Summary: We tend to use our limited knowledge to bludgeon others who do not know what we know or whose behavior does not match our standards; but we are called to be in Christ first and to love them, letting behavior flow from the relationship.
There is an old, corny story – and please don’t stop me if you have heard this one – a story about the young man who was the first in his family to go to college. In fact, he was the first in his small town to go to college. And so when he came home after his freshman year, he was the apple of his father’s eye. His dad, who had never in his life read a book from cover to cover, was astonished at how many volumes were on his son’s bookshelf. The old man, who knew only what he had learned in the country one-room school, could not even imagine what laboratories and libraries looked like. And so, in August, just before the boy was to go back to the university and begin his sophomore year, the old man decided to show him off. One morning he insisted that they go up town to the corner store, where all of dad’s cronies hung out. “Let’s go meet my buddies. I want them to know what you’ve learned.” They gathered around the cracker barrel, all these rough and ready men, capable enough in their own ways, but without much education. “This here’s my son. He’s a college student.” They all looked, and smiled. The young man smiled back. His dad wasn’t satisfied. The boy had not demonstrated his knowledge. “Go ahead, son, say something.” “Say what, dad?” “Oh, I don’t know, that’s up to you. Just say something. Speak college to ‘em. Talk the way you do at college.” So, racking his brain for something that would sound sophisticated, the student offered up his piece of wisdom, “Pi r squared.” They all waited for more, but that was it, “Pi r squared.” They nodded, they nudged each other, they stroked their beards. So that was what it sounds like to speak college. Dad, however, turned a deep red and pushed his son out the door, angry as he could be. “What a waste of time and money to send you to that college. Everybody knows that pie are round.”
Now, brothers and sisters, may we analyze this little story? May we pick it apart a bit? What’s wrong here? Obviously, the dear old gentlemen, lacking any knowledge of geometry, had no idea what the youngster was talking about. They were ignorant, and there is no other label to put on it. Nor, I suppose, did they ever have any reason to calculate the area of a circle. But what of the young man? Did he do anything wrong? Yes, he did. Indeed he did. He chose to parade his little knowledge, without explaining it or bothering to understand his audience. He had a little scrap of knowledge, and chose to get arrogant with it. He could have helped them understand; instead he demonstrated that he was a sophomore, or literally, the word means, “a wise fool.”
And that is a parable of who and where we are, many of us. We know enough to be dangerous. But we do not know in depth, and with love. We are sophomores, when we could be on our way to be saints. We hold half-truths in our minds, when we could be in touch with Him who is truth Himself, and could share Him with those who need Him. We learn a little, but become stuck in a shallow spot, and worse: we bludgeon others with our little knowledge. We are spiritual sophomores, when we are called to become saints.
I’ll tell you a trade secret: ministerial students take their little scraps of information and inflict them on others. My grandmother Hattie Miles Smith was still alive when I first made a commitment to enter the ministry. I was a college student and was reading everything I could get my hands on about the Bible. So I attempted one day to dump that information on my grandmother. I told her about source criticism and redaction criticism. I enlightened her about evolution. I announced to her that she did not need to think of Adam and Eve as individuals who lived six thousand years ago and who were formed out of the dust of Eden, but that human beings evolved out of the ooze. We needed to read the Bible in a different way. After my sophomoric speech to this eighty-eight year old lady, who had more wisdom in her little finger that I will ever have in my whole existence, she looked at me with piercing eye and said, “I have known the Lord all my life, I have read this Bible all my life, and I believe everything it says. Go back to school and learn some more.”
Thank God I did go back to school and learn some more. I learned that the information I had gathered about the Bible was substantially correct. But, better, I learned that it is the Word behind this word that I truly need to know. For Christ calls us to be saints. Not sophomores, but saints, rooted and built up in Him.