The Gift of Counsel...
THERE IS A striking parallel in the Bible between two stories. In each an innocent woman, threatened by a crowd, is saved because one person intervenes, gives counsel, and alters things. However, the stories end very differently, one manifesting the gift of counsel considerably more than the other.
The first is the story of Daniel saving the beautiful innocent Susanna. It goes this way: one day two elderly men see Susanna taking a bath and lust after her. They approach her with their evil intent but she rejects them, holding firmly to virtue. Bitter, and jealous of her power, they falsely accuse her of committing adultery, turning both the crowd and the ancient law against her.
She is condemned to die and is being led to her death when Daniel, seized by the Holy Spirit, confronts the crowd. He gives counsel. He accuses the two men of lying and to prove his point has them separated and questioned. Of course they contradict each other, proving Susanna's innocence.
Daniel, though, is not finished. He turns the crowd against the accusers demanding their deaths and the crowd, in a frenzy of emotion, oblige. The two men are stoned to death, the very death they had decreed for Susanna.
In this story there is a moment of true counsel, the moment when Daniel is seized by the Holy Spirit and protests the innocence of Susanna. But there is also a moment when the Holy Spirit is no longer offering counsel. This is the moment when Daniel turns around and incites the crowd against Susanna's false accusers.
How parallel, yet different, is the story of Jesus calmly backing down the accusers of the woman caught in adultery.
A woman is condemned to die, accused of adultery. Unlike Susanna the woman is guilty but that is incidental to what is happening. Clearly, like Susanna, she is there because of jealousy and mob frenzy and she is therefore structurally innocent, innocent of the mob frenzy, despite her guilt of adultery.
Jesus, like Daniel, confronts the crowd on the basis of the gift of counsel, the Holy Spirit is working through him. His protest to the crowd is more powerful than Daniel's "Let the one who is without sin cast the first stone," but ultimately it has a different effect.
Like Susanna the woman's life is saved, but no mob scene results from Jesus' intervention. What happens instead is the exact opposite of lynchmob hysteria: "They all went away, one by one, beginning with the eldest."
Jesus' counsel not only saves a woman but, analogous to the defusing of a bomb, deflates a potential explosion. Nobody dies that day. The counsel of the Holy Spirit prevails.
This gift, as Jesus manifests it, not only advocates for someone who is innocent (the role of the paraclete) but, because it takes origins in the love within the Trinity, exposes the roots of violence jealousy and a mob.
In these two stories we see the gift of counsel, the third gift of the Holy Spirit, manifest: imperfectly in Daniel, perfectly in Jesus. What is this gift?
Theologically, counsel is the gift of the Holy Spirit that perfects the virtue of prudence, helping us to judge properly and giving us the insight to know what to do and say in all situations, especially difficult ones. Some manuals describe it as the gift of supernatural intuition.
At street-level this simply means giving good advice. Most of us identify counsel with prudence, which we then define as good judgement, and soon notice that it is a rather rare commodity.
Valuable though human prudence is, it is not exactly the gift of counsel. As revealed in Scripture and manifest in the story of Jesus saving the woman taken in adultery, counsel has two interpenetrating aspects: divine wisdom in knowing what to say in a difficult situation ("When you are arrested and dragged before Kings on my account, don't worry about what you will sat. It will be given you in that moment," Mark 13) and divine insight in understanding the roots of violence and where God stands within that. ("Aker I die, I will send you a paraclete, an advocate, to help you to understand all these things," John 16) Prudence cannot be taught, counsel is a gift aid one either has it or does not. The kind of prudetce and counsel that Jests revealed in defusing he crowd and saving he woman taken in adultery cannot be taught or learned. Scripture tellsas it is something given oily "when we raise our eyesto heaven" and through dep prayer put our hearts ito the flow of compassion ad gratitude that constanly passes between the Fatkr and the Son.
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