Sometimes I have to remind myself not to converse with people who are allergic to insight. This is hard for me, as I enjoy conversation, dialogue, and argument. But we all know people who seek conversation not out of a genuine search for truth or honest curiosity, but rather out of a desire for power, influence, and self-aggrandizement. These temptations are there for me also, of course. Only the holiest of saints are totally immune. But I try to admit when I’m wrong, when I’ve said something poorly or ill-thought. “Whoever hates correction is stupid,” says Proverbs 12:1. I’ve learned much from Henry Cloud on how to handle the foolish and the evil (though I’m sometimes better at it in theory than in practice).
So, after wading into conversation with evil fools who despise correction, after giving too much of my attention and energy to those whose only truth is power, whose only language is manipulation, I found these words from John Wesley helpful. Perhaps you need these words today as well. And I thank you, dear readers, for correcting me when I am wrong, for offering critique when I could be more clear, and for joining your own reflections to mine that we all might grow in the knowledge and love of God.
From Sermon 81, In What Sense We Are to Leave the World (emphasis added):
8. Here is the sum of this prohibition to have any more intercourse with unholy men than is absolutely necessary. There can be no profitable fellowship between the righteous and the unrighteous; as there can be no communion between light and darkness, — whether you understand this of natural or of spiritual darkness. As Christ can have no concord with Belial; so a believer in him can have no concord with an unbeliever. It is absurd to imagine that any true union or concord should be between two persons, while one of them remains in darkness, and the other walks in the light. They are subjects, not only of two separate, but of two opposite kingdoms. They act upon quite different principles; they aim at quite different ends. It will necessarily follow, that frequently, if not always, they will walk in different paths. How can they walk together, till they are agreed? — until they both serve either Christ or Belial?
9. And what are the consequences of our not obeying this direction? Of our not coming out from among unholy men? Of not being separate from them, but contracting or continuing a familiar intercourse with them? It is probable it will not immediately have any apparent, visible ill consequences. It is hardly to be expected, that it will immediately lead us into any outward sin. Perhaps it may not presently occasion our neglect of any outward duty. It will first sap the foundations of our religion: It will, by little and little damp our zeal for God; it will gently cool that fervency of spirit which attended our first love. If they do not openly oppose anything we say or do, yet their very spirit will, by insensible degrees, affect our spirit, and transfuse into it the same lukewarmness and indifference toward God and the things of God. It will weaken all the springs of our soul, destroy the vigour of our spirit, and cause us more and more to slacken our pace in running the race that is set before us.
10. By the same degrees all needless intercourse with unholy men will weaken our divine evidence and conviction of things unseen: It will dim the eyes of the soul whereby we see Him that is invisible, and weaken our confidence in him. It will gradually abate our “taste of the powers of the world to come;” and deaden that hope which before made us “sit in heavenly places with Christ Jesus.” It will imperceptibly cool that flame of love which before enabled us to say, “Whom have I in heaven but thee? And there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee!” Thus it strikes at the root of all vital religion; of our fellowship with the Father and with the Son.