There is certainly a lot of talk about equality these days.
Our world tells us we are modern. Modern, civil rights-minded people. We are enlightened, our minds liberated from the chains of ignorance, our souls untainted by the stain of the prejudice of our fathers.
These were the ones with the white hoods; the ones burning witches. They were too good to share a water fountain with their black brothers, a livable wage with their own workers, or the right to vote with their own moms. Yes, these were the ones who killed our modern-day prophets, who put the bullet through Dr. King’s chin.
We are the ones who take off work on his holiday, and decorate his tomb.
We do not claim these relations. They offend our sensibilities.
Of course, there will always be the exceptions. The back-woods bigot persists. The liberal atheist who can’t tolerate Christmas trees, the conservative evangelical who can’t tolerate a woman in the pulpit— we know how hard it is to stamp out those intolerant fools on the other side of the aisle.
Certainly we are not like them. We are subject, yes, to the generational maladies that persist as a result of their actions. This we know.
But we are innocent of their sin. We are democracy. We are freedom. We are equality— hear us roar.
And so, once more the spirit of the world lies to us. Preaching equal rights through our own self-righteous windpipes, sneaking in the backdoor of our hearts, quietly nursing our own self-interest, dividing us from within.
The Spirit of Wisdom, however, is speaking as well. From the public places she is preaching truth— and it is yours for the taking.
If you have an ear to hear.
The Beginning of Wisdom
The spirit of the world is contrary to the Spirit and kingdom of God. This kingdom can only be contained by new wineskins, so your loyalty to the establishment has to die. You can’t cram God’s definition of equality into your system. It will quickly outgrow the space. You are going to have to choose.
And what is the basis for choosing? Where does one begin to discern where one ends and the other takes over?
Wisdom says she always starts with a healthy fear.
A fear that something great exists— something greater than ourselves. A standard of love that slays, shames, and exceeds our own. A judge who could possibly find us lacking.
Of course, it would seem a waste of time to ferret out our own small inconsistencies. Yes, we have our faults, but God knows our hearts are good. Better to slay the giant dragon demons of our opponents – that’s where the real problem lies.
Wisdom will tell you otherwise. She does not come to tell you someone else’s story. She comes to tell you your own.
Today, she offers her hand, to invite you on a journey—not into the dragon’s cave, but through an equally difficult landscape. This is a place you only know from the outside.
She comes to show you your heart.
The End of Justice
Not all people desire to see justice for all. These are fools of the kind that Wisdom refuses to rebuke. They are not her children. She has determined to leave them be.
Wisdom’s children are enough to prove her right; a seed of victory is all she needs. Though fools themselves, they are unique, because they answer her call— to come and learn her ways.
Wisdom’s children want to establish justice and equality. They understand that such a thing requires sacrifice. To right society’s wrongs, a price must be paid.
But we all have our limits. Wisdom will show you yours.
She will take you to the base of the bare, ugly mountain of your pride, and say, “Behold.” You will want to avert your eyes from the disaster, but if you stay with the teacher, she will take you instead up and around razor sharp rocks, to discover and explore what you never saw in yourself.
Greed. Hypocrisy. Blindness. Rebellion. Bigotry. Violence.
Once you have scaled the hateful thing, as you stand victorious with your foot on its head, she will turn a mirror on you. After such a heartbreaking climb, expecting to see a bruised image of new-found humility, your heart will drop. To your shock and dismay, you will see yourself looking down on the world, haughty self-righteousness taken root on your face.
Despair begins to whisper, but Wisdom does not stop. She pulls you through the desert to the end of yourself— or nearly the end, for one can see it from here. For here, the ground drops suddenly into oblivion, and the gaping canyon, yawning black and wide, threatens to swallow you whole.
This is your Fear.
Your spirit groans, but Wisdom holds her ground. Her grasp is firm and decisive; she is not letting go.
She takes you to the very edge of the dizzying cliff, and instructs you to look over the edge. If you love her enough to obey, you will find no comfort in what you see.
For this is your limit. It is against your policy to approach this place, for one can smell its anguish long before it can be felt or seen. Over this ledge lies everything you’re afraid of. Pain. Poverty. Crushing humiliation. Irreparable loss. Death.
These are the things you will not do for love.
This is your limit— where your civil-rights-minded, equal-rights-preaching self says: “I will go this far, but no further.” The bus to Birmingham may well keep going; you’re getting off here.
And so Wisdom has shown you the end of justice. You feel your stubborn, angry heart ripping your hand from hers, screaming in fear and fury, “You cannot mean to take me there! I don’t deserve it! I can’t bear it!” And even as your eyes are opening, your justifications begin to flow.
With horror, you feel forming on your face the countenance of all those you have disdained. For naked fear and hate are twins, they both say the same thing:
“Self must be protected, no matter how many are dragged into that hell.”
“It’s probably their own fault anyway.”
“Don’t I deserve something for trying to be a good person?”
“These people can’t be saved—why throw everything away for them?”
And then, the clincher— what you really feel, deep down in the depths of your soul, where fear holds you in an iron grip…
“Better them…than me.”
In that moment, you will lose your hope and your bearings. Because you know that justice will only go as far as you carry it. But the cross is too heavy to bear.
Yes, Wisdom will break you. On the cliffs of your own fear, on the unyielding rock of your own pride, you will fall to your knees and weep. Forget changing the world. You can’t even change your own small, wretched heart. You can cover it with a hypocrite’s mask, you can whitewash the tomb. But you cannot break it, you cannot budge it— not one little inch.
With a quiet tear of compassion, Wisdom begins to smile.
She has witnessed this scene before. In a garden, in Gethsemane, when she brought her firstborn Son to this very edge. She opens your eyes to the scene, and your sobbing secedes. For you know this story. You know how it ends. And you know as you look into Wisdom’s gentle eyes what God is saying to you:
“One decision is all that lies between you and victory.
Not an immovable mountain of pride. Not an abysmal cliff of fear.
This is the last and only battle. This is the end of justice…and the beginning of mercy. If only…you will trust me.”
She takes the cup from her firstborn, and offers it to you.
Words flash before your mind. The words of Jesus: “You will drink the cup I drink.” The words of a thousand wise men: “Christ died so we won’t have to!” You see them piling up at the dreaded ledge, tickling your ears, refusing to defy their own limits, justifying your fears.
And at that moment you understand.
That we preach against the mountains of others because we have not the faith to move our own.
That we hack away at splinters in our brother’s eye because if we remove the log in ours, we might actually see something.
Something that makes us truly afraid. Something greater than ourselves. A love that slays, shames, and exceeds our own. A judge who could find us lacking…but doesn’t.
Instead, He makes up the difference. He pays the price Himself. He breaks through the line of impotent Pharisees piled up on the ledge like a battle line. Fully confident, without slowing, He leads where we don’t want to go.
Over the edge.
Past the end of ourselves. Past the place where justice ended in the hearts of men long ago.
There is a moment of silence. Then, a light. A hushed realization dawns, awakening dead, selfish hearts, with the one force powerful enough to catapult us over the edge of our fear.
Unbridled, unreasonable, unconditional love.
“Now we know what love is, because Jesus Christ laid down his life for us.”
“And we should lay down our own lives for our brothers.”
One act of trust kindled that fire, 2000 years ago in a garden: the decision to say to the Spirit of Wisdom, “Not my will, but yours be done.”
The same will be true of you. For here is the secret.
In Wisdom, there is resurrection. Where there is resurrection, faith is born.
When you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you can go back to that mountain and say, “Be uprooted, and thrown into the sea!”
But this time, it will obey.
Jumping the Aisle
So this is your battle, and here is your power. You won’t establish justice by slaying its enemies with any power but love. Love is a judge that doesn’t find them lacking. Instead, it says, “I’ll pay the price myself.”
Love knows no politics, its fire easily jumps the aisle. Let Wisdom start that fire in us.
For our sister, our brother. For equality. For rights we sinners don’t deserve to have. To establish justice on the earth, and set the prisoner free…free at last.
You may think this saying is a merely a metaphor. In truth, it is the beginning of Wisdom. She has laid out her plan before you, terrible, plain, and true. But she will not always speak in parables.
Accept her invitation, and come along on the journey. Sit here at her doorway; you will hear Wisdom speak.
This is a sneak peek— an excerpt from a book I’m currently working on. I hope you enjoyed it…more to come.