Waiting and the Power and Efficacy of Good Works

People frustrate me1, it’s hard for me to even find a word that appropriately reflects my sentiment. It feels like mass ignorance.

I see so many things wrong with the world, religion included — there are so many people who do things in the name of Christ that are downright unchristian and not supported by scripture.

When I come across someone who is spewing mass ignorance, I feel vehemently obligated to correct their erroneous ways. I felt like that is my only response: tell that person they are incorrect and, if needed, show that person why they were wrong, even if doing so required excruciating proof.

This has been my Standard Operating Procedure for many years. It was a frustrating one, but it seemed like the only way. I’ve desperately wanted to find a better way. Today may be that day.

Chauncey linked to post talking about 1 Peter 2:15 (ESV): “For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people.”

From thehandmaid.wordpress.com:

If atheism, unreasonableness and bitterness stem from ignorance, that ignorance is as a fury, which can quickly be restrained by good works. If you argue with an atheist in his own rabid manner, you strengthen the fury of atheism. If you converse with the unreasonable by derision, the darkness of unreasonableness is increased. If you think you will overcome the embittered man with anger, you will stir up a greater fire of bitterness. A meek and good deed is like water over a fire.

I like this approach. The problem for me with telling people why they are wrong is that I end up getting all worked up as well. I may have won the battle, but I’m losing the war. This is why I like what Peter is saying, “Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.”2

However, the flip side of this is that it often takes people a lot longer to recognize good deeds than to hear my technically correct but probably ungracious argument. I hate waiting. It’s probably one of the things I’ve had to practice the most in the last few years: being okay with waiting3.

I keep thinking back to this passage from Hustling God:

When I wake up in the morning, I can jump in the shower, grab a cup of coffee, and rush off to work to be productive. Inevitably that will destine me to a day of running. Like Jacob, I will either be running to make something happen, or running away because it didn’t happen as it was supposed to. But if sometime in the morning I become still with prayer and the words of God, then it will occur to me that all of the important things have already been accomplished today. The sun came up and the earth stayed on its axis without any help from me. The Psalms remind me of that. I have awakened to a world I did not create to receive a salvation I did not earn. The Gospels make that clear every time I read them. And I need that reminder, because there are so many temptations in the course of the day to be my own savior, which is always, always, a temptation to hurry in the wrong direction.

For me, it still really is about learning to slow down.


  1. I am “people” too, by the way 

  2. 1 Peter 2:12 (ESV)  

  3. See also: Haiti 

9 Replies to “Waiting and the Power and Efficacy of Good Works”

  1. What if atheism, unreasonableness and bitterness didn’t stem from ignorance but rather something else?
    .
    I am more given to see the challenge as – people ‘spew’ what is from their *belief system – and a belief system is not easily dismantled.
    A belief is often unconscious, in that we don’t realize what our ‘belief’ is unless we do some honest introspection.
    If only it could be as cut and dry as showing an error in a math computation.

    it’s our beliefs that inform our thoughts which in turn contribute to create a feeling -> things we say/do or in this case ‘spew’
    belief – thought – feeling – behavior/action [i.e. things people say or do]

    * something believed [not to imply a religious belief]

    1. @Pam: I’m not just talking about atheism (or religion in general) though. There are plenty of other areas where people show ignorance, especially in America.

      A quick Google search finds this article (http://www.thedailybeast.com/newsweek/2011/03/20/how-dumb-are-we.html) from last year:
      “When NEWSWEEK recently asked 1,000 U.S. citizens to take America?s official citizenship test, 29 percent couldn?t name the vice president. Seventy-three percent couldn?t correctly say why we fought the Cold War. Forty-four percent were unable to define the Bill of Rights. And 6 percent couldn?t even circle Independence Day on a calendar.”

      The question I’ve wrestled with is what do I do with people who are ignorant of basic facts? Attempt to pound it in to them by mercilessly telling them they’re wrong and the Vice President is Joe Biden, we fought the Cold War in part because of Communism (it’s hard to summarize the intricacies of the Cold War in a sentence, and the Cold War isn’t really the topic and hand anyway), The Bill of Rights are the first ten amendments to the Constitution, and today, July 4th, is Independence Day?

      Peter’s letter outlines, in my mind, an alternative to my SOP that is better. It’s not a big revelation, just a thought.

  2. I’m definitely interested in the folks who are espousing atheism and unchristianity on a massive scale. Who are these people, what exactly are they spewing, and how have you been correcting them so far?

  3. You say, “When I come across someone who is spewing mass ignorance, I feel vehemently obligated to correct their erroneous ways.” What I want to know is: what are some examples of this? What’s the usual situation for you in term of an interaction with “someone who is spewing mass ignorance” — i.e. what do these people say, and how do respond to them? Do you actually interact with people who vocally proclaim that someone other than Joe Biden is the vice president? If not, then to what are you referring?

  4. It matters because this isn’t a post about ignorance, it’s a post about your response to ignorance, a topic on which I’d like to hear more. Obviously, people are ignorant of things, and the study you reference bears that out. I’m not interested in ignorance per se, but in your personal experience of ignorance — not a percentage of people in a NewsWeek article, but individual people with whom you’ve actually had conversations.

    1. I don’t recall all of the nuances and exact misconceptions of every converstation or experience. But I’ll try to do my best to answer your question.

      In my personal experience, I think there are two distinct types of ignorant people I run into: ignorance of knowledge and ignorance of circumstance.

      People who are ignorant of knowledge are generally misinformed about things that can be verified or resonablly assumed, such as the fact that the constitution never says the Church and State must be separated.

      I have had conversations with several people over the last 4+ years or so about copyright law, especially focusing on the purpose and extent of copyrights. Specific examples include claiming something is or isn’t fair use but not actually not knowing how Fair Use works with regard to Copyright law. For example, I can (generally) legally use a 30 second excerpt of movie to provide commentary or that simply ackowleding a source does not make it “fair use.”

      Often times it’s technical knowledge ignorance, such people who propose or support the recent legistlation that attempted to modify how the Internets’ DNS works in ways that didn’t actually solve the problem (wanting to protect intelectual property online) and actually would have caused serious stability and security issues.

      I would also put into this catagory things such as the belief that the TSA is effective in making flying safer.

      In all these above instances, I suspect that people are often just parroting things they’ve heard back without doing any research, validation, or making their own informed opionion on the matter.

      Ignorance of circumstance are a bit difficult to describe, in part because they are usually related to things I work on and thus can’t really discuss. It could be as simple as making inappropriate assumptions of the how something works, or something more major like failing to do something because “they didn’t know” when they should have known (willful ignorance). In general, the person is (as you might suspect) not knowledgeable about something pertinent to a situation which they should be knowledge about for whatever reason.

      Does that answer the question?

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