As believers, we often attack the actions of those that don’t subscribe to our particular beliefs (ironically, often referred to as “the world”). Or worse, we associate “the world’s” actions and creations predominantly with the devil (that music, movie, alcohol, etc is of the devil!). Though we have some scriptural support for these attitudes, language like this creates a huge disconnect between believers and the culture at large. All too often, this leads to a lack of respect, or worse, an all out battle against Christians and Christianity.
But the writer of Proverbs paints a different picture of how to see others.
Yes, in these verses the writer does uncover the gross character flaws and dangers of the adulterous woman, for example:
“she is bitter as wormwood, Sharp as a two edged sword.” Proverbs 5:4 NASB
But the writer also affirms her humanity and significance by stating “She does not KNOW it.” She may be wrong in her thoughts and actions, but she isn’t fully aware it. The word for “know” in Hebrew is “Yada” – it is more than just a mental understanding; it means to be intimate (even sexually intimate) with something.
A person of wisdom understands that despite the gross failings of “the world,” they aren’t truly intimate with their actions. In their own minds, they don’t fully KNOW or understand what they are doing is really wrong or dangerous, or perhaps they may have a sense of regret, but they are past the point of being able to stop themselves (i.e. addiction).
So how does a person of wisdom provide illumination? Instead of focusing on actions, the wise point out CONSEQUENCES. Instead of making the world intimate with its flaws and failings, they uncover the dangerous and damaging of the consequences of their behaviors. For example:
COMMON WAY: Drug use is of the devil
WITH WISDOM: Drug use can cause birth defects, mental damage, organ failure, physical addiction, etc. – and I care enough about you to see you suffer in that way.
COMMON WAY: If you have sex before marriage you are a sinner.
WITH WISDOM: Casual sex can lead to debilitating diseases, AIDS, cancers, unplanned pregnancies and serious psychological and trust issues if abused, and lack of respect for yourself and your future spouse – and you are too valuable to me to let those things happen to you.
This is not to say that it will always work, some people don’t want the consequences of their actions pointed out to them, but as they become more intimate (Yada) with the damage caused by their actions, the battle switches to an internal and spiritual struggle (where the Spirit of God can work), not an external and divisive culture war.
When we focus negatively on the actions of “the world,” we often isolate them and distance ourselves from their humanity, but when we focus on consequences we love them and show our care and concern for them as human beings. And you will find that you are often given a greater platform to present the True Love of Christ. As ambassadors of Christ, we are merely a conduit or a bridge for the Spirit to move in the lives of those we affect. We aren’t the changers of people’s hearts, Christ is. But we’ll soften more hearts with a spiritual salve, not a sledgehammer.