Public Wisdom as a Gospel Pathway

How can Christians effectively tell the good news of Christ among a post-Christian culture as it emerges shell-shocked from a global pandemic?

In the Book of Proverbs, we are introduced to the striking female personification of Wisdom, who may help us answer this important question. 
Wisdom, we learn, is a very public-facing figure:

Does not wisdom call out?

    Does not understanding raise her voice?

 At the highest point along the way,

    where the paths meet, she takes her stand;

 beside the gate leading into the city,

    at the entrance, she cries aloud

From Allegory of Wisdom and Strength by Paolo Veronese, c. 1565

Wisdom in the Bible is not merely an inward-focused attribute, for contemplative mystics who have withdrawn from public life. On the contrary, she is making her voice heard for all people, believers and otherwise:

“To you, O people, I call out;

    I raise my voice to all mankind.

 You who are simple, gain prudence;

    you who are foolish, set your hearts on it.

 Listen, for I have trustworthy things to say"

Every day, millions of people conduct a Google search starting with the phrase, "how to...." Whether the request is about mental health, self care, practical skills, or more philosophical issues, the search at its most fundamental level is a request for Wisdom. As our battered societies start to emerge from the ravages of Covid-19, our neighbours, colleagues, business owners and elected officials are asking one basic question that is taking many different forms: how do we move forward? 

Biblical Wisdom is practical. In fact, it could be described as applied knowledge. Christian believers who have allowed their lives to be shaped by such Wisdom have much to contribute in a society that is asking practical questions. Without being arrogant or boastful, the truth is that our Christian faith has been teaching us Wisdom for living - for handling money, for relating to other people, for looking after a family, for promoting human flourishing, for working effectively. This is not to claim that Christians are sinless and perfect; but, as we have followed Christ for years, we have found that we have learned some important life lessons.   

Wisdom even has things to say to politicians and those in government:

"Counsel and sound judgment are mine;

    I have insight, I have power.

 By me kings reign

    and rulers issue decrees that are just;

 by me princes govern,

    and nobles—all who rule on earth"

Sharing such practical Wisdom, when asked, can be very helpful for others, including people of no Christian faith. If done with humility and gentleness, we may be of some service to our neighbours and colleagues. There is a sphere of public Wisdom which is applicable to all peoples in all places at all times; it is not exclusively for Christian believers.

If we are asked about how we learned these life lessons, it is not a huge step to say simply that whatever we have learned that has helped us navigate the challenges of life, we have found it in Christ. Wisdom actually invites us to make such a connection:

“The Lord brought me forth as the first of his works,

    before his deeds of old;

 I was formed long ages ago,

    at the very beginning, when the world came to be..... 

 I was there when he set the heavens in place,

    when he marked out the horizon on the face of the deep...

     Then I was constantly at his side.

I was filled with delight day after day,

    rejoicing always in his presence,

 rejoicing in his whole world

    and delighting in mankind."

The personification of Wisdom was present at the creation of the heavens and earth, participating alongside the Creator with joy. 

Our neighbours are largely resistant to abstract concepts. Sharing the Good News should not be primarily about announcing disconnected theological propositions. Often we fail to communicate from the outset because we announce ideas rather than introducing a Person. 

The early followers of Jesus, all from a Jewish background, and all very familiar with the verses we have been looking at from the Book of Proverbs, had a particular understanding about the Personification of Wisdom. The apostle Paul refers to

Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.

On another occasion, Paul writes to a group of Christians in the Greek city of Corinth, reminding them that,

[Y]ou are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption.

Wisdom is found in the Person of Christ; in living by Wisdom, we are living in the Way of Christ. When we share Wisdom with others, we are sharing in part the Person of Christ. By implication we are inviting people to walk in His Way. Wisdom in this sense is Good News. 

The New Testament seems to have this in mind when it describes the ultimate reason for the church's existence:

His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to his eternal purpose that he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord.

A battered society does not need celebrity psycho-babble. It needs sound judgement, practical actions that promote the common good. Followers of the Way of Christ can demonstrate and make known this Way of Wisdom. Many want to find it. 


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