Monday, December 30, 2019

Willing To Yield

"Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom.  But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth.  This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic.  For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice.  But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.  And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace."
James 3:13-18

This section in the book of James is labeled the Two Kinds of Wisdom for good reason.  It contrasts an earthly, selfish wisdom, one that inflates ego, one that is used to divide, with a higher wisdom.  One that makes peace.  

The illustration was given about the kind of person who is always right.  Always having to show and prove their intelligence.  And then the person who admits how much they don't know.

The Dunning-Kruger effect writ large.    A cognitive bias in which people assess their cognitive ability as greater than it is.  Put simply, the less you know, the more likely you are to believe you have a higher ability, a higher intelligence than you actually do.  The more you know, the more likely you are to recognize your flaws and to often undersell your ability or your intelligence.  

We see the effect in a lot of different ways, particularly now on social media.  "Well, actually..."  Mansplaining.  Misinformation and disinfomation campaigns.  Truly fake news being shared on a mass scale.  Sharing single source news.  No matter the issue, there is always an expert ready to comment.  Ready to inform.  Ready to "set the record straight."

A wisdom ready to build up selfish ambition.  Ready to prove how right the person is.  How smart the person is.  Shared to collect likes and loves to stroke the ego.

Or a wisdom shared out of bitter jealousy.  To prove someone else wrong.  To pull support away from someone else.  To shame.  To shun.

What should break our heart, is that it's probably at its worst within the Church.

We share posts, we share information to show how right, how "righteous" we are.  We have the right theology.  We attend the right type of services.  We hang around the right kind of people.  And stay completely separate from everything else.

We share posts and think we are safe because they contain Biblical quotes and information.  We think we have wisdom from above because we are using the Bible.  But how often are we sharing that information for selfish ambition?  To get likes because of our right theology?  To display our bona fides?  How often are we sharing out of bitter jealousy?  To silence our critics?

James shows us that the wisdom from above has very specific characteristics.  It is pure.  It is peaceable - it leads to peace.  It is gentle.  It is full of mercy and good fruits - it is beneficial.  It is impartial, it carries no favor - not to us, not to our "church", not to the exclusion of anyone else.  It is sincere, without hypocrisy.  It is open to reason.

Open to reason.  I love that entry.  Other translations list it as "willing to yield."

That means it's willing to admit when it is wrong.
Willing to concede when someone makes a valid point.
Willing to admit we don't know.
Willing to admit when we question.
Willing to admit what we struggle with.

This seems so antithetical to how we present ourselves.  How we preach our gospel.

How often is our wisdom haughty, presumptive, proud, arrogant, determined to show how the world is wrong?

How often do we sho our wisdom to prove how we alone (or our team) has got it right?

How often do we share an article to prove our wisdom?  To prove our agreement with the "right" side?

How often are our statements meant to be emphatic periods or even exclamation points, designed to end discussion rather than continue the conversation?
"God says it so I believe it..."
"If you have a problem with that you have a problem with God..."
"Somethings you just have to take on faith..."
"The Lord works in mysterious ways..."

Those are all statements with truth in them.   But they are also all statements we use to end conversations.  To side step questions.  To avoid actually struggling with some of the implications of the Bible and our faith.  To avoid wrestling with faith.

How often are we really willing to continue the conversation?  To continue the dialogue with doubters, with strugglers, with the lost, with the hurting, with the un-churched, with the de-churched, with those hurt irrevocably by the church?

How often are we willing to be humble, to admit we don't know, and wrestle, and struggle with them?

That is a meek wisdom.  That is a wisdom from above.

My intent with this blog is always to foster and continue conversation.  It's why I'm more interested in questions than answers.  It's why there are a lot of question marks in this particular entry.  It's why I will play devil's advocate and will take positions unpopular in the modern church.  It's why I'm hardest on the church.

We as followers of Christ should be the most approachable people in this world.  The ones most easily able to have conversations with, especially the hard ones.

In the coming year, may we all make that our resolution.  Our commitment.  Our calling.  To have a meek wisdom that seeks and creates peace.  That fosters continued conversations.  That reaches out.

Lord willing...

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