I was recently talking with a good and trustworthy friend of mine, and he was telling me about a challenging relational situation he’s been dealing with. It is abundantly clear that my friend genuinely loves the individual he’s having problems with, and while it is true that love covers a multitude of sins, an inescapable and primary fact of the matter is that the person in question is simply a fool. No amount of self-control and sober-mindedness on my friend’s part will change this man’s foolishness (though – wielding these gifts of grace – my friend’s prayers may be less hindered …and, who knows, perhaps God will do a supernatural work in the foolish man’s heart via the prayers of my friend!?!).
My friend and I discussed his duty moving forward, and we agreed that it is certainly his responsibility to bless this man who persecutes him (as opposed to cursing in retaliation); and it is his calling to weep and lament over the reality of spiritual stupor and shipwrecked faith. It is also important to never be wise in your own sight, and to resist the urge to repay evil for evil (and instead to give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all). If possible, so far as it depends on us, we must strive to live peaceably with everyone; and we must never avenge ourselves, but leave the wrath business to God (for vengeance belongs to Him!). We also decided that – if presented with the opportunity – it would be a good idea to practice head burning hospitality without a hint of grumbling or grouchiness; and insofar as my friend has received from God the gift of service and speaking – he ought to serve as a good steward of God’s varied grace, and boldly speak the oracles of God (even if those oracles feel like an annoyance to the stubborn person in question).
This was all very edifying and helpful to discuss and be reminded of …and after this biblically-based dialogue with my friend I thought I had consumed my full amount of revelation on the matter (at least for the span of that particular morning), but before the morning segued into post-noon I found myself presented with another generous helping of God’s Word – specifically spiced and flavored to elicit savoring Jesus in the midst of processing the sundry situations wherein we encounter fools.
According to Proverbs chapter 14, at least sometimes, it is best to simply leave the presence of a fool – for there you do not meet with words of knowledge (Prov. 14:7). What kind of knowledge? …the author of this Proverb is specifically talking about knowledge that illuminates and clarifies a person’s path, or the direction (or way) they pursue in life (Prov. 14:8). For example, Jesus Christ called Himself The Way, and He charged His followers to take up a cross and follow Him – living robust and wholehearted lives of serving others (Matthew 16:24; 20:28). Or we could ponder the directives of the apostle Paul, who relentlessly advocated for the way of intense self-awareness (see Romans 7, 1 Timothy 1, etc.). Or we could contemplate the behestings of John the Baptist who admonished people to pursue the path of bearing fruit in keeping with repentance. And these are just some New Testament examples, we haven’t even gotten into the proclamations of Moses, and Elijah, and all the other true prophets.
Perhaps the most essential way a fool forsakes life-giving knowledge, is by mocking the guilt offering (Prov. 14:9). The fool clings to a paradigm of life that pushes the atonement of Christ crucified to the margins (or beyond) of their life. The fool lives by sight and what seems sensible to them – and therefore they fundamentally disdain the offer to live by faith in Christ (1 Pet. 1:8; Heb. 11:1) and Him crucified (1 Cor. 1:23; 2:2; Heb. 12:2) …the fool regards the cross as folly, and thus (though they may profess feigned faith in the cross peripherally) they cannot cling to it as the core and critical paradigm for their everyday reading of, and reliance upon, God’s Word (Luke 24:25-27), nor can they embrace it as the all-encompassing operating system of their life (i.e. a cruciform life …e.g. Matt. 3:8; Gal. 2:20).
The spiritual stupor of the fool is staunch and tenacious because their preferences seem right to them (Prov. 14:12) …even though the path they prefer ultimately leads to death, they are stubbornly, and “principally,” settled in “their sensibilities.” The fool’s definition and discernment of “evil” will further harden his heart, because actual decisions and actions rooted in faith in God will be interpreted by him as “reckless” and “careless” …whereas the true wise man (e.g. consider Elijah’s seemingly outrageous life!, or Nehemiah, or Moses, or Jonathan [son of King Saul], or the apostle Paul, or JESUS!) is cautious (as God defines and delineates cautiousness in the stories He tells throughout Scripture) and turns away from evil. The fool goes astray, utterly convinced that he is right and enlightened in the evil he devises; while the trophies of God’s grace and those whom God’s workmanship has made good (e.g. the trophy case of God’s grace in Hebrews 11) – meet steadfast love and faithfulness (Prov. 14:22).
As my friend Jon says, “Self-awareness is a supernatural gift from God!” I agree, and I would add that – in cooperation and conjunction with the Holy Spirit’s work of illumination via Scripture – God most regularly shows me the truth about myself (including the scary, soul-suffocating, gravitational pull toward spiritual stupor) in, and through, honest conversations with good and trustworthy fiends! Robust friendships like the kind Paul had with Titus (2 Cor. 2:12-13)! Friends who act as truthful witnesses in my life (Prov. 14:25) …friends who beautifully badger me to partake more regularly, and drink more deeply, from the fountain of life that is the fear of the LORD [which – as an added benefit – is the best way to provide security and stability for my children!] (Prov. 14:26-27).
It is hard to put it better than the 2nd PCA membership vow – – – > “Do you believe in the Lord Jesus Christ as the Son of God, and Savior of sinners, and do you receive and trust Him alone for salvation as He is offered in the Gospel?” Via the long-suffering and relentlessly steadfast work of God, and His faithful provision of the Christ-and-Him-crucified saturated story of Scripture, and the good and trustworthy friends He has stationed as fellow soldiers in my unit …I will harbor a tranquil heart which gives life, as opposed to the fool’s envy – which is rottenness to his bones (Prov. 14:30).