Flights of Faith

Tuesday, December 30, 2008


7 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools [a] despise wisdom and discipline. (Proverbs 1:7)

Warning Against Rejecting Wisdom
20 Wisdom calls aloud in the street, she raises her voice in the public squares; 21 at the head of the noisy streets [a] she cries out, in the gateways of the city she makes her speech:
22 "How long will you simple ones [b] love your simple ways? How long will mockers delight in mockery and fools hate knowledge?
23 If you had responded to my rebuke, I would have poured out my heart to you and made my thoughts known to you.
24 But since you rejected me when I called and no one gave heed when I stretched out my hand,
25 since you ignored all my advice and would not accept my rebuke,
26 I in turn will laugh at your disaster; I will mock when calamity overtakes you-
27 when calamity overtakes you like a storm, when disaster sweeps over you like a whirlwind, when distress and trouble overwhelm you.
28 "Then they will call to me but I will not answer; they will look for me but will not find me.
29 Since they hated knowledge and did not choose to fear the LORD,
30 since they would not accept my advice and spurned my rebuke,
31 they will eat the fruit of their ways and be filled with the fruit of their schemes.
32 For the waywardness of the simple will kill them, and the complacency of fools will destroy them; (Proverbs 1:20-32)

17 Pay attention and listen to the sayings of the wise; apply your heart to what I teach,
18 for it is pleasing when you keep them in your heart and have all of them ready on your lips.
19 So that your trust may be in the LORD, I teach you today, even you. (Proverbs 22:17-19)

"It is becoming clearer every day that the most urgent problem besetting our Church is this: How can we live the Christian life in the modern world?" - Dietrich Bonhoffer

Blind spots. Those places where we can't see. They exist as we drive, but they also exist in how we live our lives.

Are we simply blind to something God is trying to show us? Or are we knowingly unable to decipher something we're trying to visualize? I wanted to prepare for the first question and try to receive some sight for the second, so I decided to read Proverbs. The Book of James says, "wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere (James 3:17) This sounds like pretty amazing stuff and I knew Proverbs had a lot of good sayings that promote wisdom, something I think the Holy Spirit provides us with if we learn how to discipline our ears and our eyes. ("Let those who have eyes see and those who have ears hear")

Part of this desire was one of wanting to listen to others and to find instruction through that process. In one of my classes this semester, a professor had a reputation for listening to others. He is not usually a professor, so he approached the course with a great deal of humility and generally seemed like he wanted to hear us. Now, I don't know if or how our voices changed his behavior. And I don't know how much his Christian faith shapes his world, yet there was a lot of favor curried in our class from his ability (and his reputation) to listen. It came to be something I pondered over. With our commands from God and our role as Salt and Light to a broken world, what is our role as true listeners? Is there a place for it in a world that so desperately needs to see wisdom on the street and listen to her? Is this simply a discernment issue? We listen to our sad friend who needs advice instead of simply telling him or her the underlying cause of that sadness and we speak truth to the oppressor without listening before our proclamation. Listen or speak. Is that always our choice? And could we gain favor (that will create soft and open hearts) from listening to others even when we believe we know what they need to hear or is that simply wasted time and a human strategy that will never be as convicting as a bold declaration of the Truth?

I guess part of my eventual "working answer" came from the first question of what do we do when we're simply blind as opposed to trying to decipher something in front of us. What I mean by this is when we encounter situations that reveal our blindness: "I always wanted to talk to you about Christ, so it's a shame you're waiting to the last day of this program." "You always hurt me when you said this phrase. I just thought you'd eventually realize it because of my silence." Etc. I think being aware of these unspoken feelings requires a peculiar sort of listening. We must listen to others as children of God, able to communicate words or messages that come from Him and listen to God's voice as we are speaking with people. It doesn't mean that we're only using what someone literally says; instead, we're listening to silences, bits of stories that are never fully expressed, body language, and, most importantly, the Holy Spirit in us. And offering all of that up to God in order to get some sort of response and confirmation. I think this peculiar listening enables us to either continue listening or to decide that it is time to start speaking. It also cautions us against assumptions though they are sometimes necessary. In addition, this peculiar listening to others instructs and encourages us through their words because God is behind it all.

Most of all, I think both James and Proverbs tell us not to be selective with our listening. We cannot only listen to rulers or favored friends and not physical laborers or our enemies. Rich discoveries are to be found in them all. I think God has messages for us in those "beatitude" folk because they are blessed by God. I think the sick and the elderly enjoy and are encouraged by our visits. They are provided with spiritual sustenance and an opportunity for hope. However, I think we grasp so much wisdom from them that is pouring out of their life experience. There is so much to see and to hear in those spaces.

The Bonhoffer quote (I'm reading 'The Cost of Discipleship' this break), to me, represents the gravity of our need for wisdom that comes from Christ. I think there's a lot of human wisdom being trafficked right now as worldviews and philosophies that direct the lives of others given the fragility of this world. I think most questions about faith come from these paradigms of human wisdom. We need to live the life Christ is calling each of us to do in the 21st century so the Church is still relevant in all of our lives. Is there a question we're struggling w/ ourselves? Are there other questions we hope others won't ask us? We need to speak those questions out to the Body in faith and trust that God will give us some sort of answer or response. Then, individually and collectively, let the Holy Spirit pour out its wisdom onto us. Anything less and we're deciding to be blind willingly when we know we worship someone who restores sight. It's just not worth it.

There's a confidence we can have in this peculiar listening since we're listening to our God who desires to speak with us and to call us into a greater awareness of Him, His love, and the ways that love will require obedience. And I honestly think those around us will notice. "She doesn't just decide herself, she's listening to Someone higher." "He is slow to speak and frequently e-mails insightful thoughts for after we talk". "She sees me in a world that passes me by." I think we can become Godly listeners without abandoning our role as truthtellers, and I have a hunch that that type of humility and quiet confidence (of Christ at work, always) will be a refreshing Church presence in a world that's used to us abandoning our connection to Christ only to "lower ourselves" and battle human wisdom with human wisdom (even if our side sounds more religious). It is time for Christ to break that cycle that attempts to destroy the Church's witness ,and it's time for us to ask Him how to do that in our lives and in our communities. Let's meet Wisdom in the street, take her hand, and offer her a home in our hearts.

Have a happy and safe New Year's everybody,


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