigned, he knew exactly who sent them.

I thought it must be quite frustrating to get such correspondence without the opportunity to address the grievances. My guess is, however, those folks weren’t interested in a conversation—just the opportunity to gripe.

Some months later, my pastor was killed in a car accident. Shortly thereafter, I went into full time pastoral ministry. Subsequently, my picture appeared in a denominational newspaper and I promptly received an anonymous letter—a letter of complaint. I’m pretty sure it was from the same folks who had previously written my pastor.

“I decided to publish the letter…”

I was correct about the frustration part. Blind criticism is irritating. Fortunately for me, I was also attending seminary at the time and had been elected co-editor of the student newspaper.

I decided to publish their note as a letter to the editor. Consequently, I was able to answer their gripes in print (although I’m sure they never saw my response). It made me feel a lot better.

That old memory reminds me of the Israelites. They were always complaining to Moses about how Yahweh was shortchanging them. They didn’t like wandering around in the wilderness (can’t say as I blame them). They didn’t like the possibility of starving to death.

Where’s the garlic?!

When the Lord was sending manna every day, they complained they didn’t have meat to eat. They also complained they didn’t have any garlic like back in Egypt. The exact words in the Bible are, “If only we had meat to eat! We remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost—also the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic.” (They actually sound like they had a little Italian blood in them.)

quailOf course, there was one big difference. The Lord knew exactly who was doing the complaining. He sent so much meat (in the form of quail) it made them sick. He also burned some of their encampment. I guess he showed them. I don’t suppose it made him feel much better though.

There’s an obvious lesson in here somewhere. No one likes a complainer—including the Lord, apparently. If you do complain a lot, people stop listening—giving rise to the old saying, “No sense complaining. No one listens anyway.”

How long is God’s fuse?

The Bible is really clear about the Lord having a long fuse. As they say, he is “slow to anger.” We know that, and we seem to take full advantage of it. The problem comes in the second half of that verse. In its entirety it says, “The Lord is slow to anger but great in power; the Lord will not leave the guilty unpunished.”

I’m really not interested in getting part of my house burned down. Nor do I want so much meat in my diet that I get sick of it. So I guess my best recourse is to quit complaining. No one here listens anyway.

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