It’s a phrase or idiom that refers to someone who speaks as if he is trying to convince people of his point of view though he is speaking primarily to those who are already convinced.
I said this phrase recently to someone who was trying to convince me of something I fully supported and believed was true. I hadn’t heard the phrase in a long time but it just seemed to fit the situation so well. My friend was preaching to the choir. He didn’t have to convince me. I was already convinced. I was already sold on the concept and the truth of what he was saying.
It caused me to start thinking about how often we do this. How often do we ‘preach to the choir’? Or, how often are we ‘the choir’ to whom someone is preaching?
It can be a good thing for someone to encourage us in our faith and remind us of the reasons we have faith. It can be a great thing to teach and uplift a person or a group in their already held beliefs.
If it ends there, I think there is a problem. If the preaching is only about convincing someone of what they are already convinced, it could be that the proverbial reason for the preaching is lost. If the discussion always ends with the status quo, then each person is being robbed of the potential for growth and maturity.
There is something about being agreed with that we love. There is something about people pleasing to which we are attracted. We are all attracted to those who agree with us and will pat us on the back. In the extreme, it can be nauseating; yes, nauseating.
Doing what is right and speaking truth in love is suprisingly refreshing.
Scripture doesn’t mince words about the subject but is quite straightforward.
One place tells us that if we speak the truth in love, spiritual babies won’t stay babies. People will grow up and not be deceived by every wind of teaching that comes along.This will lead to healthy believers in a healthy Church body. (Eph 4:14-16)
In one of Paul’s letters to a young pastor named Timothy he said to patiently and carefully correct, rebuke and encourage regardless of whether it was popular or requested. He warned that there will come a day when people with ‘itching ears’ will gather around those who tell them only what they want to hear. These will only preach to choirs and these choirs will not have to endure the harshness of truth. Instead of the truth these itching ears will be soothed by unkind and gentle myths. (2 Tim 4:1-5)
We shouldn’t avoid hearing the truth, especially when it comes from those who care about us. It may be difficult and not our favourite experience but we will be better and more mature for it.
We shouldn’t avoid sharing the truth with love in spite of the possibility of rejection. If we truly love and care for someone we will take the risk.
‘Preaching to the choir’ is easier, safer and less risky. It also provides little opportunity for personal growth or of making a real difference in other people’s lives. There are times that we will find that we are playing the role of the ‘preacher’ or the ‘choir’. When we do, we face a choice. Do we speak the truth in love or just say what we think people want to hear? Do we continue to avoid those who will speak the truth in love or just keep trying to soothe our itching ears? With God’s help, let’s try to make the right one.
Discussion Questions: Have you found yourself ‘preaching to the choir’ or have you been in the position of ‘the choir’ to whom someone is ‘preaching’? How can we learn to share the truth in love? How can we learn to listen with ‘ears to hear’ versus listening with ‘itching ears’? What are your thoughts?