Wise as Serpents; Innocent as Doves

Language changes over time, both syntax and vocabulary. One of the greatest and most costly losses in our day  old-fashioned word “wisdom.” We simply don’t have any use for it anymore, since we see no people of wisdom anywhere around us.

Wisdom is the capstone of a trio of ideas which describe the full learning curve in life: Knowledge, Understanding, Wisdom. We cannot be wise unless we understand what we see in ourselves and in the people and world around us. And we cannot understand unless we see with undistorted eyes the plain facts that surround us.

In a day in which political commentators try to outshout one another with cries of “That’s not true!”, it is no wonder we have despaired of anyone reaching the third stage. We cannot even get a start on stage one.

We in our celebration of hubris — as if it were not a profoundly harmful character flaw — seem to have created a society in which we are proud of having thrown off the shackles of God. Ever since Nietzsche pronounced the “death of God” 135 years ago, we’ve been trying to make his words come true.

God has lost nothing. We have lost everything.

Jesus, perhaps the greatest example of wisdom in Western and Middle Eastern history, said to his disciples, “I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.” He was commissioning his followers to go into all the world but we may permit ourselves to narrow the focus for just a moment’s reflection. We need to hear him say, “I am sending you to Washington; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.”

Is there any place in the world more hostile these days to wisdom and innocence than our own capital? And who are the leaders of that hostility? The first two who come to mind are Trump and McConnell, though they are merely examples of Washington’s enmity toward truth, understanding, and wisdom.

What can we do? Especially, I wonder, what can the church be doing? There are two steps for the church.

First, we must be developing people of wisdom again. That is no easy task and it is made doubly hard by the fact that we seem to have lost interest in wisdom over the last couple of generations. The recovery is going to be very challenging but the Lord and his Scripture are wonderful resources. If only our churches would return to their biblical roots!

Second, we can be educating ourselves and our communities to be wise voters. There may be little hope for those already in office but there is always hope for tomorrow’s politicians if we can develop good leaders and get them elected without damage to their integrity.

I know, that sounds both naive and completely impossible. But our hope is in the Lord’s infinite possibilities, not in humankind’s finite impossibilities.

So, where is the beginning point? Biblical wisdom is always an expression of character. We were created in the image — the character!!! — of God and must allow the Lord to re=create that image within us. There is no wisdom without Christlikeness of character. The church must cease immediately this phase of thinking the “issues” matter more than character.

May the grace of God open doors of knowledge, understanding, and wisdom to his people. . .



About mthayes42

I am a retired pastor, interested in the Bible, cross-cultural ministries, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and the current and past history of western civilization.
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