Preacher, Before You Read the Anonymous Letter …
Last week, after ten years in ministry, I received my first anonymous letter. I guess I can be proud that it took at least a decade for someone to send me one. If anyone has posted one before this time, it’s been hidden from me. Nevertheless, what’s rather humorous about the ordeal is that among the mail in which this letter arrived were birthday cards addressed to me since tomorrow, 2/20, is my birthday. When I came to this one letter, my name was mispelled—it’s “Steven” and not “Stephen”—but typed along with my address. There was no return address. This didn’t seem off, but because it was a personal envelope and not one of the mail out envelopes, I quickly concluded something was amiss.
I opened it to find a typed letter at the bottom of which was no signature. I knew immediately what it was. After all, my preaching buddies had mentioned those they’d received. I decided to read the first two lines, and those two lines were enough to tell me that someone had taken a statement I’d made in my sermon the previous Sunday morning, a mole hill, and made it into a mountain. I didn’t read further but skimmed it within two seconds—since grad school taught me how to speed read—and picked up enough verbiage to see that it wasn’t encouraging at all.
At that point, curiosity almost got the better of me, but then I recalled how it killed the proverbial cat. Therefore, I began ripping the letter up into many pieces with the fury of Zeus, and then I threw it away, had some yogurt, and went on my merry way.
Today when I preached, as a part of my sermon, I gingerly made this story known to the nearly 700 people in attendance and those listening via the radio. I also noted that I don’t give anonymous mail the time of day. I told them what I’m telling you. I also encouraged that one not waste their postage, envelope, ink, paper, and time with anonymous mail. Before I stated all this—and if you’re wondering, my elders have not said anything negative about it to me—I spoke about how if you do anything positive for God, you’ll have critics. Jesus had them. I’m Jesus’ servant. Therefore, I can’t expect better treatment than my own Lord.
That aside, I stated that I meet with numerous people who pour out their hearts and tell me what is grieving them. Some are heartbroken because of a loss. Some are trying to hold their marriages together. Others are worried about unfaithful children or some family crisis. In the midst of all that I try to do for others in service to them and Christ, I won’t allow the negativity of someone to pull me down. However, if anyone would ever wish to speak with me, I’m always available. We can have a constructive conversation and usually clear up any misunderstanding that may be my fault. However, I will not give anonymous criticisms, no matter how spot on they may be, the time of day. If a person doesn’t have the courage to come speak to me, their brother in Christ, then we’d both best let it alone.
…so before you read that anonymous letter, don’t!