I love animals, especially baby animals. Their joy in life, innocence of evil intent and “grouchlessness” is engaging. As I sit typing I hear the pile of reading papers, magazines, and articles sliding off the footstool along with the kittens. Reminds me of diving off of cliffs in Hawaii, running back up and diving off again and again. Thrilling really! Oh and now my camera and purse hanging off the back of the dining room table chair has dropped to the floor for more intense inspection by Greyling, kitten #1. So now Calley, kitten #2, and WildBoy my 2-yr (teenager) cat have all come to inspect and crawl in the purse. Yes, I’ve done my best not to leave too much stuff available for their joyful runabouts and damage prevention. But for a healthy kitten’s growth, I must leave something for them to inspect and experiment with.
TALK, TALK, TALK……
We as humans are all like God's children and precious to God. As a grandmotherly senior, teaching and occasionally preaching is my passion and has been for many years. I was thinking this week how Bible study groups can sometimes be like a group of old and young cats of every age. The older want to prove their prowess, the babes want to have fun, and the rest want to “get into it” much like cats crawling into my purse to investigate. I’ve learned that I must let this happen both for the cats and for fellow believers. Such freedom creates an atmosphere of real joy in whatever we are doing including reading God’s Word.
WHERE IS THE WISDOM
James 3: 13 Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show by good conduct that his works are done in the meekness of wisdom. 14 But if you have bitter envy and self-seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth. 15 This wisdom does not descend from above, but is earthly, sensual, and demonic. 16 For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there. 17 But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy. 18 Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.
Wisdom is both the proper application of knowledge as well as godly love directed toward all for their productive benefit. The word translated as ‘wise’ in vs. 13 above is Sophos and means skilled, expert, cultivated, learned, etc. It is sometimes aimed specifically toward theologians, philosophers and teachers and those who want to become such. We should encourage those seeking to become wise.
THE KNOWLEDGEABLE MUST LEAD AND STEER
I’ve found that Bible Study for adult believers must include things they can inspect and experiment with like kittens and my purse, but not too much. They still need the guidance of those who have studied deeply the subject. Someone is bound to puff up like a turkey or the arched back of a challenging kitten and proclaim that his or her answer or insight is the only reasonable one. That is when biting and fighting can begin. Wisdom loves them all, encourages and applauds the real insights and steers all toward more thoughtful discussion. As Paul noted in 1 Timothy 1 some people want to be teachers of the Law, but really don’t have a good grasp of the Word, nor on the things they proclaim so confidently.
1 Tim. 1:7 desiring to be teachers of the law, understanding neither what they say nor the things which they affirm.
Unless they are infiltrators from an ungodly belief system and not really Christians, it really doesn’t matter who is going off track, the answer should be the same to all believers: help them to learn. Don’t try to silence them forever or be harsh with them. This was Paul’s answer regarding the women in Ephesus who were desiring to be teachers. “Let them learn”. The principle is the same for everyone. Encourage them to learn in quietness (not fighting) with expectations to receive something of value.
POINTING IN THE DESIRED DIRECTION
Sometimes, I preach a bit in our Bible groups, laying history and foundations for what is being studied. As I do this I’m doing my best to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit in directing discussion. I stop in the midst of discussion and offer them nuggets of information they may not have. And I ask questions that will make them really think. Believe me, many are waiting for their chance to contribute. Welcome it and leave time and space for it.
If a section of Scripture is controversial, I’ve learned that it is best to note the controversies and help believers think about it. This is much like ancient Jewish practices of citing scholar’s words that differ, such as Hillel, or Gamaliel. There will always be scholars and teachers that differ on certain points. We who teach must inform the Body of Christ how to deal with this and how to properly inductively and contextually research these different opinions. And we should give them good researchable reasons why we believe as we do especially on controversial subjects. Don’t run away from it and leave them hanging. Do your research and teach them how to study inductively. Unfortunately, too often some things are taught from poor research leaving behind context, history, grammar and whole Bible harmony. That is why we who know better must share what we know with our brethren with wisdom, compassion and sincere affection.
Teaching with wisdom, knowledge, good research, compassionate steering of conversation as well as using the basics of a good scholar of the Word (history, grammar, context, whole Bible harmony) and sincere affection toward all believers is bound to produce the joyful communication and discussion of a group of happy cats and kittens. I’ve seen it happen many times. My church’s Sunday morning Bible group which I steer is known for their laughter echoing up into the sanctuary, and our “lively” discussions. When this happens it is not attributed to just the one teaching and steering. The one teaching is like the good mountain guide who has been there before and just keeps walking them in the best paths of which he/she knows. Then the Holy Spirit takes over and the unity and fellowship of the Spirit leads us toward the mind of Christ, which is to love one another, put other’s first, consider other’s interests before our own. Then we learn to wash one another’s feet in our spiritual discussion. We learn to see the value in others that Christ saw in humanity when He gave His life and suffered death for the benefit of those who would come to Him. To see this glorious hint of unity of the Spirit is worth all the work it takes, all the trials and failures it takes, to keep doing what God calls a teacher to do; and often brings joy to my heart and tears to my eyes.
Phil. 2 Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, 2 fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. 3 Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. 4 Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.