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Tuesday, March 17, 2015

God, I give you the fool...

A long time ago, I thought the only way to deal with foolish individuals was to talk them out of their foolishness.  Let me be the first to confess - the only thing this did was make a fool of me!  Why?  Fools cannot be talked out of their foolishness - they need an up-front and personal encounter with Jesus - not with my reasoning, rationalization, or even arguments which point out all the ways contrary to the ways they have chosen to act. This is why you won't find me debating with those who show up on my doorstep to "win me over" to their faith. I will simply state that I am a follower of Christ, very pleased with this deeply personal relationship I share with him, and have my hope of salvation pretty well "nailed down".  If this peaks their interest, I certainly will go on to share why it is I have this hope, but I don't spend hours debating with them why their "religion" is flawed.  I need to simply state the truth for the hope which I have within me and then leave God to do the rest.  There are also times I will not engage someone who is being totally unrealistic, confrontational, or even "mightier than thou" in their approach to life.  They aren't going to listen at that very moment, so I just do what scripture says - I turn aside and keep on going.  Before anyone accuses me of not caring, or of being a coward, let me just assure you the most caring and even the bravest thing I can do is to leave them in the hands of God!  He is ultimately in charge and I can simply state truth - allowing him to do the rest of the work which needs to be done.

My child, if you listen and obey my teachings, you will live a long time. I have shown you the way that makes sense; I have guided you along the right path. Your road won’t be blocked, and you won’t stumble when you run. Hold firmly to my teaching and never let go. It will mean life for you. Don’t follow the bad example of cruel and evil people. Turn aside and keep going. Stay away from them. They can’t sleep or rest until they do wrong or harm some innocent victim.  (Proverbs 4:11-16 CEV)

I guess I didn't fully appreciate this truth in my younger days because I would "engage" them in their arguments and then when we just got deeper and deeper into their unrealistic beliefs, I'd be dumbfounded about how to respond. I could see it as wrong - but they just couldn't - and that was pretty frustrating to me.  There are some things God expects of his kids - then there are things he expects us to leave in his hands!  Don't get those two mixed up!  First, we are to be attentive to his teachings and then act according to what we know to be right.  So, in the end, our lives become a display of the grace and truth of God's love - something our words might just not be able to accomplish in the same manner.  Next, we are to stay within the paths which make sense for our lives. I have actually done some testing to see how it is I personally deal with confrontation.  I am a confrontation "avoider" - I don't like to just jump in there and take up the fight.  Is this wrong?  No, it isn't.  When you understand that "confrontation style", you will soon recognize my "holding back" or "becoming quite" in the presence of confrontation is really me just stepping back to gain perspective.  I am not fully disengaging, I am simply restructuring my thoughts so I don't respond without wisdom.

I think this is what God has in mind when he says we have been show the way that makes sense - the right way to respond even in the midst of confrontation. There are times when engaging too soon, or with little to no forethought is just plain unwise.  It will only end up damaging one or both of the parties engaged in the confrontation.  Road blocks seem to be something we all understand. We might just think someone is a "road block" in our life - like everything they say and do is really just holding us back or keeping us from getting any further along. I have had discussions like that with individuals on occasion - no matter which "tact" I took, the outcome was about the same.  Now, I have to ask - was all my effort futile?  To answer that I need only look at the outcome of the encounter.  I must admit, in most cases, it was!  Why?  Foolishness cannot be "talked out" of an individual's mind or heart.  It must be "washed out" by the blood of the Lamb!  There is much to be said about "turning away from the foolish" because engaging in their folly will only take us down roads we don't want to travel.  I like how scripture tells us to turn aside and just keep on going. I like that we are given "permission" to not turn our backs on them, but to turn aside.  This implies we don't engage with their folly.  

God starts by reminding us of our priorities - him first, his teachings next, and then taking steps in the right direction to the best of the ability he gives us. If we encounter some fools along the way, we don't engage with them in their folly and we don't get stymied by their folly (road blocks).  Maybe this is why we don't argue with the fool - because all these arguments do is add "weight" like a burden a burro might carry upon its back.  We take on the fools misgivings, their protests, and even their arguments as though they were something we were to bear ourselves.  God's intent is not for us to bear their burdens of unbelief, argumentativeness, or even frustration - he will do that.  We just need to lead lives which present positive examples of his love and grace - let him deal with the fools.  Just sayin!