Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. Ephesians 4: 31-32. AND A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. Proverbs 15:1.
So let’s do some confessing, here: I’m guilty of completely violating these verses. I stink on ice at keeping them. In this political year, with so many things being said, I find myself constantly debating people online. Sure, I justify my arguments with saying “I’m standing up for what I believe” or something like that. In my mind, I think I’m doing some kind of good by sharing my (usually) polarized opinions. The world is a better place, you know, because Dave Terry shared his opinions on Mrs. Clinton, events in the Middle East, the Federal deficit and any other range of issues. Sure; whatever.
In the end, it isn’t kind. It’s unkind. It isn’t tenderhearted: it’s mean. And while I forgive anyone who’s wronged me, all too often that isn’t the vibe I exude. More often than not, I probably look like a jerk.
Would you act this way at work? More and more employers surf employees’ social media sites. Would you want your employer to see things you’ve written online? Would I want my employer to see what I post to others? More importantly, would I want them to see HOW I interact with others? It might not paint a flattering picture, especially when I work in a career where managing people. I wonder how many jobs I’ve silently lost when I applied online and then lost out because when an interested employer was turned off by my contentious social media posts.
We don’t have to wonder what Jesus would think. He telegraphed is thoughts in His words above. Last time, we talked about how to resolve conflict by going to the person with whom you’re in conflict. In these verses above, we’re told a few of the characteristics of how we should talk when we’re doing that.
We’re to put off bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander and malice; whew! If I do that, what else would I share on Facebook? No matter, that’s what we’re to do if we want to bridge the gap between our neighbor and ourselves. Even if we’ve been wronged, even if we are the one who has wronged another, no matter the circumstances, we are to put off the fruit emotions of evil and display the behaviors of Christ.
Why are we supposed to interact in this way? The quick answer is “because Jesus says so.” In reality, that’s all we need to know. In further reality, He tells us to be kind and forgiving and caring because ‘a soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.’ The words He inspired into Solomon aren’t much different from those He inspired into Paul, are they? How many times have strong arguments ended when one of the arguers simply lowered the tone of their voice? That isn’t a coincidence. God doesn’t tell us to do things that lead us further into sin. When He tells us to forgive, speak kindness, and act out in goodness, it’s because they are the best and right ways to interact.
Be kind, tenderhearted and forgiving; be these things because that’s how Jesus is with us. Be these things and still be strong. Acting in soft ways doesn’t mean someone is weak or spineless. If you think about it, it takes a strong person to actively put aside raw negativity and let God re-make how we react. Indeed, it takes a backbone to stand up for Jesus when so much of the world stands against Him. The trick becomes standing up and standing firm while not letting our standing get in the way of His message. In doing that, His directions to speak softly and be kind are the best ones with which to lead the way. After all, it’s better to be able to cop to being overly kind than to have to admit you’re a jerk.
This is how we manage God’s way.
For more reading: James 1:19, Colossians 3:13, Hebrews 12: 14-15, Proverbs 15:1, Proverbs 16:7, Leviticus 19:18, Luke 17:4.
Lord, thank You for Your commanding advice on how to resolve conflict. Help me to live this out where I am today.