Leave your simple ways, and live, and walk in the way of insight." Whoever corrects a scoffer gets himself abuse, and he who reproves a wicked man incurs injury. Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you; reprove a wise man, and he will love you. Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser; teach a righteous man, and he will increase in learning.
(Proverbs 9:6-9 – ESV)
(Proverbs 9:6-9 – ESV)
Our old man of the self tries to protect our self-interest at all costs. If you were in error, would you want to know? Are you so sure about that? Are you actually becoming more teachable? Or do you just want to protect your pet idea, and keep it insulated by ignorance? Would you parade that ignorance as somehow showing a superior form of piety? In other words, do you think it means you have more faith, or that you are somehow a more humble or loving person?
Now in Christianity, some things are a mystery, yet some people think everything about Christianity is a mystery. Or that you can have two diametrically opposed ideas of doctrine and both are still right. Or that when shown something as false from the Bible, that they “just know” that their interpretation is right somehow. People treat conviction with suspicion, and feel that certainty is certainly a sin. They might say, “Oh we cannot know”, and think that for you to be so certain is obviously a sin, and they seem to be certain of that, don’t they?
This does not make them humble and holy but it is actually very arrogant. We are all guilty of that to some degree, but none of that excuses any of the error. Some may begin by acting humble but they soon become hostile. They are, in effect, saying, “I may not know the answer but I won’t allow YOU to teach me the truth”. James 4:17 – So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.
The claim of innocence becomes invalid when forced to see the idol of ignorance. Even so, people will often want to cling to their idol rather than suffer regret. They deny and defend, they cry and pretend. It should be a relief when we have found the truth, but no one wants to admit that what they thought was precious was only fools gold, or worse. This is why we must grow up and learn to become lovers of the truth no matter what it may cost us; it is more valuable and precious than any lie that does us any amount of good, emotionally or otherwise. The end of all lies is death and destruction.
When faced with the choice of reconsidering that their notions might be wrong, many would prefer to simply retreat to the “ignorance is bliss” position, or the “you are just being mean” position, or the “but it has done me much good” position, or the “yeah I see what you are saying, but” position, or the “yeah but your way isn’t perfect” position, or whatever else saves them some face. They cannot stomach the thought of having been so wrong so long, having cherished or taught this idea and having to be known as having been wrong on it.
The truth is most of the others who they think will look down on them for “being wrong” won’t, they will be happy to see you embrace the truth. It isn’t as if you have to go back and tell everyone to renounce the false stuff that “worked” for you all this time. You don’t have say, “this didn’t really work”, but “this isn’t really right”. Repentance doesn’t try and hold on to self by trying to defend a false idea, or by trying to point out the errors of the other person before admitting the errors of their own ways. That isn’t repentance; that is rebellion.
It is not about you or them it is about the truth. If you are truthfully interpreting and teaching from the scriptures, no matter how it is told it tends to be cutting people down to size who at best are exalting their idea of themselves over you, but are actually doing worse, they are exalting their knowledge against the knowledge of God.
It is to those who are religious in this way that that the Bible reserves its harshest language. Now we are not writing scripture as led by the Holy Spirit, but using strong criticism, harsh tones, cutting remarks, sarcasm, or absurd arguments may help some see the nature of their superstitions. To underline the ridiculous with the ridiculous can be very eye opening. The Apostle Paul used these tactics, as did the Old Testament prophets at times (cf. Galatians 1:8-9, 5:12 / 1 Corinthians 4 / Philippians 3:8 / 1 Kings 18:27, 1 Kings 22:13-28 / Isaiah / Ezekiel / etc.). They didn’t do these all the time, and neither should we, but sometimes you have to shake them up to wake them up otherwise they will not hear. Even if they get mad at you at least they will hopefully get mad enough to go home and consider what you say. Even if they are trying to disprove it, at least they will investigate.
It is the same for all of us. When we are shown the truth but are unwilling to actually engage the issue, the reason it hurts so much to see the idol smashed is because we will not let it go, and so we are also hit in the process. Sometimes we can hold to deception as tenaciously as if it were Christ Himself, but it was only a projection of your best thoughts, and it was false. Have I then become your enemy by telling you the truth? (Galatians 4:16)