A Gentle Answer
Sometimes I get angry. The nightly news is generally full of stories that can make my blood boil in a minute, from grave injustices to abuse and murder. Just this week, in discussing one such story with a friend, I remarked: “Just give me a broom and introduce me to this person!”
Perhaps you’re like me. Sometimes you get so mad, you would just like to take the matter into your own hands and administer your own kind of justice. But, alas, I was immediately convicted of my justice-seeking attitude. As James reminds us so well: “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.” (James 1:19-20, NIV).
God desires righteousness in your life and mine. This is not a righteousness that saves us, however. We are saved when we confess our sins, repent, and place our faith and trust in Christ. At that time, we are declared righteous as we are covered by the righteousness of Christ. But at that time also, the Holy Spirit comes to dwell within us and to work within us to convict and transform us and to continually help make us more righteous. Paul explained this to the Romans (see Romans 5:17-19). As believers are sensitive and yield to the Spirit’s guidance and work in their lives, they can become more righteous and will look more like Christ. This is the righteousness God desires.
Paul described characteristics of those believers who walk according to the Spirit’s guidance. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23a). I don’t think my anger could fit into any of those characteristics. Sometimes, as believers, we forget that even when we’re right, there is also a right way to respond. Kindness and gentleness, love and goodness, the very nature of Christ needs to permeate all that we do. When we respond with anger and harshness, hate or ridicule, we not only make enemies of those who disagree with us, but we do so in the name of Christ. No matter how right we may be, our lack of kindness and caring does little to witness to someone who needs to know the loving, gracious, merciful Christ that we know.
Perhaps we, too, could use the reminder that Paul gave to Titus to give to the church that Paul had planted in Crete: “Remind them to be subject to rulers and authorities, to obey, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing all humility to all men” (Titus 3:1-2). Similarly, Paul taught Timothy: “Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will” (2 Timothy 2:23-26).
As believers in Christ, the way we respond to others reflects on our Savior and Lord. Responding to those who oppose us with gentleness and respect does not mean we turn away from the truth or forget who we are in Christ. Peter addressed this issue when he wrote: “But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15). When we respond with gentleness and respect, we help others not only hear what we have to say, but we demonstrate first-hand Christ’s unconditional love. And in the process, we just may have the opportunity to not just win an argument, but more importantly, to win a brother or sister for Christ. I think a gentle answer is worth it. Don’t you?
“A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (Proverbs 15:1).