Great divides show up everywhere from schools of thought to geological terrains, but when a great divide occurs between friends, it can be very painful. Most of us have experienced this unfortunate circumstance. The well-intended friends who comforted Job by sitting with him in silence for seven days while he was suffering, saw trouble begin when each felt compelled to speak his version of wisdom.
Job, described as a righteous man by God, had just experienced the death of his 10 children and the destruction and loss of his vast wealth. Now covered with painful boils, he was wondering why he was even born; it seemed his life had amounted to nothing. In the conventional wisdom of Job’s day, calamity came upon evil-doers, and blessing upon those who were upright. Job could not understand why all of this was happening — he had done his best to serve God. His three friends were quick to reiterate the consequences of good and evil, accusing Job of the latter because of what he was suffering, not because of actual evidence. Their arguments against Job came from their own perspectives derived from worldly wisdom, their personal experiences, and their individual wounds. Because of their self-righteous positions, they couldn’t see the error of their judgments.
These friends could have benefited from James’ (brother of Jesus) cautionary words: “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, 20 because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.” (James 1:19-20) As the discourse between Job and his friends continued, both sides became more alienated from each other, digging their heels into their respective positions. We see the same thing happening today within the church and among believing friends who should be united in Christ. Job and his friends lived long before Jesus gave the gift of the Holy Spirit as Counselor to those who believed in Him, but we don’t have that excuse.
In Christ, we should be operating in unity, grounded in His truth (John 17). Unfortunately, we find ourselves repeating the age-old problem of speaking from our personal perspectives which are governed by our intellects (our wisdom and knowledge), our experiences, and our personal wounds (including biases). When perspective is reality, there are as many different truths as there are people. Distressingly, this dysfunctional approach has been applied to the interpretation of scripture as well, resulting in unneeded and unwanted divisiveness in God’s church.
Could it be that we really don’t understand and acknowledge the person of Holy Spirit as “the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of might, the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the Lord” (Isaiah 11:2)? We should never attempt to listen to anyone without inviting Holy Spirit to be the interpreter of what we hear. Only He knows the hearts of others, and only He knows Truth. Yet 98% of the time, we dive into conversation without Him, not realizing that self-righteousness fills His void, empowered by pride. Only humility (our abject need of Jesus) is powerful enough to break the stranglehold of pride. Choosing to give Holy Spirit charge of our conversations exercises the humility that produces “the righteousness that God requires.” We know that Jesus came to bridge the great divide between God and man. Holy Spirit will show us how to cross the great divide between people. We must be quick to listen.