Make it better. It’s one of the principles I try to live by. I like to work with the folks in my community and church to make life better in any way I can. I’m not the sharpest knife in the drawer, but I’ve managed to figure this out: in order to make things better, I’ve got to continue to get smarter.
“Smarter” is a pretty subjective term, so let me give it some definition. I need to get smarter about how life works. For example, if I make a habit of telling lies, I will become known as a liar and people will stop listening to me. So, the best thing I can do in life is tell the truth. I need to get smarter about what makes other people tick. People with different backgrounds and experiences have different points of view. What I might consider “better” for my life may not be considered “better” for someone else. So, I need to listen to other points of view. I need to get smarter about myself. I know myself well enough to know that I have some blind spots. There are things I do that may be impacting myself or other people in a negative way. So, I need to be humble and allow trusted people to speak into my life. In order to make things better, I need to continue to get smarter. If I continue in my ignorance, I or other people may be negatively impacted or hurt.
Here’s the thing, there is risk in the process of getting smarter. When someone offers criticism, I risk being offended. We live in a time where we seem to think that offending someone is about the worst thing you can do. What’s the wise way to respond to criticism? Proverbs 9:8 says, “Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you; reprove a wise man, and he will love you.” If someone makes the effort to offer criticism designed to help us get smarter, we should love that critic (if we are wise). The Bible describes a “scoffer” as someone who will not respond to teaching or discipline. Think of the repeat offender who just keeps getting into trouble with the law again and again. The scoffer hates correction. The scoffer hates to get smarter.
In the United States, we have many problems that need to be resolved to make our country better. We are currently trying to find the balance between religious freedom and individual rights. We are currently trying to determine the proper way to handle immigration. We are trying to figure out how to raise our children with a proper understanding of human sexuality. These are gigantic issues that spark fierce debate. In order to tackle them, we’re all going to need to get smarter. For that to happen, we will need to risk being offended.
Quite possibly the most truthful thing I can share with you in this article may be, at the same time, the most offensive; you are a sinner. That doesn’t mean you don’t have value, because you do. As a person made in the image of God, you have inherent value. We are all born into sin, and if left in that sin, we will die and be separated from God for eternity in hell. The good news is that God sent His only son, Jesus, to die on the cross as payment for your sin and mine as well. To receive the forgiveness of sin and rescue from hell, God asks us to turn away from our sin and turn our lives over to Him (John 3:16). This may be the most offensive thing you’ve ever heard, but knowing it and acting upon it will save your soul forever (making your life exceedingly better). How will you respond?
Rev. Scott Tiede is senior pastor of Delaware Bible Church.