Vicarious Conviction

There are people in the church who seem to be addicted to a form of vicarious conviction.  Actually, I should say, two forms of vicarious conviction.

The first kind is where the preacher exhibits aggressive commitment to biblical truth.  You probably know people, as I do, who are very vehement and aggressive and indignant and passionate . . . in private.  That is, they will express themselves in the strongest terms about the quality of the food,  but only until the waiter arrives, then they speak like a hesitant mouse.  Or they are bordering on vitriolic in their complaints about somebody’s behavior, until that person arrives and they go very quiet and “disaffected nice.”  I wonder if this is the kind of person that gets so stirred up by watching somebody express biblical truth in the most belligerent tones possible and affirms that kind of preaching (irrespective of whether the preaching was actually biblically or situationally appropriate or not).  They love to see someone else expressing publically the kind of conviction they can only muster in private conversation.

The second kind is where the preacher pins the congregation up against the wall and beats them.  Strangely some people seem oddly untouched by this, as if all the conviction is really directed at everyone else.  The self-justifying person is untouched by the tirade, but they are so gratified to know that everyone else is getting what they need to hear.  It is sort of a vicarious conviction where the self-justifying listener is thrilled to think that others are hearing something so challenging.  They love to think others are being rebuked, blind to their own shortcomings, and tone deaf to the grace that is inherent in a gospel coming from the God of the Bible (or lacking in the tirade from the front).

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One thought on “Vicarious Conviction

  1. Reminds me of a story (an illustration, if you will): The pastor would preach and this one man would always say to the pastor, “That was perfect for so and so.” The pastor wondered if any message was received by this man. So one very snowy day, no one showed up for church, except this one man. The pastor thought, “He will surely receive the message today. He’s the only one here.” As they ended the service, the man says to the pastor, “That was a great message. Too bad the others were not here to listen to it!”

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