I was one of those kids. From junior high school through most of college, you really couldn’t tell me anything. I relied on my intelligence to get me through most spots. When my intelligence wasn’t enough, I went on the attack, figuring that the best defense was a good offense. Very, very few people got through to me during those years. There were destructive things going on in my life behind the scenes where most people couldn’t see. Things only a handful of folks really knew about. I was hurting and hurting bad. But I had learned from past experiences that when you show weakness, you open yourself to attack. So I didn’t open up. I didn’t care to share what was tearing me apart inside. I wasn’t going to expose myself and get ripped apart by someone else I should have been able to trust. That had already happened way too often. Therefore, if you did come with good advice, I wasn’t going to show that I knew it, even if I did. That, in and of itself, would be showing weakness and leaving myself open to attack. Needless to say, I wasn’t a very nice person to be around and I was nearly impossible to be a friend to. But I was always listening. You just couldn’t tell.
If we think we aren’t getting through to somebody, if we think your words are falling on deaf ears, that might be true. But it also might be the case that they are listening, but they are like I was: hurting and not wanting to get hurt more, refusing to show any sign that the message is getting through. Therefore, we should still continue to reach out. Even if the former case is true, they aren’t listening, we still have an obligation as Christians to reach out. This is an act of love. And God expects us to reach out, even if the audience isn’t receptive.
Then He said to me, “Son of man, go to the house of Israel and speak with My words to them. For you are not being sent to a people of unintelligible speech or difficult language, but to the house of Israel, nor to many peoples of unintelligible speech or difficult language, whose words you cannot understand. But I have sent you to them who should listen to you; yet the house of Israel will not be willing to listen to you, since they are not willing to listen to Me. Surely the whole house of Israel is stubborn and obstinate. – Ezekiel 3:4-7, NASB
God had told Ezekiel to go and be a prophet to his people. But God warned Ezekiel that the house of Israel, those in exile, wouldn’t listen. God described them as stubborn and obstinate. And despite the fact that Ezekiel’s words would meet with so little success, God told him to go anyway. If that wasn’t clear enough, God reiterated His command:
Moreover, He said to me, “Son of man, take into your heart all My words which I will speak to you and listen closely. Go to the exiles, to the sons of your people, and speak to them and tell them, whether they listen or not, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD.'” – Ezekiel 3:10-11, NASB
We cannot control whether or not a person will listen. We can only control whether or not we deliver the message. If we don’t deliver the message, there is no chance for the words to do any good. The person doesn’t hear them and can’t respond to them. Therefore, out of love, we must reach out. We must seek to counsel, to advise, to encourage, to support. Sometimes it means we get through to folks. Sometimes it means we don’t. Sometimes it means they ignore us. Sometimes it means they respond back. And that response isn’t always positive, especially if we are trying to gently confront them on an issue in their lives. But still, we must try. After all, Paul wrote a little something about love that went like this:
Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. – 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, NASB
See that “patient” and that “bears all things” and “endures all things” in that passage of verses? Those are key pieces we are quick to quote but just as quick to forget. Sometimes love means sticking by someone who seems impossible to love. I have a handful of friends who stuck by me during that very dark period of my life. I am thankful for them, because I did listen to them. And eventually, as God shone His light upon me, I began to climb out of the darkness that was my life. These friends were examples of patience and they endured me and they bore some of my burdens upon their shoulders through prayer and attempts to reach out to me. Some even tried to intervene in the situations in my life which were so destructive. I am here today because of a God who loves me and rescued me and because of the friends He sent my way to keep me alive during those tough times. And that’s why we can’t give up. When our message seems to fall on deaf ears, we must persevere. We may be the lifeline God has sent to someone who desperately needs our love. Don’t give up. Rather, keep loving. Keep praying. And keep reaching out. It may make an eternal difference.