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The Messenger is the Message
Once a Week
Marshall McLuhan famously said “the medium is the message.” Nowhere is this more true than the heart of our Christian faith, the God-man Jesus Christ. Perhaps we can say of Jesus that the messenger is the medium and the message. As the incarnate Son of God, he mediated the message of God’s kingdom in his very self. “God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son” (Hebrews 1:1, NASB).
The New Testament often calls attention to this pattern of the message through the medium of the messenger. In 1 Thessalonians 2 Paul recounts the manner of ministry employed by him and his co-laborers. He says in verse 8, “we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God, but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us.” Sharing the gospel requires not just the message but also the self of the messenger. Not in the way that an envelope with a $0.58 stamp requires a mail carrier, but more like the medium is also the message in counseling.
Because counseling is a relationship between two or more embodied selves, and because healing and growth are mediated through that relationship, the self of the counselor is the medium and the message. Paul testifies to this in verses 3-7 where he says the message of the gospel requires the medium of persons who are true, pure, honest, desiring to please God rather than man, free of manipulative flattery and self-serving greed. Healing relationships require whole selves, because the messenger is the message.
Quotation from George MacDonald
Vain were the fancy, by treatise, or sermon, or poem, or tale, to persuade a man to forget himself. He cannot if he would. Sooner will he forget the presence of a raging tooth. There is no forgetting of ourselves but in the finding of our deeper, our true self — God's idea of us when He devised us - the Christ in us. Nothing but that self can displace the false, greedy, whining self, of which most of us are so fond and proud. And that self no man can find for himself . . . "but as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God."
The Wounded Healer: Ministry in Contemporary Society, by Henry Nouwen
Whenever I talk to new clients who have had previous counseling, I ask what was helpful and unhelpful. Their remarks, whether positive or negative, almost always focus on what kind of person they perceived the counselor to be. That has convicted me to focus more on who I am - and who I am becoming. How do you share you own self with those you help? How do you care for your own soul so that you have a whole self to share?
Praying for and laboring with you,