Have you ever met someone who is never wrong, no matter how wrong he actually is?
Several years ago, I was the Christian education director at a church in Costa Mesa, California. A man began attending my Sunday school class for adults. At first, I and the rest of the class welcomed his contributions to the discussion, which were often insightful. But then he began to inject his opinions about the superiority of the King James Version of the Bible into every discussion, which he also tried to dominate.
When the man’s remarks became disruptive, I invited him to dialogue with me outside of class. He was an adherent of the so-called “King James Only” movement. He believed that the King James Version of the Bible was based on superior Hebrew and Greek manuscripts, and that all modern translations—but especially the New International Version—were the products of a Roman Catholic liberal Protestant conspiracy to undermine the Word of God. (For a good book on the King James only movement, see The King James Only Controversy by James R. White.) No amount of rational argument could convince this man that he was wrong on both counts. Since his remarks were disruptive of my class, I asked him not to return.
Some people are incorrigible. They do not learn from their own experiences, and they are unwilling to be taught by others. Proverbs 9:7-9 warns against trying to confront them:
Whoever corrects a mocker invites insult;
whoever rebukes a wicked man incurs abuse.
Do not rebuke a mocker or he will hate you…
This is exactly what happened to me in my dealings with this man. My attempts to correct his misunderstandings and misinterpretations earned me only sarcasm, accusation, and diatribe. In the end, he left not only my Sunday school class, but the congregation itself.
The wise stand in stark contrast to the incorrigible.
rebuke a wise man and he will love you.
Instruct a wise man and he will be wiser still;
teach a righteous man and he will add to his learning.
The incorrigible do not learn and cannot be taught. The wise, on the other hand, are perpetual students and eminently teachable.
On a number of occasions, I have been on the receiving end of confrontation. When I was young, I did not respond well to my confronters. I was convinced I was absolutely right. How dare they challenge me! As I have gotten older, however, I have realized that I’m not as smart as I think I am and that I have blind spots in my personality which let me ride roughshod over others. Indeed, looking back on my conflict with the Mr. King James Only, I have come to realize that while I was right on the facts of the argument, I was not loving in the form of my argument. I wish someone had been there to point that out.
Wisdom is not merely being right. It is also being willing to receive correction when you are wrong.