There is a saying in today's culture which goes something like, "You cannot fix stupid". In other words, sometimes it is just beyond your control - you don't have the influence, the wherewithal, or the know-how to stop whatever "dumb stuff" is happening. When this is said as an insult, someone is implying you are beyond learning. There were times when my kids were growing up where I almost thought this principle applied. I'd watch them do exactly what I had taught them repeatedly not to do and then see them suffer the consequences of their actions. Now, lest you think I am some kind of terrible mom, I never knowingly let them do something which would hurt themselves, but I did let them struggle on occasion because it was this very struggle which helped them to realize there was some wisdom in what I had taught. They had to "learn" from their missteps - or they would keep repeating them. We cannot expect others to just accept at "face value" the truths we adhere to in our lives - they have to see it modeled sometimes in a hundred different ways. All of a sudden, they come to a place where they realize the truth themselves - because they connected the dots between what they saw modeled and what they had been taught. Truthfully, I don't believe anyone is beyond learning - even the most stubborn, or the most ignorant - we can ALL learn - we just have to be open to it!
God wants you to silence stupid and ignorant people by doing right. You are free, but still you are God’s servants, and you must not use your freedom as an excuse for doing wrong. (I Peter 2:15-16 CEV)
I like this translation of the passage because it is pretty doggone right on! You CAN fix stupid - meaning foolish or senseless behavior. You CAN fix ignorance - meaning lacking in the knowledge which will set them free. You can lead an example which shows how to not misuse your freedom in Christ, but yet live a quite enjoyable and satisfying life. How do we influence a culture which is bent on foolish or senseless behavior? By modeling the best behavior we are able to (obedience). How do we bring a greater degree of understanding into today's world? By living the Word, not just speaking it. We all know you can proclaim something repeatedly (just as I did with my kids), but when it comes to putting into application the truths we have heard, this is where we ALL struggle! Even the most devout Christian will stumble on occasion - but it is what we do in those moments between the stumble and being upright again that matter to those watching us!
You see, I don't think our stumbling is ever "not noticed" because we are being watched in ways we will never fully realize this side of heaven. For a moment, let's not focus on the fact God sees everything we do and hears every word we speak. We know he is everywhere at all times and knows all things, so who else is watching? For starters, he has a whole host of angels both in heaven and on this earth who "take in" our behavior - seeing clearly the choices we make and the outcome of those choices. Okay, so beyond the "heavenly realm", who else is watching? We may never know, but trust me, do something "stupid" or show your "ignorance" in some manner and SOMEONE will see it! It may be a total stranger, but someone is watching.
We "silence" (still, bring into a place of rest) those around us by modeling the truths we are being taught in the Word. As God opens up the beauty of his scripture to us, it begins to affect the integrity of our lives - putting us together in ways not possible without this "binding" effect of the Word setting things "right" in our lives. When this "putting things right" occurs, others begin to notice the changes within. They may not know what is going on with us on the "inside", but they see a definite change outwardly. What they are observing is God setting things right in us - helping to "fix" foolishness in us! All liberty in this world begins FIRST in us. So many times we get this backwards - thinking we need to fix others around us. We need to realize others are influenced by our actions - get things right in yourself first and others will begin to notice the change - even desire it themselves!
To be truthful here, there are times when I run to God with my temptation. There are also times when I dilly-dally a little and kind of "toy with" my temptation a little. I don't guess I am alone here. I think some of us have "stronger" moments when we realize any compromise will be our undoing, while there are other times when we think a little compromise will not really hurt us. This is probably the hardest lesson for us to grasp in life because we forget how damaging a little drop can be against the firmness of a hard stone when it is repeatedly allowed to hit the same spot over and over again. Most of the time we think the tiniest compromise won't hurt us in the long run, but it is like the drip today which is followed by the two drips tomorrow, and the three the next - until one day we see the "firmness" of our convictions eroded by the wear of sin's compromises!
This is what our writer might have been trying to tell us when he says not to use our standing of "grace" to allow us to continue to toy with sin. We cannot live so close to the edge of compromise in our lives that others constantly see us putting one foot over the line, just a little bit outside of how we say we want to or should live our lives. In those moments, we are allowing the foolishness to take over - all the while forgetting God is working within to help "fix stupid" in our lives! We usually don't plan well for compromise - this is where we can ask God to help. We need the wisdom of planning to assist us in avoiding the actions which result in us taking steps in the wrong direction. It is more than someone watching which should keep us walking upright, but this realization sure does give us a moment to think about our actions, doesn't it? If we were to be transparent here, we might just need the extra "oomph" of knowing someone is watching to keep us from putting the first toe over the edge!
You and I may not be able to "fix stupid" in others - but we can model how foolishness is worked OUT of our lives by the leading of the Holy Spirit and the teaching of the Word of God applied. We can "fix stupid" in us - when we submit in obedience to the "niggling" of our conscience which warns us before doing something foolish or damaging. This is what we "can" control - in turn, we are not "controlling" others, but we are giving them a positive example by which to know there is hope for their own foolishness! Just sayin!