If the world wants to kill the message, they will kill the messenger. This has happened in governments for centuries. When someone wants in power they will often kill their opponent. Sometimes this is by physical death or by character assassination. If by character assassination, they will ignore their words, and speak lies about them in order to make the masses distrust and hate them. If the masses don’t trust them and/or hates them, no matter what truth proceeds from their mouth, no one will believe them. In other words, they are as good as dead.
When civil right leaders such as Medgar Evans and Martin Luther King rose up against discrimination, they were silenced by assassins. The same could be said about John and Bobby Kennedy to some degree. In the political world of today, political pundits and political opponents will us fallacious propaganda to destroy their opponents.
Upon hearing that Saul and Jonathan were dead, David slew the messenger who brought the news. Of course, the extenuating circumstance on this occasion was that the messenger was an Amelakite who lied, claiming to have slain Saul at Saul’s request. It infuriated David that a pagan had dared to deal so with King Saul, saying, “Why were you not afraid to stretch forth your hand to destroy the Lord’s anointed?” (2 Sam. 1:14). The messenger paid with his life.
When Israel and Judah did evil in the sight of the Lord, God sent to them Jeremiah the prophet. They didn’t like what the messenger of God had to say. Thus, this is what they planned against him: “Then said they, Come and let us devise devices against Jeremiah; for the law shall not perish from the priest, nor counsel from the wise, nor the word from the prophet. Come, and let us smite him with the tongue, and let us not give heed to any of his words” (Jer 18:18).
King Herod likewise cut off the head of John the Baptist since John had boldly opposed the sinful marriage of Herod to Herodias, Philip’s (his brother’s) wife. John stated: “It is not lawful for thee to have her” (Matt. 14:4). Though Herodias and her daughter were implicated in the plot to kill John, the ultimate power was Herod’s and he killed the messenger of God who condemned his sin. Again, killing John did not change the truth that he declared, but he was effectively silenced because of the message he delivered. The messenger paid with his life.
Paul was no stranger to ill-treatment by brethren, raising the question, “Have I become your enemy by telling you the truth?” (Gal. 4:16). He stated that he had been in “perils often,” even among “false brethren” (2 Cor. 11:26). Paul understood the danger of being the bearer of bad news.
Diotrephes threw some out of the church who received John’s letters (3 Jn 9-10). John was exiled (Rev. 1:9). Men like Stephen were stoned to death (Acts 7:58).
The overwhelming iniquity of our age is that of compromise, of doctrinal unity-in-diversity, by which the unforgivable sin is to have conviction and stand opposed to error. It is possible for the voice of gospel preachers to be stilled just as effectively (and politely) as in the days of the institutional apostasy. The “good ole boy” system is still effective by which whispers and innuendoes ruin the reputation of faithful preachers. Brethren are quarantined today by inclusive, unpublished lists which, at the same time, exclude unwanted preachers. Those who raise the voice of opposition are ignored as they appeal to brethren for Bible studies. Careful and studious articles are condemned as “rash,” “shoot from the hip,” “knee-jerk” attacks by the very ones who refuse to meet and study issues. It is considered bad taste at the best and sinful at the worst to call names and identify those who advocate compromise. Some are obliquely labeled as factional because their stand for truth is too open, too plain, too uncompromising.
The tongue can be as effective as a sword in such controversies. Faithful messengers of the Word have had their characters assailed as “brotherhood watchdogs,” “creed makers,” “meddlers in other men’s matters,” and “guardians of truth” so many times that even the innocent and naive are led to believe the lie. Such barbed comments are smilingly pronounced against brethren while they decry the mean spirit of the “name callers” and “busybodies.” Even while those who teach error are militant in their spread of compromise, they berate those who oppose them as “too militant.”
Kill the messenger in the church today? Oh, we are much too polite for that. But this approach is just as deadly, lethal to a fault, and has the advantage of shedding no blood. And, sad to say, it is effective. Those who are guilty can stand in shocked dismay and claim innocence while they continue to spread error and refuse to study.
Stephen told those who were to stone him to death: “Ye stiff necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye. Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? and they have slain them which shewed before of the coming of the Just One; of whom ye have been now the betrayers and murderers: Who have received the law by the disposition of angels, and have not kept it” (Acts 7:51-53). These words will face his murderers at the Judgment.
Herod must still hear the haunting echo of John saying, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.” The splash of the water could not wash away the guilt of Pilate even as he consented to the death of Jesus. Pilate is gone but the gospel remains.
And so will it be in our generation. Character assassination, ignoring the truth, condemning one as factional, or extreme, the message of faithful men is silenced, yet it doesn’t change the truth of the gospel. Doctrinal unity-in-diversity is still compromise no matter if every voice of opposition is stilled. It remains comforting to know, even as Jesus said, “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away” (Matt. 24:35). You may kill the messenger, but you can’t stop the message.