Dealing with Mail

By Wayne Jackson

A wise scholar and prolific writer, who received a terrific amount of correspondence even in a by-gone era, once was asked why he did not respond to a certain critic. His reply was to this effect: “I do not draw my bow against every pygmy that squeaks in the forest.” That is a prudent observation and one that every journalist should take to heart.

The Challenger

As soon as one takes up the pen to write (if a rather obsolete image may be employed), he becomes the target for a variety of critics who have nothing better to do with their time than to comb through articles looking for items with which they disagree.

Immediately the “defender of the faith” fires off a hostile missile, usually revealing that he has not invested five minutes worth of genuine study on the subject that is the object of his intense obsession. Rather he merely is a reactionary. Years earlier he formed an opinion relative to the subject at hand, which quickly petrified. Forever since, his mind has been closed on the matter. A man is foolish to utilize valuable time in responding to those of such character.

But the critic generally becomes all the more incensed when he is ignored. He steps up his campaign, hurling messages of contempt. “You can’t answer me, can you?” He “writes you up” in his yellow-rag bulletin, and circulates letters, boasting of how he challenged you, and you refused to respond. Solomon’s advice is so meaningful in such cases. “Answer not a fool according to his folly” (Proverbs 26:4).

Then there are those who fancy themselves as mental wizards. Like the queen of Sheba who tested Solomon with “hard questions,” they delight in framing those “catch” questions, and challenging for answers. If one answers one way, they imagine they’ve “gotcha.” If one responds in another, they still believe they have the upper hand. There is no value at all in playing superficial, semantic games with egotists who are perpetually “high” on their own adrenalin.

The Trivialist

Another category is that of the trivialist. This is the person, for example, who is working on a crossword puzzle and he sends an e-mail asking: “What flower mentioned in the Bible has a girl’s name that begins with the letter ‘S’?”

Or, the Bible question for the week in the local church bulletin is: “What king cut off the thumbs and big toes of his enemy kings?” It never occurs to them to consult a concordance, looking up “thumbs” or “toes.” They much prefer that a busy gospel preacher be their “step-and-fetch-it,” thus providing them with a quickie answer.

The Honest Seeker

On the other hand — very much the other hand — there is the precious soul who devoutly is seeking the truth. Like the man from Ethiopia, he asks: “How can I [understand] unless someone guides me?” (Acts 8:31).

Hardly a day passes but that I do not correspond with several people who are asking honest Bible questions. I may be able to point them to an article on our website. Countless times I have inquired as to their postal address, and have subsequently mailed to them a printed article or a tract.

This is what Christianity is about — teaching, teaching, and more teaching. It is a wonderfully rewarding endeavor when one knows he is helping to save souls, strengthen saints, and is pleasing God.

And, as I noted earlier, this means learning how to ignore the “dogs” and “hogs” (Matthew 7:6) that reveal obvious signs of insincerity. Time is precious; once it is used up, it never can be reclaimed. Thus, one must be wise, “buying up the opportunities” (Ephesians 5:16 ASVfn) while they are available.

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About the Author

Wayne Jackson has written for and edited the Christian Courier since its inception in 1965. He has also written several books on a variety of biblical topics including The Bible and Science, Creation, Evolution, and the Age of the Earth, The Bible on Trial, and a number of commentaries. He lives in Stockton, California with his dear wife, and life-long partner, Betty.