“Stop touching your face,” my wife scolds me.
I know I’m not supposed to. I know it increases the chances I could get sick. I know it is socially taboo, but I can’t help it.
My face itches. I have a beard. I have dry skin. I have allergies.
When you have an itch, it’s hard not to scratch it.
My face isn’t the only thing that itches, though. My ears do too. My eyes do too. My heart does too.
We all have an itch to hear what we want to hear. Just look at social media. We like, love and share posts which tell us what we want to hear or agree with our personal opinions and values. We tend to hide, block and scroll past those which don’t.
Complicated algorithms on search engines and social media platforms analyze our search patterns and scroll history so that advertisers can give us the images and messages we want to see and hear.
Our phones and Facebook feed our natural narcissism.
The temptation for us as Christians is to look for churches and preachers who do the same. Two thousand years ago, the Apostle Paul warned young Pastor Timothy:
“The time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear” (2 Timothy 4:3).
By nature, we all want to hear the affirmation that who we are and what we think is good and right. Nobody enjoys having their failures and weaknesses pointed out to them. Nobody likes being told they are wrong. We want to hear we are good enough just as we are. We want positive, uplifting messages which reaffirm our personal opinions and values.
We want churches which teach what we believe. And some Christian churches will do just that. They will cater to your personal whims. They will tell you what you want to hear or at least try to avoid what you don’t want to hear. They scratch the narcissistic itch we all have in our hearts and minds.
And just like my itching beard, that’s hard to resist.
Watch out for those who are willing to scratch the itch of your natural narcissism. Don’t look for a church which teaches what you believe. Look for a church which tells you what God says in his Word even when you don’t want to hear it. Seek preachers who openly proclaim the truths of God’s Word even when they are not what our world deems politically correct. Church should make you feel uncomfortable at times. The preacher should make you squirm.
We are sinners who need to see our own weaknesses and failures. Only then can we appreciate God’s amazing grace that saves sinners like us. Only then can we make any meaningful change in our lives.
Sometimes it’s hard to hear what God wants to tell us in his Word. The temptation is to find a church which makes you feel good all the time. The temptation is to look for preachers who never make you squirm. We all have that itch.
But some itches just shouldn’t be scratched.