Saturday, January 09, 2016

Correcting the Scoffing Fool

Proverbs 9:7-8 “Whoever corrects a scoffer gets himself abuse, and he who reproves a wicked man incurs injury. Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you; reprove a wise man, and he will love you."

Our first reaction to a passage like this ought to be a self-reflective question like, “How do I respond to correction and reproof?” I should begin by wondering about myself instead of immediately thinking of everyone I think is a fool. Does my reaction to legitimate correction incur anger or hatred toward the one who corrects me, or does it begin a process of self-improvement, and even thankfulness and love? If I am not open to correction, I may think of myself as basically perfect and not in need of correction, even if I do not think in those exact words.

A second insight from a passage like this is that proper correction from people who love us and/or are wiser than we are – or simply see something we do not - is part of growing in wisdom and maturity. We ought not journey on toward Christ without people who can speak into our lives about areas we may be blind to, or areas that are too sensitive for us to deal with personally. I am an imperfect person subject to a range of faults and I should learn how to react when I hear good correction. (I don’t like this anymore than anyone else, and I receive good correction more often than I would like.)

A third reaction can be something like this: It may be better to watch as the storm passes by, does its damage, and see if anyone is willing and ready to help pick up the pieces of wasted lives and ruined time. In the heat of the moment, or in the throes of passion, or in the wave of powerful cultural mythologies, people are often completely deaf to correction. And more than that, they are often hostile to an opinion that is simply different than the one they find fashionable at the time. Sometimes all you have to do is say something like, “I disagree,” and that is enough to get you labeled as a hateful ignoramus who needs to get with the times. But Solomon shows us that this is nothing new and that you really might do better keeping your mouth shut and waiting for the wise person to show up or for wisdom to come crashing into someone’s life.

This is hard to do, however, when we watch parts of the church do this. There are plenty of well-meaning individuals who, for all kinds of reasons, neglect wisdom and truth for powerful mythologies and label their causes as “what Jesus would be doing right now.” But cultural conditions are such that they may not receive correction. After all, they have the weight of conventional wisdom at their back, so why listen to voices preemptively categorized as unintellectual or outdated?

So, in the end, I need to first discern whether I am the scoffing fool, and then patiently pray for those who will not now listen to wisdom.  

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