This verse and the next go together.
I think this has several applications. First, it means that we are not to dignify fools by trying to debate them or discuss certain issues. Don’t even “answer” (6030). This would apply mainly in personal style and confrontations. There are times when we are to just bite our lip, shut our mouth and get on down the road.
Second, It also has the connotation that we are not to use his methods, or “folly” (200). Engaging in a shouting match does nothing but say, “Monkey see, monkey do.” In this case we are the monkey. Sometimes the fools will be others who claim to be believers. Paul discusses this in I Corinthians 6 and in regard to our point here says:
I Corinthians 6:7 Actually, then, it is already a defeat for you, that you have lawsuits with one another. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be defrauded? (NASB)Third, do not let a fool set the terms of debate. We fail at this. In attempts to be kind and courteous we let the fools of the world set the ground rules for issues we disagree with them on. One of the surrenders I am seeing is on the issues that are clear in the Bible: Homosexuality and abortion. We allow people to call these “social issues.” They are not social issues. Litter is a social issues. Year round schools is a social issue. Zoning ordinances are social issues. Homosexuality and abortion are moral issues. Even orthodox believers fall for this and have given up the field by using their language.
No one wants to be “like” (7737a) a fool. One of the great temptations of righteous people is to sink to using the methods of the world. We are to be different.
So? Practice I Corinthians 13. Remember that love is patient. We may not suffer fools gladly, but we do suffer them. Remember that love does not seek its own and does not act unbecomingly. Apply it. It is not easy, but it is necessary.