The Gentleness of Wisdom

Photo by Caleb Gregory on Unsplash

You could say I have been deconstructing for the last several years. For those who immediately read those words and have begun writing their individualized narrative surrounding the state of my heart and mind, please know; that I am not walking away from Jesus. In all seriousness, I've never been as surrendered to Him as I am today. I am deconstructing man's teachings (including my own) and the church's actions (and my own) surrounding various Biblical teachings, relational interactions, and social issues — while seeking the silver lining only found in the fullness of the work of The Trinity. Funny, as I write this, I think about Jesus's interaction with Nicodemus in John 3. He tells the man he must be born again and even unlearn what made him a respectable grown-up and spiritual leader. As Jesus promotes this idea of tearing down the life that one has built for himself and rebirth, we find one of the most familiar passages in all scripture, so familiar; you could probably even say it with me "…for God so love the world." Isn't it amazing that even when we do not have it all figured out, God's heart is kind, and we are led to repentance through His kindness?

Don’t you realize how patient he is being with you? Or don’t you care? Can’t you see that he has been waiting all this time without punishing you, to give you time to turn from your sin? His kindness is meant to lead you to repentance. — Romans 2:4 (The Living Bible)

As I embrace the state of my present heart, I've realized that I've been asking some tough questions for years. Until recently, these questions made me uneasy, fearing that the questions would color me disrespectful and even negate my most profound beliefs and values. But over these past few months, I've been reminded that God welcomes questions as I've read the Bible with more tenacity than ever. It's the common questions asked wherein I've grown in my relationships as a husband, a father, friend, and follower of Christ. Questions lead to intimacy. Questions are asked to learn and express interest, and questions are answered to teach, build and maintain relationships.

“Call to me, and I will answer you. I’ll tell you marvelous and wondrous things that you could never figure out on your own.’ — Jeremiah 33:3 (The Message Translation)

Questions are found throughout the Bible. For instance, in Genesis 3:9, God asks Adam, "Why are you hiding?" In Exodus 3:13, Moses asked God, "what is your name?" David was full of questions throughout Psalms, and even the entire book of Habbakuk is a continual thread of dialogue of questions. Jumping to the new testament, Jesus seemed to love questions. Mark 4:10–11 shows Jesus teaching that those who ask questions find the secret of the Kingdom of God. Another passage that summarizes Jesus' view of questions is Matthew 7:7–8 (New Living Translation) "Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened." 1 Chronicles 28:9 promises that if you seek Him, God will be found; even Isaiah 34:16 says, "seek and read from the book of the Lord."

As we journey deeper into Christ, we have pathway discoveries. These discoveries, I believe, come through asking questions — in the seeking, we find our convictions. I think these convictions also align with his when we are in a healthy relationship with Jesus. For many, one of those convictions will most likely be our use of language and the understanding of the power of our tongue. For too long, our words (dreadfully, even my words) have chained people outside the doors of our communities. Where is wisdom's gentleness? If a social media post, a family dinner, a passing coffee shop order, etc., are spoken and written without love, we're like a gun firing without a target. Love is the essence of the Spirit — and the motive of the gifts of the Spirit is love.

In the Bible, in the book of James, it says that we all fail in many areas, especially in our words. Our words can release a fire that will burn throughout human existence. It goes on to say that you can tame large animals — but taming your tongue is impossible. It is easy to praise God one minute and then turn around and curse the creation made in his image (including ourselves). The Bible says that It is impossible for fresh and bitter water to flow out of the same spring. This chapter goes on to say that if you consider yourself to understand the ways of God — advertise it with a beautiful, fruit-filled life guided by wisdom's gentleness. The gentleness referenced here in James denotes an action; choosing equity and justice in our dealings with others, even when you could assert your legal rights against them. Gentleness keeps us from "the danger that ever lurks upon the assertion of legal rights lest they be pushed to immoral limits."¹

I believe that moral convictions aren't always taught; they are frequently discovered, much like a friendship. One doesn't merely meet someone over coffee and immediately become friends; there must first be a conversation. We must first see that we are all more the same than different². Through conversation (i.e., questions), we show warmth, love, and respect toward the person we meet through questions, smiles, and connection. Most conversational exchanges don't morph who we are; honestly, they allow for a broader understanding of humanity and the complex directions we approach many subjects.

Like me, I'm sure that you most likely hold a passionate position on topics ranging from A to Z. These positions traditionally take shape from individual likes and dislikes or preferences. Even belief systems centered on norms and conventions of any given society (i.e., what the law dictates or what our faith teaches us to believe.) For believers (Christians), any time that our convictions vary from the teaching and nature of Christ, we back ourselves into a corner, placing us at odds with the spirit of Christ's heart. After all, "when Jesus Christ sees the fallenness of the world all about him, his deepest impulse, his most natural instinct, is to move toward that sin and suffering, not away from it." ³ This truth leads me to ask, why do we so frequently run away from those that are suffering? As believers, how can we value one aspect of humanity over the other? How can we boast over the righteousness we feel is warranted while mowing over the beating hearts of those that are wounded.

“When Jesus Christ sees the fallenness of the world all about him, his deepest impulse, his most natural instinct, is to move toward that sin and suffering, not away from it.”

I recently read about a professor who gave a balloon to every student. The students had to inflate their balloons, write their names on the balloon, and throw them in the hallway. The professor then mixed all the balloons. After confusing the origin of every balloon, the students were given 5 minutes to find their balloon. Despite a passionate, hectic search, no one discovered their personal balloon. The professor then told the students to take the first balloon they found and hand it to the person whose name was written on it. Within 5 minutes, everyone had their balloon. The professor said to the students: "These balloons are like happiness. We will never find it if everyone is looking for their own. But if we care about other people's happiness, we'll find ours too."

Today, let's ask the questions that lead to authentic connection. In those connections, may our convictions never be imprinted on the hearts of others without the authenticity of wisdom's gentleness. I am happy to say that all is well. Through my taking apart and examining who God says He is and what He says He does, I am exposing my biases, flaws, or inconsistencies in how I respond to and reflect his nature. Sorry, I am a bit rambly today; until next time.

  1. "I want people to recognize that we are all more the same than different. We are all human. The fear and the bravery, the love and the loss, the tears and the belly laughs, the mundane and the extraordinary, and the beginnings and the ends. We all experience these things and much more, and recognizing our shared humanity is the start to mending this undeniably broken world." — Gatton.
  2. Spiros' Zodhiates' The Complete WordStudy Dictionary: New Testament, entries 1932 and 1933.
  3. Dane C. Ortlund, Gentle and Lowly: The Heart of Christ for Sinners and Sufferers

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Jeremi Richardson

Jeremi Richardson

Husband to Amy | Dad to Ariah, Shalom, and Noa | Lover of coffee | Worship Leader, Studio Vocalist, and former member of CCM group, Avalon.