I admit that I expected some backlash for basin an entire series on a set of Scriptures. I take great pride in that this blog is not directed toward one particular culture, belief system, gender, or age group. However, I did not expect criticism for using words that several feel are simply “too old”. It begs the question: Can real wisdom ever be out-of-date?
In 2011 the Rev Bob Burton, rector at the parish All Saints of the Desert in the Diocese of Arizona addressed the topic of true wisdom. “True wisdom has nothing to do with being nice. There, is however, an element of foolishness in being wise. Paul addresses this issue … “Do not deceive your selves. If you think you are wise in this age, you should become fools so that you may become wise.” What does Paul mean by this statement? Being a Christian today one may be considered to be a fool in the eyes of the world. In reality, however, being a fool for Jesus one may gain spiritual insight which is true wisdom.
“For example, true wisdom is responding to the challenge Jesus presents to us in today’s gospel of loving our enemies. Loving our enemies may be considered to be a foolish notion in the eyes of the world. However, as Christians, it is what Jesus calls us to do. Loving one’s enemies is characterized in the story about two monks living in China, one elderly and the other a young novice to their particular monastic order. The younger monk had recently visited a nearby city where he had been the victim of hurtful comments. These comments greatly offended the younger monk as he struggled to regain the peace and serenity that is supposed to characterize a person with such a holy vocation.
“Shortly after, the monks were walking through the jungle one day when they were suddenly chased by a ferocious man eating tiger. They managed to escape by climbing up a tree. When at last there were out of harms way, the older monk asked his younger companion, “Are you angry at that tiger? Are you offended by him? Do you feel moral outrage at his behavior? Do you feel dishonored by the tiger because he wants to eat you? “Of course not,” the younger monk replied. “The tiger is merely being true to its own nature. I mean, why should I be offended by a tiger wanting to eat me when it is the nature of the tiger to do so? All I wish at this time is to get completely out of its way.” “Then why,” the older monk concluded, “do you take offense at the behavior of certain people who, like the tiger, are merely being true to their own nature when they say hurtful things about you?”
“The older monk was exhibiting true wisdom. He was teaching patient restraint of a practical type. The type of restraint helps us keep our heads cool to diffuse emotionally charged situations. Had the younger monk been offended by the tiger that had tried to eat him, he might have felt compelled to seek the tiger out and let him know exactly what he thought about him. That would have gotten the younger monk absolutely no where, the tiger would have gotten a meal, which would have only increased the tiger’s appetite for human confrontation. As Christians, one way of exhibiting true wisdom in responding to the challenge to love our enemies is to practice patient restraint in the name of Jesus and like the younger monk when faced with potential adversaries get completely out of their way.
“True wisdom, from a Christian perspective, is also thanking God when we are feeling uncomfortable, angry, tearful and foolish? Such feelings may enable us to be proactive in responding to human needs. Taking the liberty to paraphrase Ward Ewing, Dean of General Theological Seminary, “True wisdom is thanking God for the feeling of discomfort at easy answers, half truths and superficial relationships, so that you may live deep within our heart. True wisdom is thanking God for getting angry at injustice, oppression and exploitation of people, so that you may work for justice, freedom and peace. True wisdom is thanking God for shedding tears for those who suffer from pain, rejection, starvation and war, so that you may reach out your hands to comfort them and turn their pain into joy.” “And finally, true wisdom,” Ewing concludes, “is thanking God for the foolishness to believe that you can make a difference in this world so that you can do what others claim cannot be done.”
I don’t think real wisdom ever goes out of date although how we apply it may and should change. Life is a series of evolutions. That is true regardless of which Creation story you believe or whether one is spiritual, atheist, or religious. The worth and value of the words known as the beatitudes is as real today as when they were first shared. I hope you join me on the journey of learning to be grateful for the goodness in our lives during this series. Goodness is ever present, I believe, even in the worst of times. It is simply up to us to take on the challenge, follow the life experiences, engage in welcoming the lessons the life offers. Sometimes our worse days are merely steps along our journey to decode the meaning of our life. That is a quest that never goes out of date and we are never too old to appreciate living.