I assumed the Bible was meaning those outside of the faith community and pointed my finger there. I obviously didn't point to myself. Who doesn't prefer God's encouragement? But my conscience wouldn't let that pass. These teachings were given to the community of faith for edification. The fool or wicked person in the Bible isn't only found out on the streets. I could miss the opportunity to hear what God has to say. He could be talking to me.
Can you see a little of your own heart in these naughty lists?
"Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and thing like these..." Galatians 5:19-21, NASB
"Do not be afraid when a man becomes rich, when the glory of his house is increased;
For when he dies he will carry nothing away; His glory will not descend after him.
Though while he lives he congratulates himself-- And though men praise you when you do well for yourself--He will go down to the generation of his fathers; They will never see the light.
Man in his pomp, yet without understanding, Is like the beasts that perish." Psalms 49:16-20, NASB
"The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing, But the soul of the diligent is made fat." Proverbs 13:4, NASB
"...being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice, they are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful..." Romans 1, NASB
Even though in Christ you and I have become a new creation, it's easy to become impatient when these lists show me that sanctification is a process and not a fully realized result. I don't want to relate to the fool! I don't want to trust that God, in His gracious timing, is overseeing my journey in sanctification and that he will not stomp off in anger because I didn't make the cut...AGAIN. I want the ease of good emotions, happy thoughts, and happy places. I want control. So which would I rather have: my happy place or a more fully realized grasp of God's sufficient grace?
I find encouragement from an unlikely place: screenwriting and movies. Everyone loves a good villain, right?! The best villains are those who are believable and relatable. When I see the villain in a movie, I see little pieces of myself. He's human; he's a family man; he has a secret to hide; he wants to make a better life for himself; he wants to be better but just can't. Remember Gru in Despicable Me? He's a criminal mastermind that gets transformed by three orphan girls. Although the movie has another fun villain, Gru is a villain unto himself because of his unwillingness to love and change. He's fun to relate to and laugh at. That's your assignment! Watch a movie you love and think about why you love the main character so much and why you love to hate (or sympathize with) the villain.
Like the media industry, God uses the fool and the wicked man in the Bible to stir the heart. A Jew or Christian (OT or NT) who doesn't care about loving God with his or her whole self probably isn't going to respond or feel conviction from the truth. But the wise heart gains instruction when fools are reproved. A commentary on Psalm 50 says, "The purpose of these verses [vv. 16-21] is to prick the conscience of God's people so as to make them more responsive to God's requirements of the community. Those who are really interested in being his "consecrated ones" will wisely respond, whereas the wicked will foolishly cast God's requirements of the faith and repentance aside as not being relevant." 1
So, God is talking to me. He's using the foolish and unfaithful to teach me about myself and others. I can have peace when the Holy Spirit brings conviction. I don't have to fear coal in my stocking. I can be confident when I am "tainted" by sin. This is my opportunity to see myself with eyes regenerated by the Holy Spirit through faith in Christ. I can see! This is my opportunity to respond in the way I did when I first believed. I am alive! Oh, friend. God is persistent and good. My beauty began with and is being perfected by Him. He purposed for me to be a whole woman in Christ before the world began and is working toward that purpose. I am free!
But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation,
a people for God's own possession, so that you may proclaim
the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness
and into His marvelous light
1 Peter 2:9, NASB
(c) Kendra Higgins 2013
1 The Expositor's Bible Commentary, Vol. 5. Frank E. Gaebelein, Editor. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1991), p. 377.
Image courtesy of Hazel Bregazzi / sxc.hu.
P.S. - Two books that helped me enjoy the role of the villain so much more are The Writer's Journey by C. Vogler and The Moral Premise by S. Williams.