Sixteen-year-old Benjamin Franklin wanted to write for his brother’s newspaper. Though forbidden to do so, he was undeterred. He simply submitted a column under a made-up name and in it he gave everyday advice as if he were a wise older lady. The advice column proved to be popular. It even excited the interest of eligible bachelors who made marriage proposals sight unseen. Given how famous Benjamin Franklin became, it probably didn’t matter that his brother fired him when his identity was revealed. What about advice from strangers?Well, there are strangers and there are strangers.I personally do not know James Dobson, but because of his reputation as a specialist on Christian Family Counselling, he was worthy of my attention. His books and recordings were invaluable to me (and millions of others) when making sense of the art of child raising. But asking for advice from a stranger can also be like asking for directions in a busy cosmopolitan city. You don’t know them, and they don’t know you, and for all you know, you both could be lost.It rarely pays to expose yourself to too much risk, especially when caught up in a crisis.We need spiritual people who know what they are talking about. You do not have to know them personally, but reputation is everything. I met a brother who had just come out of drug rehabilitation and into his fourth marriage. He said he believed that his life experience would be helpful to a congregation that he wanted to preach for. A nicer man you would not meet, but there were too many of those miles travelled in his life that brought doubt to his credentials. It made the brethren wonder if he was really ready to lead in preaching and teaching.The Bible is full of writers and characters we may or may not meet in heaven. They are among God’s band of ‘strangers’ provided to advise us by word or example.It would pay us to get to know what kind of credentials they have in God’s eyes before taking their advice – or not taking their advice.
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