Proverbs 1:2-6 NRSV
For learning about wisdom and instruction,
for understanding words of insight,
for gaining instruction in wise dealing,
righteousness, justice, and equity;
to teach shrewdness to the simple,
knowledge and prudence to the young—
let the wise also hear and gain in learning,
and the discerning acquire skill,
to understand a proverb and a figure,
the words of the wise and their riddles.
I have a wonderful adopted aunt. She went home to be with the Lord two years ago, but prior to that, I had the privilege of spending at least four weeks a year with her for more than five years. Even though she was in her late 70s and early 80s during that time, her energy level was amazing. I often had difficulty simply keeping up with her. Even in the last two years, when her health was beginning to fade, her entire focus was on learning, on listening to those around her (even “young” folks like me), on finding out what Christian scholars had to say about things. When most older people were perfecting their golf swings (and yes, earlier in life, she was an avid golfer), she was trying to perfect her use of a computer. Together with her husband, she continued to read books about eschatology (the end times) and other Bible subjects.
I have another wonderful adopt aunt. She went home to be with the Lord over ten years ago. But I can remember her telling me, “Robin, as I grow older, I realize that the less I really know about being a Christian.” An amazing statement from a woman who was known around the world for her Christian music and her ministry to literally millions of people.
Proverbs 1:5 says “Let the wise also hear and gain in learning and [let] the discerning acquire skill.” One of the important things in being a Christian—whether you are a brand-new Christian or a Christian of many years—is understanding that this journey is one of always learning, one of always studying, one of always improving. If we were instantly changed into what we should be at the moment we were saved, then God might as well transport us into heaven. He doesn’t . . . and we aren’t!
The Lord Jesus said: “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30 NRSV).
Being a Christian is being a life-long learner. It is the willingness to look at each and every experience as an opportunity to learn and grow. A very wise (older) Christian man once told me that being a Christian is like that song “She’ll be comin’ around the mountain when she comes.” He said to me, “God brings us around to the same kind of experience over and over again until we learn what He wants us to learn.” I’ve found this to be true in my own life. If all I do is try to avoid the suffering or the embarrassment or the maturing, Father God brings me into a similar experience again. And again. And again. Rather than ask for a way out, there is a point where we need to ask for the wisdom to find a way through. And even those of us who’ve been Christians for a long time have much to learn about righteousness and obedience.
Thankfully, our learning isn’t alone. We aren’t set upon this path without a teacher. The Lord Jesus promised, “But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you” (John 14:26 NRSV). If we are willing to learn, He is willing to teach.
I have been facing a very difficult and potentially embarrassing situation. Along the way, I’ve done nothing wrong, but the actions and cruelty of another have placed me in a circumstance where I am being accused by those I consider friends and family. Convicted without trial, disparaged without an opportunity to explain or defend myself, I am—to put it bluntly—scared. I’ve cried to the Lord, protested, prayed. Nothing. Until last night. The Lord said to me (when I finally got quiet enough to listen), “What do you need to learn from this? This is a learning situation.” And I know what I need to learn. I do. Interestingly enough, the Lord (this time) hasn’t quieted my fears nor miraculously changed my emotions. Rather, I’m having to learn how to trust in the turmoil. Well, I recently studied about need to be courageous as a Christian. Being brave means facing a situation even when you are afraid. Facing it and remaining loving toward those who are harming you.
The Lord Jesus forgave, from the cross, those who were killing Him. And He asked the Father also to forgive them (Luke 23:34). How can I do any less? My job isn’t to defend my innocence, but to love my persecutors. A very different perspective from me, but one that I need to learn if I am to become more like Christ, my example.
The purpose of scripture is to teach. One of the purposes of a Christian is to learn. Even if we think we are wise, we are mature in the Lord, there is always a lot that we can learn. We need to face each day remembering that.