I awoke early this morning — the sun was just beginning to peek above the horizon and brush its brilliant colors across the sky.
But, it wasn’t the brightening sky that woke me. It was the incredible variety of bird songs and trills that acted as my alarm clock. I lay still, simply listening, allowing the splendid morning symphony to refresh my soul.
Last night, I was lulled to sleep by the sounds of insects chirping, a bass band of frogs peeping in the pond, and an owl hooting from a nearby tree. I am so thankful for the peace and solitude that surrounds my home tucked in the woods. It feels like an oasis from the ongoing crises taking place in our nation and the loudly accompanying voices of fear, frustration, unrest and anger.
To be sure, there are things that need to be voiced and talked about. There are issues and injustices that must be addressed. And there are changes and advancements that should be made.
Yet the sounds that seem to be the loudest right now, or at least the ones getting the most press time, are the sounds of anger, accusation, bitterness and violence. Though those voices purport to seek justice, they reject and shut out any voice that does not agree with them, producing only the fruit of lawlessness and destruction.
The Apostle James wrote in the Bible about two kinds of wisdom. His words provide, still today, a clear guide for discerning the voices that speak with false “wisdom” from those who speak with true wisdom: “Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such ‘wisdom’ does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, and demonic. For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice. But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.”
Martin Luther King Jr., a true peacemaker and a man of wisdom, spoke the following words during a time of national upheaval not unlike the one we are experiencing today: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
It is vital that we listen carefully for the voices that speak with true wisdom in our day, for injustice cannot be defeated by the committing of further acts of injustice. That is nothing more than a counterfeit, evil wisdom, and it is a deadly snare.
It is easy to recognize that we live in a broken world made of flawed and imperfect human beings. Out of our own brokenness, we hurt one another, for we will always recreate our own internal environment in our external life. What thrives within us flows out of our mouth, is reproduced in the way we treat others and gives birth to the values that guide every aspect of the way we live.
The Apostle Paul, who experienced beatings, stoning, persecution and imprisonment for his faith in Christ, challenges us to choose the higher path: “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation. Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men (Romans 12:12-18).”
In order to be a catalyst of healing and redemption, we each must first be healed and made whole by the Prince of Peace, for there can be no peace without, if there is not peace within.
Only when we ask God’s forgiveness for our own sins through Jesus Christ, and invite the presence of God to reside within our heart, will we be empowered as a true peacemaker. Only when we learn to forgive as we have been forgiven, will we be set free from the prison of our past as individuals and as a nation.
“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good (Romans 12:21).”
That is true wisdom, indeed.
Michelle Smith serves alongside her husband, Gary, as part of the leadership team of New Life Christian Fellowship. She founded Purely Women Ministries with the purpose of helping women of all ages discover their true identity as women of God. She can be reached at email@example.com.