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Sunday, September 23, 2012

Mock me no more!

Conflict is all around us, is it not?  The evening news is riddled with reports of conflict at its extreme - war, bombings, the taking of lives, and riots.  In a sense, we live in a world which is escalating in conflict more and more.  The chances of being railed upon by an angry shopper, or shot at in a random drive-by is greater today than it was thirty years ago.  Conflict is a state of being attacked, ridiculed, or derided - not always for a reason we understand or can justify.  Perhaps it is for our way of dressing, our spiritual beliefs, or our physical traits.  Regardless of the "source" of or "reason" for the conflict, it exists.  We run the chances of living WITH and IN conflict, don't we?

Remove the mocker and conflict disappears;
  judgment and shame also stop. (Proverbs 22:10 CEB)
Solomon gives us insight into conflict - it carries with it two close companions: Judgment and Shame.  This makes sense when we understand mocking is the action of "making fun of" or ridiculing the other person's beliefs or actions.  When we mock someone we are "passing judgment" on their beliefs or actions - saying they are not right for some reason.  We are creating a sense of "shame" when we mock these beliefs or actions long enough - because what is heard long enough becomes the basis upon which people form their opinions of themselves and others.  

Conflict disappears when we remove the source of it.  Solomon tells us to remove the mocker - the one bringing the conflict.  In so doing, we see the companions (judgment and shame) take a hike!  We often see the evidence of the "companions" before we recognize their "leader".  What happens when we feel shame?  For some, we attempt to justify our actions.  When judgment is "passed" on some action on our part, we find it only natural to respond to it by justifying our actions.  It is the "Yeah, but..." phenomenon.  You know what I am speaking about - the moment we find ourselves in conflict and we respond, "Yeah, but if YOU hadn't .... then I wouldn't have .... "

There was a comedian years ago who's favorite catchphrase was, "The devil made me do it!"  Flip Wilson had a character he portrayed known as Geraldine Jones.  She was always getting into some mess, then quickly justifying the actions with this catchphrase he was so popular for.  As far back as I can see, mankind has been trying to justify their actions by blaming them on anyone else, including the devil!  

The message of our passage is clear - remove the mocker.  Sometimes this means we remove ourselves from the presence of those whose sole purpose in life seems to be bringing shame and passing judgment.  At other times, we may be the one who needs a little reality check - because we have been the ones mocking!  Neither place is a comfortable place to be - as the one being attacked, or the one who will be set apart because they have been the attacker.  

If we maintain company with the mockers, we will surely know conflict.  Mockers find it thrilling to "contend" with another.  It is a contest of the wills. They thrive on being "contradictory" in words and deeds.  In another translation of this verse, the idea of the mocker is equated to bullying anger.  In a society riddled with all kinds of "bullies", it is almost impossible not to run into them in one setting or another.  But...choosing to MAINTAIN company with them is really only inviting heaping doses of unwelcome judgment and shame.

Although it is not always easy to remove oneself from the company of the mocker, it may be the wisest.  Just sayin....