Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Dealing with Scoffers

Today is the third day of our 23rd week, reading the Bible through together in a year.  Our scriptures today are:  Proverbs 8-10; Romans 12; Psalm 144.

The following is from my personal spiritual journal, with a few names changed--just so you'll be clueless. :-)

Proverbs 9:7-9 ESV
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.
Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser;
    teach a righteous man, and he will increase in learning.

The best thing to do when someone scoffs is just to let them scoff.  This is counter-intuitive, because we have a defense mechanism that prompts us to want to correct a scoffer.  But when you dignify the scoffer with a response, you also dignify the offense.  Better to ignore it altogether, and simply to focus on the people who will really love you and listen to you, and who will benefit from your counsel.

"Get out, get out, you man of blood, you worthless man!"
2 Samuel 16 ESV
When King David came to Bahurim, there came out a man of the family of the house of Saul, whose name was Shimei, the son of Gera, and as he came he cursed continually. And he threw stones at David and at all the servants of King David, and all the people and all the mighty men were on his right hand and on his left. And Shimei said as he cursed, “Get out, get out, you man of blood, you worthless man! The Lord has avenged on you all the blood of the house of Saul, in whose place you have reigned, and the Lord has given the kingdom into the hand of your son Absalom. See, your evil is on you, for you are a man of blood.”

Then Abishai the son of Zeruiah said to the king, “Why should this dead dog curse my lord the king? Let me go over and take off his head.” 10 But the king said, “What have I to do with you, you sons of Zeruiah? If he is cursing because the Lordhas said to him, ‘Curse David,’ who then shall say, ‘Why have you done so?’” 11 And David said to Abishai and to all his servants, “Behold, my own son seeks my life; how much more now may this Benjaminite! Leave him alone, and let him curse, for the Lord has told him to. 12 It may be that the Lord will look on the wrong done to me,[a] and that the Lord will repay me with good for his cursing today.” 13 So David and his men went on the road, while Shimei went along on the hillside opposite him and cursed as he went and threw stones at him and flung dust. 14 And the king, and all the people who were with him, arrived weary at the Jordan. And there he refreshed himself...  

2 Samuel 19 ESV

16 And Shimei the son of Gera, the Benjaminite, from Bahurim, hurried to come down with the men of Judah to meet King David. 17 And with him were a thousand men from Benjamin. And Ziba the servant of the house of Saul, with his fifteen sons and his twenty servants, rushed down to the Jordan before the king, 18 and they crossed the ford to bring over the king's household and to do his pleasure. And Shimei the son of Gera fell down before the king, as he was about to cross the Jordan,19 and said to the king, “Let not my lord hold me guilty or remember how your servant did wrong on the day my lord the king left Jerusalem. Do not let the king take it to heart. 20 For your servant knows that I have sinned. Therefore, behold, I have come this day, the first of all the house of Joseph to come down to meet my lord the king.” 21 Abishai the son of Zeruiah answered, “Shall not Shimei be put to death for this, because he cursed the Lord's anointed?” 22 But David said, “What have I to do with you, you sons of Zeruiah, that you should this day be as an adversary to me? Shall anyone be put to death in Israel this day? For do I not know that I am this day king over Israel?” 23 And the king said to Shimei, “You shall not die.” And the king gave him his oath.

A Chinese philosopher-poet wrote:

Not-knowing is true knowledge.
Presuming to know is a disease.
First realize that you are sick;
then you can move toward health.

The Master is her own physician.
She has healed herself of all knowing.
Thus she is truly whole.

Here, the poet says that not-knowing is true knowledge; or no-wisdom is true wisdom.  This means being open to rebuke.  Rebuke helps us realize that we are sick, so we can move toward health.  To rebuke the scoffer offhand is to deny the possibility that they have something significant to say to us.  When the Master is healed of all knowing, she allows herself to learn, and can be truly whole.

Just a couple of weeks ago, Penelope told me that she was very agitated with Gertrude on my behalf.  (How do you like those changed names?)  Penelope doesn't like Gertrude anymore, because Gertrude was openly critical of my preaching.  I told Penelope that I wasn't angry with Gertrude, so I didn't want her to be angry with Gertrude either.  This is because even though Gertrude was wrong to criticize me publically, and what she said was also wrong, God had brought good out of it and caused me to consider some things about the way that I preach.  As a result, I have adopted a method of preaching straight from the Bible with marginal notes, rather than from a lengthy PowerPoint outline.  This has been a tremendous blessing in my life, that wouldn't have happened if it hadn't been for that night when I was so criticized.  So, I'm not upset with Gertrude for what she did.  I thank God for it, even though I still acknowledge that Gertrude was wrong.

Romans 12:1-9
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. For as in one body we have many members,[e] and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: ifprophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads,[f] with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.

Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. 

This means that when it comes to scoffers, I need to acknowledge that they are still part of the Body of Christ, and that they could still have something to teach me.  They may have different giftings from myself, and can show me things that I never would have seen on my own.  Again, this kind of thinking isn't the world's way of thinking.  That's why God requires me to not be conformed to the pattern of this world, but to be transformed by the renewing of my mind.  This is a challenge for me, because it means laying my ego down as a living sacrifice, and being willing to hear God speak even through critics.  But there's much blessing in this, because by doing so I can test and discern what God's will is.  If I think of myself more highly than I ought, I'll never be open to this kind of learning--so I pray for sober judgment and faith.  So, receiving these scoffers with genuine love, I'm able to abhor the evil things that they say but hold fast to what is good and useful in their speech.

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