READ: Proverbs 11, Mark 15, 2 Peter 2
HOLD YOUR PEACE
It is both remarkable and puzzling who endures in fruitful mission and ministry. There seems to be a certain “X” factor in character that defies description or even identification, which aids missionaries in fruitful labor over time. Many times I have been surprised at the exceptional candidate who has faltered, or the seemingly frail family who has magnificently served for decades. Proverbs 11:12 reminds us that “he who is devoid of wisdom despises his neighbor, but a man of understanding holds his peace.” As we interact with people, we need to be careful not to make quick judgments (either condemning or rewarding), and instead hold our peace, observing our colleagues over time.
Proverbs 11 goes on to warn that failure results from a lack of counsel and encourages the safety that is found in a multitude of counselors (v. 14). Peter Njiri is an incredible African leader who differentiates between gossip and the need for leaders of men to evaluate their disciples. “If we were shepherds,” he says, “we would talk about our animals. Since we lead men, we talk about men.” It is necessary to evaluate those we are equipping for ministry, but it is critical we don’t do this in isolation, lest our own personal bias or shortcomings cloud our judgment. An important way we hold our peace is by considering the perspective of other loving and prudent counselors. Often missionaries make the mistake of listening to one cultural coach–a mistake we usually don’t make in our own culture. We need to have a plurality of voices that advise us, especially on the field. The majority is not always right, and thus the minority report (opinion) should always be considered even if it is not heeded. Our critics often have truth imbedded in their objections. Sometimes the best counsel comes not from our friendly peers but from our enemies. Let us have the humility to remember that even prophets can be overtaken by a certain kind of madness and occasionally need to hear the counsel of dumb donkeys (2 Peter 2).
An active enemy of honest evaluation of others is envy within our hearts. We can cloak envy with all kinds of positive terms (discernment, disquiet, unsettled spirit), which are often real. But all the same we must be ruthless about envy within. Our envy of others has consequences on Jesus and on the kingdom (Mark 15:10). Envy tends to elevate either the evil or the benignly inadequate to leadership roles. Envy makes us appoint those we would never choose to lead in our right minds. Envy destroys the just and harms the whole, for in our insecurity we restrict those who could best lead. Envy undermines good counsel and leads to disaster.