“Whoever corrects a mocker invites insult; whoever rebukes a wicked man incurs abuse. Do not rebuke a mocker or he will hate; rebuke a wise man and he will be wiser still; teach a righteous man and he will add to his learning.” Proverbs 9:7-9
I am always amazed by the lack of teaching on this principle of wisdom. The sheer belligerence in the Christian church has garnered as much persecution as our stance for Christ in recent years, I wager, for obnoxious presentation, pride and condescension result in division not wisdom. In keeping with Proverbs’ stance on these last methods we must conclude that anything which smacks of arrogance, pride or obnoxiousness steps outside the character of Jesus and therefore opposes His message in practice if not opinion.
In our modern world mocking the gospel, Jesus, religion and those who practice it seems to be the norm for our society at large. I see debates arranged between prominent religions leaders in the Christian faith and those who oppose it and wonder what the justification is for such displays. Since there is no scientific proof or conclusive evidence for Jesus being the Way, Truth and Life, I see these debates as totally futile bordering on imbecilic for they accomplish very little, if the goal is to convince the world to believe in Him.
How can we practice a method which derives its methods from scorn and ridicule. Mocking another person’s belief takes a sense of superiority and complete disregard for them as people. It shows a lack of concern for their feelings as individuals and wholesale disrespect of their beliefs, which translates into looking at them personally as complete idiots. Yet I’ve also know many a Christian who practiced this same attitude and method towards those who disagreed with them. Since these practices are outside the mandate of Christian love, I cannot see how being like the world is any advantage.
Sure, I’ve met many an agnostic and atheist who looked down on anyone who believes in God or gods period. I’ve argued with them over such stringent views as they present only to be derided and ridiculed for my pains.
Jesus told us how to handle such rejection: Leave without fanfare, go outside the town and wipe the dust off our feet as a testimony against them. This will be seen by them as silly and idiotic, but in God’s view we are testifying to their judgment. The Christian ethic forbids wars on behalf of Christ for we aren’t to resist one who is evil but move on from them; if we can’t move on because they imprison us, we are not to let them close us down or destroy our open natures in Christ. However, we can be quietly godly.
Some believe we must preach even to those who will not hear, Paul calls this beating the air to no purpose. We cannot teach anything to anyone who will not start at the basic premise in our next passage:
“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding. For through me your days will be many, and years will be added to your life. If you are wise, your wisdom will reward you; if you are a mocker, you alone will suffer.” Proverbs 9:10-12.
Fearing God is the starting point for wisdom. Learning to know Him intimately is the only means to understanding Him.
The place where wisdom begins is right where many fall off. We can’t even begin a discussion with people who reject God as supreme or ridicule any belief in Him. In these cases our best argument is our very life–how we live and handle relationships. The growth in us because of Christ will speak louder than all the preaching or pressure of argument. Yet we also cannot conclude a person is a fool just because they happen to reject the idea of a God or gods. Why? Simply because we don’t know them. We have no idea what brought them to the place they now stand because we have no information until we listen to their journey.
Arrogance leaves no room for humility. If we remain arrogant as followers of Jesus, we will be broken down. At first, just a little, then if we remain stiff-necked, completely with no repair. (See Proverbs 29:1.)
One of the lessons I learned from experience is that rebuke is easy but useless when applied to someone who does not practice wisdom or respect for views different from their own. A person so engrossed in their own opinion is not interested or open to any viewpoint outside their own. Proverbs claims these fools are only interested in airing their own opinions. I wonder how many Christians fall into this category, for we many times listen less than we push our sales pitch for Christ down the throats of others.
There is a need in our education of the church to teach careful instruction, wise presentation and a sense of respect for other people’s right to believe what they will. We must follow our Golden Rule, which our own Master commanded us to practice, to do to others what we would have done to us. This means in an argument or debate we remain respectful though our opponent may not, we remain careful of their person though they might refuse, we remain understanding of the truth of our walk by faith though they ridicule or scorn our stance. And we do all this without becoming scornful, derisive or any way condescending.
That’s what it means to follow our Master and our greatest weapon against the darkness.
Tags: argument, being like God, being like Jesus, belief, debate, God's will, grace, growing up, Jesus, judgment, Love, mercy, passion, quarrels, relationships, salvation, spiritual growth, the Golden Rule, the gospel, truth, understanding God, wisdom, witness