Do not speak for a fool, for he will scorn the wisdom of your words. Proverbs 23, verse 9.
This weekend I read an online article by Chuck Colson. For those of you who don’t know about him, Colson was a Nixon insider who went to prison for crimes he committed during Watergate. In prison, he had a genuine conversion, went into ministry, and has spent the last thirty years ministering Christ to people. In that mission, he’s been far more effective and helpful than he ever was as advisor to the paranoid president.
The subject of Colson’s article was forgiveness, namely the challenges of forgiveness in a society that has become inured to the power contained in such a simple thing. He cites examples of people whose lives are transformed by forgiveness, not just stories from the Bible, but living people he has experienced during his mission. Colson’s dearest calling is ministering to other men in prison, bringing hope to hopelessness.
What place is more full of fools than prison? Everyone is innocent there; just ask them. Just ask Colson, because he spent part of his life incarcerated, believing he had been done an injustice while serving at the behest of the president. Only through the healing power of forgiveness did he see the wisdom of this verse, realizing that he had been a fool in all his political success: a fool who let himself slip into committing high crimes for petty gain. Colson realized that the fool is the man who turns his back on faith, and that the love of God contains the most ultimate wisdom in the universe. To scorn that love is both damning and rebellious foolishness.
Do you do that too? I do. More often than not, I am the fool, scorning the simple wisdom of my mission in life, namely to talk about Christ by just living my life. I’m a struggling, heartbroken, hurting sinner who has done some of the worst things a man can do. They haunt me all my days and nights, trying to drag me down and steal my joy. Some days I find it hard to live with myself; some days the unhappiness is overwhelming. “One of these days I’m gonna love me, then at last I’ll find some peace.” That’s from a Tim McGraw song. I don’t particularly care for Mr. McGraw’s music, but that lyric stuck with me. It’s where I am. I’m the fool who turns his back on simple forgiveness every time I let the unhappiness of my past deeds anchor me down in a life that can promise change if only I will just let go. Is it any wonder that there are people who refuse to speak for me? They have seen me live as the fool.
But that’s not what God does. Instead, He pours, covers and even smothers my soul with His forgiveness. He longs for me to see myself as He sees me: forgiven and beloved. He wants happiness for you, me, Tim McGraw, Chuck Colson and even the murderers who are Colson’s ministry behind bars. Christ wants us to know we are forgiven, and to share that with each other. He speaks for all of us fools that we might accept the undeniable wisdom of His love.
Believe me, though: it can be work to remember this. This week, the book you’ll find on my nightstand is called “the Monday Morning Church.” It’s about how the church isn’t some stupid building with programs, things to do, coffee and donuts, and hands in the air on Sunday. “The church” is you and I, living our lives en Christo in the world on Monday morning. ‘The church’ is our act of worship in talking, eating, breathing, shopping, listening, working, struggling, crying and laughing in a world where most of the population thinks that those actions are the best that can happen. We are fools in a world of fools, struggling imperfect people who scorn forgiveness and let petty evil keep holding us back. We are the church, not the squeaky clean congregation wearing their Sunday best. We are the church by living our lives, letting God transform us into better people who work to let Him show through the muck and the mire. That’s a truly radical way of thinking; it can set you apart and make your life different (thank you Pastor Mark for your words yesterday saying just that), and it all starts with the simple action of embracing forgiveness. God doesn’t promise that will be easy, but He always guarantees it is successful. Chuck Colson found that within the walls of a penitentiary. What’s stopping you and I from finding it here on the outside?