Summary: Many of us are only a short step from the abuse of other races, of women, or of children. We must listen to our own hearts and must correct this by exposure to others and to the power of Christ.
For the last several Sundays we’ve been doing an exercise in listening to ourselves. We’ve put ourselves into Moses’ life and we’ve listened to what we feel about ourselves. I hope it’s been productive. It certainly has spoken to me. I hope you’ve been able to listen to yourselves under the authority of the Word of God and with the help of the wonderful Biblical character, Moses.
Today we conclude this series trying to listen to ourselves at the deepest of all levels. Today we are going to listen to ourselves at the subconscious level. That means we may hear some things that are not very pretty. We may have to listen to the ugly side of our personalities, the unpleasant and even vicious side. The hymn we’ve been using mentions this, "Down in the human heart, crushed by the tempter, feelings lie buried. ... “ Buried feelings. Some of those buried feelings are tough to confront. But we must. The sermon may be a little painful today.
But I want you to hang in there. I do want to assure you that we will get to some good news. We will hear the gospel. In fact, I can give you a preview of that good news:
Renewal, Christ is all and in all. That’s going to be the good news.
But first, stay with me while we confront some painful things, so that you can experience the new self and the renewal that will come.
We’re going to listen today for abuse. Abusive feelings. We’re going to take a little trip into our hearts and minds and look for the feelings that have the potential to destroy both ourselves and others. Listening for abuse.
Now I can hear your minds clicking off at two different points. There are at least two groups of folks who are right now saying, "Well, I can go back to sleep, because this sermon is not for me. Listening for abuse’? Don’t need it, don’t want it.”
One group is saying, "I don’t need to listen for abuse because I ‘m not abusive. I don’t beat up on anybody, I don’t hate anybody. I don’t need this." To that group I would say, stop and realize the power of the mind. The power of those deep-down hidden feelings is enormous. If you and I harbor any negative feelings toward others, the potential for abuse is still there. If you do not know what is deep down inside, you may think that you don’t hate anybody and would never harm a flea. But in a moment of duress, in a moment where you feel threatened, those negative feelings will come out and become abusive.
I’ve seen it again and again. Push some folks hard enough and the "N" word comes tumbling out. You know which "N" word’? It erupts when you never supposed it was even there. Negative feelings you don’t know you have will erupt into abuse.
In fact, sometimes, even when we think we are being positive instead of negative, we are putting someone down, and we are on the way to abuse. You know the kind of thing I mean? "Hey, that was not such bad good work for a...you fill in the blank: for a woman .. for a teenager.. for a black person, whatever." For a tarheel! Even what sounds like a plus can hide a minus. Abuse. We do need this message. We need this message because even a feeling that diminishes someone else, however subtle it may be now, is just a step on the road toward real hard-core abuse.
There is another group of us who do not think we need this message. They are the folks who are saying, "Oh, look. The pastor is going to be politically correct. He is going to attack the isms you read about in the newspaper every day. He is going to bash racism, which is neat and easy to do in this church. He is going to demonstrate his feminist opinions, which will help him with about two-thirds of the church. He is a PCP, politically correct pastor."
Well, I want to assure that group that what I say this morning has nothing to do with being popular, nothing to do with being trendy. It has everything to do with hearing and obeying God’s word. We must listen to ourselves and hear the judgment of the word of God, and then hear the forgiveness and grace of God. Almost all of us know how to get along in this world. We know what we are supposed to say; we know what we should not do. We know pretty well how to be politically correct. What we do not know is how to listen to and deal with the feelings that lie buried, down in the human heart. Those feelings that can easily become abusive. But the word of God does know how to teach us and how to relieve us.