How Dare They Say Nasty Things About Us!
With this phrase, Glenda Orland summed up how many of us felt last week.
Our natural tendency is to fight back. We recognise injustice when we see it. Should we not attempt to right the injustice?
The answer of course is Yes. But we need to be careful.
In the case of the 7.30 Report our attempts to right the wrong included daily contacts by our long-suffering colleague, Graham Hasler, with the reporter. He reminded her of the facts, of the dangers of taking certain angles, of the injustice of stressing certain points without appropriate balance. I am certain that Graham's work corrected much of the potential for harm. Some of the things that ended up in the report were wrong or just plain silly, but without Graham's perseverance it may have been even worse. Or sillier.
Another way to deal with injustice is to be prepared. We expected this to happen. We have been waiting for it. Many people, especially John Van Klaveren and Denis Green, had been hard at work identifying our areas of weakness and coming up with the facts. Others, including me, practised our answers.
None of this research or practice was designed to cover up faults. It was not designed to be some glib public relations exercise. The media is very good at seeing through artifice.
We just wanted to tell the truth as effectively as possible. If someone wants to show us that a project is bad, we would not be surprised.
However, we think it is proper to point out that failure is an essential part of the development experience. In fact, that it is not failure but a deliberate opportunity to re-assess where the community is going. A chance for learning and adjustment.
And we think it is proper to point out that World Vision has many successes as well as failures. The Valley is only one of the latest and best documented.
Thank you to all who were moved to anger and resentment by what we experienced last week. These were appropriate reactions springing from loyalty and the community spirit that exists at World Vision. I thank God for it.
Jesus told a parable that has been especially instructive to me during this time. Interestingly, the first time I heard the late Stan Mooneyham preach, it was on this parable.
Jesus told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared. The owner's servants came to him and said, 'Sir, didn't you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?' 'An enemy did this,' he replied. The servants asked him, 'Do you want us to go and pull them up?' 'No,' he answered, 'because while you are pulling the weeds, you may root up the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.'” Matthew 13:24-30.
When faced with evil, the Christian has to decide whether to pull up weeds, or grow wheat.
In this parable, Jesus urges us to concentrate on the good. The weeds will get their just deserts in good time.
This is very helpful instruction for how World Vision should deal with unjust media criticism.
Grow more wheat. The Lord of the Harvest will decide between the wheat and the weeds in His time. In the meantime, let's concentrate on growing wheat. That's the way to get a good harvest. People who spend all their time pulling up weeds get a small (but weed-free) harvest.
As far as television is concerned, we have been growing a lot of wheat lately.
Brian Tizzard reporting from Chernobyl; Ian Leslie on the Sudan, and AIDS in Africa; Hinch on Ethiopia; the massive coverage of the 40 Hour Famine.
We can afford to have a few weeds around. Let's not spend too much time pulling them up.
Can You Tell Which are Weeds?
I remember so well one point made by Stan Mooneyham when he preached on this parable.
He said that the weeds mentioned here are not just any old weed. Sometimes the word weeds is translated specifically as darnel. Now darnel is a weed that looks like wheat.
Do you see the danger? If you go around pulling up darnel, you might pull up some wheat by mistake.
In other words, God might have a redemptive plan for the weeds in our lives.
God might be trying to speak to us, even through injustice. In Habakkuk 1:5 God says “Be utterly amazed. For I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe, even if you were told.” The amazing thing here was that God was going to use the enemy to teach Israel a lesson.
God can use these media attacks to prevent World Vision from descending into complacency or arrogance. Our size and our competence can lead us down the wrong path. We need discipline and the occasional reminder that we are not above criticism, nor beyond error.
We need to hear the still small voice of God's reason in the strident shriek of sensationalism.
Thank You Lord for everything. Help us to find Joy in suffering, Truth in persecution, and Love in response. A-men.