Hello 2016. You and your people are strange beasts, so driven by emotion and caught up in the tumble-cycle of instant feedback and unlimited validation. Everyone here seems to think that whoever has the strongest emotional reaction must be the most right. Whoever hollers loudest has the most power. Whoever is the most provocative and/or different should get the largest audience and probably be president. Or something like that. It’s the year of opinion. Hop on the nearest social media platform, website, blog, or news station and let’s go for a ride.
It might benefit you and I to take a step back. Or, better yet, a few thousand year’s worth of steps back. Back to when the book of Proverbs was written and someone with the hand of God behind their writing declared the proverb,
The way of fools seems right to them,
but the wise listen to advice.
Fools show their annoyance at once,
but the prudent overlook an insult.
– Proverbs 12:15, 16
Let’s step back for a moment, 2016, and think about this for a second.
“The way of fools seems right to them…Fools show their annoyance at once.”
Self-diagnosis time. Here’s a few of the symptoms of foolishness. You decide whether you’re infected or not:
- The fool feels the urge to jump into every conversation, particularly when the subject at hand is something they disagrees with. Their opinion must be heard.
- The fool is easily annoyed and offended because their identity is in his opinions. If you disagree with them they’re going to have a hard time being your friend.
- The fool acts on the emotion and whim of the moment, ignoring possible consequences and just doing what their heart tells them.
If I’m honest it feels like most of us in 2016 land in the fool category of this proverb. We’ve bought into the utterly modern idea that everyone is entitled to their opinion and that because it’s their opinion it must be right for them. That expressing our emotions is legitimate because anything else would just be inauthentic and, here in 2016, inauthenticity is the worst of sins.
“The wise listen to advice…the prudent overlook an insult.”
Second round of self-diagnosis. It’s not enough to know the negative side. We need to see what healthy looks like. In direct contrast to the symptoms that the fool displays, the wise person exhibits characteristics like these:
- The wise person listens and considers, even values, the opinions of others.
- The wise person overlooks insults and assumes the best about the other person, regardless of what they’ve done in the past.
- The wise person acts according to the truth, not emotion.
No one wants to be the fool, yet the world around us is structured for the cultivation of people who operate exactly like the fool describe here in Proverbs 12. The question is, how do we move out of the fool category and into the life of wisdom?
It’s really not complicated. 1 Corinthians 1:24 declares that Christ is the wisdom of God to us. Want to be wise? Get Jesus. When you receive him you receive his Spirit, which is the Spirit of all wisdom. If you know Jesus you’re no longer the fool (even if you occasionally act like it); you’re now full of wisdom and prudence.
Let’s be who we are. If you know Jesus you know that he’s the one with the ways of righteousness, and that more often than not the ways that you plan out miss the mark. You’re more than ready to listen to advice from others, because you recognize that you still have more to learn.
Our identity is in Jesus, not our opinions. We can readily stand, smile, laugh, and overlook an ocean of insults. If our master could bear the insult and mockery of roman soldiers and the pain of the cross, how much more can we who have his Spirit bear verbal jibes?
Brothers and sisters, it’s not our rightness or our vehement declaration of our opinions that leads others to Jesus. It’s in our humility, forbearance, and love that we demonstrate the kindness of God that leads people towards repentance. The wise listen to advice, don’t feel the need to proclaim their opinions, and overlook insults easily. Let’s be those people.