This is the fifth post in a series on Chip Removal for Christians. Read the previous post here.
Much of the strife that plagues churches (and society as a whole) can be traced to plain, old-fashioned foolishness.
“I didn’t think ‘A’ would cause ‘B.’
“I didn’t think what I said would be offensive.”
“I didn’t think it was important.”
Key phrase: “I didn’t think.”
The rapid pace of our society coupled with a constant influx of information affords little time for mental processing. We need that time. In order to become wise, time and meditative thinking are essential.
Why do we need wisdom?
Wisdom protects us from harm and prevents us from causing harm.
When Jesus sent his apostles out to teach in Matthew 10, he gave them several instructions, including this well-known phrase: “Behold I am sending you at as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore, be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.”
It’s an apt analogy. Crafty and cunning, the serpent stalks its prey. Before the hunted creature can even consider escaping, it’s being swallowed or constricted to death. Doves, on the other hand, don’t hunt anything but bugs. They are lightweight, gentle and, harmless. Learning to employ both tactics simultaneously requires practice and prayer.
Wisdom helps us perceive deceit and duplicity.
False teachers and moochers abound in our society. The time will come in our lives when such people need to be confronted, but it takes smarts to separate the sheep from the wolves. Many people are content to ignore the warning signs because of that teacher is “so nice”or that preacher is “so passionate.”
My friends, there comes a time when we need to offend a false teacher in order to protect those who are less discerning. It takes wisdom!Aside from false teachers, there are frenemies (enemies who pretend friendship) that can do a lot of damage to you and your family. Guard your heart carefully.
Wisdom guards our lips“Better to be thought a fool and remain silent than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.” – Abraham Lincoln (or Mark Twain… depending on who you ask!)
If we are going to reduce the amount of offense we give, we need to talk less and listen more.
Wisdom knows when to comfort and when to discipline.
It is hard to discipline a child. The most critical component is to know when to administer discipline and when to offer comfort. So it is in the church. If you have a brother or sister in Christ who has decided to become addicted to drugs/alcohol/porn/gambling etc., and their life falls apart, do they need comfort or discipline? Probably a little of both!
We often fall short in the discipline department because its so awkward. I have seen former brothers and sisters in Christ weep over their troubles and talk about how sorry they were. They show up in the back of the church bemoaning their lot in life, wanting things to be better. But they are like the patient who comes to the doctor wanting more drugs so they can keep doing what’s making them sick. It’s utter foolishness. Their lifestyle needs to change.
You can sympathize and comfort, but be sure to exercise some tough love. Don’t let them make excuses! Hold them accountable. Doing this effectively takes wisdom. Will they get offended? Possibly. But, as the proverb says, “Faithful are the wounds of a friend, profuse are the kisses of an enemy.” (Proverbs 27.6, ESV)Be a friend.
Wisdom knows when to cover an offense.
Whoever covers an offense seeks love, but he who repeats a matter separates close friends
~ Proverbs 17.9, ESV
When we miscarried our child, we sort of hid from people for a few days. The pain was too great and neither of us wanted to put on a brave face. Well-meaning cards and calls came in. There was one card in particular I will never forget—and not in a good way. The card said, “So sorry to hear about your aborted child.” The heartless doc in the ER had used the same terminology. Words have weight. There are denotations (strict definitions) and there are connotations (implied meanings). Sometimes, docs will use “accidental abortion” when referring to miscarriage. When considering “connotation,” that phrase is grossly oxymoronic. Or maybe just moronic. Aborting a child is a deliberate act. Miscarriage is pretty much uncontrollable.
I wasn’t angry, I was wounded. What a terrible choice of words! But this is where wisdom kicks in: think about the sender—was she trying to be hurtful? No! She had sent a card to comfort us. She took the time to write it, stamp it and mail it. Many people didn’t even do that. The intent was to show compassion… she just had lousy word choice. So did I get my back up and give her the stink-eye when I went back to worship? No way! I knew that I had to let the offense go and forgive.
How do we get wisdom?
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge,
fools despise wisdom and instruction.
~ Proverbs 1.7, ESV
Experience and study are the best teachers. I can’t say this enough—read the Bible every single day. Deep wisdom resides within those pages. Use it!
Observe people. Become a reader of facial expressions and body language. Observe the 5-second rule. When somebody talks, count to 5 in your head before speaking if at all possible (for those of you who know me personally, I am working on this. I tend to gush overmuch when I get excited).
And, of course, it all comes down to two things:
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.”(Matthew 22:37)
“…You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.” (Romans 13.8-10)
Be wise… and harmless.