About a week before, we had received a letter in the mail. It bore no return address and when we opened it, we found a hand printed letter full of foul language and tons of misspelled words and bad grammar. I will always remember the last line of that letter: "If you don't get out of town, I will burn you out."
We took it to the postmaster of the small town where we lived and, because sending a threatening letter in the US Mail is a federal crime, he called the FBI. And that is why the agent knocked on our door that morning. He had come from a larger town about 30 miles away. No warning—we had no idea he was coming, but that might have been a strategical move.
We spent about a half hour answering questions: who we were, what we did, if we had any known enemies. When he discovered that Keith was a preacher, his attitude seemed to soften a bit. He began pointing out things in the letter that I, young and inexperienced, had not even noticed. The misspellings and bad grammar were inconsistent. The same word was misspelled a different way later in the letter. One time the writer said, "isn't" and the next time "ain't."
"I really think it is someone trying to disguise himself because it is someone you know," he finally said.
He eventually apologized as he left. His hands were tied unless someone actually made an attempt to harm us or succeeded in doing so, especially since we had no idea who it might be. We were supposed to call if anything happened, or we received another threat of any kind via any method.
It happened to be a Wednesday. That night we went to Bible study and Keith began talking about the letter. Then he mentioned the federal agent who had come to our door, "Because sending threats in the mail is a federal crime, you know." Most people crowded around to hear the story and expressed horror that we had received something like that. We made sure they knew the letter was counted as evidence in the case and was still in the agent's hands.
We never received another letter, phone call, or threat of any sort while we lived there. Of course we cannot prove it, but we think someone in the church had his toes stepped on and was trying to run us off. We wonder if we were making progress with some and that others were afraid their sins would be uncovered.
"But," you say, astounded, "would a Christian really stoop so low as to issue what could be taken as a murder threat?"
Just who was it who plotted to kill Jesus? The very religious leaders who should have recognized who he was and followed him—scribes, Pharisees, priests. When people do not like your message, they will go farther than even they would have ever imagined to get rid of the messenger. We have been lied about more than once. We have been kicked out precisely because of what was preached—it wasn't even denied.
How did "Hosanna" become "Crucify him" in a week's time? Corrupt leadership, the Lord's demand for commitment, humility, and sacrifice, refusal to see the true nature of the kingdom, and a mob mentality that always strays far from the personal ethics one claims.
Any of us can fall prey to this. It's hard to hear that we need to change. It's difficult to face up to our sins. It's challenging to realize we have faulty expectations of the Lord and what He expects of us. It's tough realizing you have been wrong about something your entire life. The devil will take your heart and twist it to the point that you won't even see the wrong you are doing in retaliation.
Whoever sent that threatening letter got a rude awakening when he found out the FBI was involved and he could go to prison for what he had done. There is a far worse imprisonment than that when we blame the Message on the messenger. Getting rid of him won't change your stance before your Maker.
“You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you. Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who announced beforehand the coming of the Righteous One, whom you have now betrayed and murdered, you who received the law as delivered by angels and did not keep it.” (Acts 7:51-53)