24 June 2013

Frustrating Kindness

“One who loves instruction is one who loves knowledge,
but one who hates correction is an ignoramus” (Prov 12:1).

It's nothing new: those who dare embrace the label Christian must be known by their love—indiscriminately to all, and especially to each other in the household of faith. They must practice, in a word, friendship. They must risk shame; they must wash feet. They must exclaim, at least in actions if not in words, “Hosanna!”

So, in the proverb quoted above, we see that they must “love instruction”; otherwise, they’re just ignoramuses—brutish, senseless creatures—indeed, less human than God desires. Enter the amazing grace of our triune Lord, without which our destiny, declared by the Creator to be a life centered around him, devolves into savage narcissism.

By his grace, those of us who confess that Jesus is Lord and that God raised him from the dead (Rom 10:9), no matter what his or her heritage, are ingrafted branches, stemming from the true vine (John 15:1–11). And yes, by his loving grace, those confessors who bear fruit are pruned, so that they bear more fruit (v. 2). Grace is being given the passion to love this, to love the instruction, the correction, that directs us toward knowledge, which knowledge paves the way toward the God-centered life. Hating this, in short, bears nothing, no fruit, and is thus heading toward being broken off (v. 2).

With the above proverb in mind, another way of saying all this is that being a branch stemming from the real vine involves embodying what it means to be human in Christ Jesus (see 2 Cor 5:17). Meeting reproof with hatred (often disguised as incredulity), exposes the pride that goes before destruction (Prov 16:18). Even more, it betrays the place where such a person has made his stand—“outside the divine realm of sensible discourse [and in] the animal kingdom” (Waltke, Proverbs, vol. 1, p. 520). Following this trajectory leads only to one place—the broken-branch realm of stupidity, irrationality, and animal-like brutishness. In other words, the devolution of the image of God in man to the point of no return. Think of Nebuchadnezzar: driven out of human society, eating grass like an ox, sleeping outside with hair as long as eagle feathers and nails as long as bird claws (Dan 4:33).

But then, the unexpected: Grace. His sanity returned and he praised the supreme God (v. 34). Our Lord has a maddening tendency, doesn’t he? To bring back people (we’ve often written off) from the point of no return (see Rom 10:23–24). May we learn to love this frustrating kindness of Almighty God.


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