God v. Wisdom

"Since you refuse to listen when I call ... since you diregard all my advice ... I in turn will laugh when disaster strikes you; I will mock when calamity overtakes you."  Proverbs 1:24-26

I know that God is different. My faith believes what He says in Isaiah 55 — "My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways." But that really hit me today in a Bible study on Proverbs.

According to Proverbs, Wisdom (personified as a woman who calls out in the public square to teach anyone who would listen) is unforgiving — a sort of cold, cause-effect realist. Wisdom points to the reality of how the world works:  "Lazy hands make a man poor, but diligent hands bring wealth" (Proverbs 10:4); "A kind man benefits himself, but a cruel man brings trouble on himself" (Proverbs 11:17). There's nothing particularly religious or spiritual about that — it's just how the world works. Consider a few professional athletes who are arrogant and selfish ... and how they pile trouble on themselves and invite the disdain of teammates and fans. (Contrast them with the great team players, who work and play with humility and a teachable spirit.) In countless ways we all pile up trouble in our lives by foolishness. We have family members, coworkers, and neighbors who seem to be magnets for trouble ... because of the choices they've made.

Wisdom points to those who live foolishly, who have chosen to pile up trouble, and says:  "If you had responded to my rebuke, I would have poured out my heart to you and made my thoughts known to you. But since you rejected me when I called ... I in turn will laugh at your disaster; I will mock when calamity overtakes you when calamity overtakes you like a storm, when distress and trouble overwhelm you" (Proverbs 1:23-27).

In contrast to Wisdom, God does not abandon us to the mess we've made. Like the father in Jesus' parable of the prodigal son, God is full of compassion and always ready to welcome. In fact, God's entire plan of redemption in Jesus Christ shows that God's way is fundamentally different. As one of my favorite verses reminds us:  "God demonstrates His love for us in this: while we were still sinners Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8). He entered our mess. He willingly, lovingly pursued us. And not because we had figured it all out and straightened ourselves out. "While we were still sinners"!  While Wisdom is unforgiving, God is full of mercy.

What really stood out to me today is this:  If God is willing to step into our junk ... what should our Christian response be to our children, friends, neighbors, and coworkers, when they have brought all kinds of trouble on themselves? Turn away, saying: "You brought this on yourself. You have to face the consequences"? No!

No doubt, it would be unloving to enable someone in their foolish ways. And according to the ways of Wisdom, we'd be justified in abandoning them to their mess. But I am convinced that the Godly life is marked by a willingness to enter another person's hurt  even the hurt they've piled on themselves with compassion. We usually can't take away the earthly consequences for them. But we CAN walk with them and say: "I am here with you. I am here for you. I will not abandon you." This is the way of God, who says, "Never will I leave you, never will I forsake you."

What does Godly compassion look like for you these days?