Remember the guy who confronted me when I was putting up door hangers? Read the beginning of the story here.
When he approached me, at first I had to deal with the confusion of what was happening. It was one of those moments when I started looking around to see if there were other people, because maybe he was talking to them. No, he was talking with me. No one else was around. But I wasn’t sure what he was talking about.
As he was still approaching me, I walked over to the sign, and sure enough, he was right. I had been putting up door hangers, breaking the community rule. I confessed, apologized and said, “I’ll take them all down right away.”
Then an amazing thing happened.
He seemed to soften. He said, “So what are these hangers for anyway?” I showed him one, and told him about our worship concert. Now he was interested, and even approving. It’s been a number of years, so I don’t remember the exact conversation, but what he said next was something along the lines of “Well, maybe you don’t need to take any down.” Amazing!
But I took them down anyway. It wouldn’t be cool having a church break the law, or even a community rule, to advertize their worship concert.
The proverb is right: a gentle answer turns away wrath. It might not work every time, but it is a great principle to live by. My kids will tell you that I have a lot of work to do in this area, despite my story.
One of Jesus’ earliest followers, Paul, wrote about a situation where a couple ladies in a church he started were having a fight. You can read about it in Philippians 4:2-5. What is so interesting to me is the progression he advises.
- Agree with each other.
- Rejoice in the Lord.
- Let your gentleness be evident to all.
That second point is key. When we rejoice in God, even in the middle of a difficult time, we can have our hearts and minds refocused on him, his provision, his purposes, his mission. It reminds me of times, especially early in our marriage, when my wife and I would have arguments late into the night. It was so agonizing and emotional. What prolonged the fight was that neither of us wanted to agree with each other. In other words, we wanted to win! I remember thinking, after a couple hours of this had gone by, after I had made her even more upset by falling asleep in the middle of the fight, that my focus had been so self-centered that I forgot something important.
I forgot that I love her.
And when I refocused on that love, that it is not about me, but a commitment to her, it changed my perspective. Then it was so much easier to let my gentleness be evident to her. When we rejoice in the Lord, we are refocusing on our love for him and for others, and our bitter walls of division come crumbling down. When we rejoice in the Lord, we can let our gentleness be evident to all.
I don’t know what happened with the two Philippian ladies who were arguing. Perhaps they started rejoicing in the Lord and let their gentleness toward one another flow. What I do know is that we can do the same.
I showed this video during the sermon because it shows how one famously cruel and mean guy was softened by rejoicing in the Lord.
Want to discuss this further? Please comment below.