As the people of God Christ has called us to reflect God’s character in word and deed. The calling to ambassadors for our King is never more important in times of crisis and turmoil. In order to foster this kind of distinctly Christian community and witness, our interaction is to be characterized by biblical wisdom and humility. The book of Proverbs often connects these two virtues: “When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom” (Prov. 11:2). Wisdom does not mean a vast accumulation of facts or an above-average IQ, but the practical virtue of knowing how to live in the trust and fear of God. Note how Proverbs 26:4–5 instructs us not to “answer a fool according to his folly” because “you yourself will be just like him,” and then turns around in the very next verse and tells us that we should “answer a fool according to his folly” because otherwise “he will be wise in his own eyes.” Rather than contradicting each other, these verses serve to teach us that different situations call for different types of responses. Jesus himself, the embodiment of wisdom, taught us, “Be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves” (Matt. 10:16).
Using Christ-like wisdom also means we avoid taking our cues from how the world conducts itself in disagreement. The danger is that we unwittingly allow social media and cable news to disciple us, providing divisive scripts that we mimic in our daily interactions, teaching us to view civil disagreement as weakness and nuanced dialogue as a failure in courage. As the Church, however, we should not be deceived or tempted to follow the world in this. We must continue to speak to outsiders with “gentleness and respect” (1 Pet. 3:15), and if we cannot do this with each other, we cannot do it with outsiders. This is not to suggest that strong words are never in order, especially for those who are called to spiritual authority and must at times rebuke and correct in wisdom. However, dialogue among Christians requires that we each personally contribute to creating an environment where we can all express differing views and tell personal experiences without the fear of being personally attacked. Especially in this pivotal moment in our culture, we have a God-given calling and opportunity to counterculturally model a way that is better than the world’s: “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person” (Col. 4:6).
With this in mind, in the next post I will offer five commitments that we should maintain in our interaction with each as we seek the Lord’s will in his mission for us as a Church.