"A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger."
(Proverbs 15:1 NIV)
Don't Fight Fire with Fire
If you're counting on excellent self-control or a naturally sunny
disposition to keep you from responding harshly to a burst of anger from
someone else today, you're drawing from an awfully shallow well. Chances are
your "well of gentleness" will run dry ... at exactly the worst moment.
The source of the "gentle answer" to anger that's recommended in Proverbs
isn't you at all. It is none other than Christ, as he desires to make an
appeal through us precisely at the moment that another unloads anger. As
Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 5:18-19, "All this"--including the ability to
respond to anger with a gentle answer--"is from God, who reconciled us to
himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God
was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men's sins
against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation."
So if you find yourself on the receiving end of a blast of anger today,
don't rely on yourself to respond gently. Instead, pray briefly, and then
invite Christ to make his appeal through you.
In responding to an angry reaction, remember that "a gentle answer turns
away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger" (Proverbs 15:1). Respond to
anger with a gentle voice, relaxed posture, and calm gestures. Communicate
in every way that you take the other's expression of anger seriously and
want to help resolve the problems that prompt it. Plan ahead how to respond
to possible objections and deal with them specifically and reasonably.
As Paul notes, God has committed the message of reconciliation to you; it is
your birthright as a Christian. Far more reliable than your own pleasant
demeanor, it is a constant within you. Pray for God's guidance to draw upon
it even in the most trying circumstances.
In His Love & Service,
Pastor Larry E. Campbell
St. Paul A.M.E. Church, San Bernardino, CA
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