When a wise man has a controversy with a foolish man, the foolish man either rages or laughs, and there is no rest (Prov 29.9).
How we respond to controversy measures our spiritual maturity, especially when that controversy concerns truth about ourselves. How do you handle wisely-targeted truth?
If you are foolish, you might immediately and easily get angry: How dare she say such a thing! Who do they think they are? What business is it of his? He’s no choir boy, either, so if we’re going to play this game then I could say something about him. I’m never stepping foot in that church again. In stomping off we stomp on grace. No one makes us angry. We choose to be angry because we are a lustful, envious, selfishly-motivated people (Jas 4.2). We are foolish.
If you are foolish, you might laugh it off: It’s no big deal. They’re making a mountain out of a mole hill. She doesn’t understand the situation. He just blowing off steam. I know I have some things to work on, but I could be far worse; we should really confront so-and-so. And soon we’ve dismissed ourselves into self-righteous atrophy. We are foolish.
Whether we rage our way or laugh our way through confrontation, we will not find rest. Our anger will boil over into slander, gossip and murderous thoughts. Our laughter will nag us into superficiality and spiritual anemia. Either way, we will simply not deal with the truth. And when we repeatedly refuse to deal with truth we will live a lie. We will create a fantasy world in our minds where we are invincible and untouchable. Any threat to our self-righteousness will be met with self-justified rage or summarily dismissed as laughable. God’s rest will continue to allude us.
How has The Wise Man (Jesus) dealt with his controversy with us foolish men? He did not enrage himself against us. He did not laugh off our sin. He laid down his life so that his friends would be free from their self-destructive, soul-destroying lives. The foolish man in us was dealt his fatal blow at the cross. Now indwelt with the Spirit of Wisdom we can look in the mirror with an honest heart and say with the psalmist: “Let the righteous smite me in kindness and reprove me; it is oil upon the head; do not let my head refuse it, for still my prayer is against their wicked deeds” (Ps 141.5).
Don’t get mad when I ask this, but who’s laughing now?