A gentle answer quietens anger, but a harsh one stirs it up. A hot-tempered person stirs up conflict, but the one who is patient calms a quarrel. – Proverbs 15:1, 18
I woke up early one bright Sunday morning and prepared to go to church. Today was different though, rather than going by public transport, I would drive down in my friend’s car which he had kept in my care while on a trip out of town. When the time came to leave, I realized I could not pull out of the driveway because an “inconsiderate” fellow (let’s name him Mr. Smith for the sake of it) had parked behind me. I was upset. How could people be so inconsiderate? I went knocking from door to door trying to find Mr. Smith so he could move his car, but he was not in any of the apartments.
“That’s it,” I thought, “I’ll be late for church… again!” I felt so angry. I felt Mr. Smith had no right to just block the driveway. I decided to write him a note – a harsh, angry note with the “no offence” tag, which I stuck on his windscreen. I was disappointed that I would miss church, but I felt a bit satisfied that at the least, I had given him a piece of my mind.
Few moments later, I heard a series of car honks from the driveway, Mr. Smith had emerged, finally. He had read my note and did not look so pleased. Without thinking twice, I went out to him, looking angry-faced, ready to demand an explanation as to why he would prevent me from going to church to worship my God by blocking the driveway. A heated argument ensued and at the end, it turned out I was wrong to have even parked there in the first place, as it was his paid parking spot. How could I have known? I don’t have a car, I’m just “car-seating” for the weekend.
We argued aloud, back and forth for a while, after which I owned my faults and became apologetic, but he said something to me that changed everything, “You are so arrogant and disrespectful, there’s no way I’ll ever let you park in my spot,” he said.
My heart tore at that moment, not because I had nowhere else to park, but because I had failed to carry Jesus well. I realised I would never be able to preach Christ to this man. Even worse, if he finds out I’m a Christian, no one would be able to share the gospel with Christ because he’ll never want to have anything to do with people like me.
What a poor example of the kingdom I had become. I was sober and saddened that I did not even feel the need to go to church anymore, even though the car was now out of the driveway. What was the point? I messed up. I stayed home and cried to God to help me.
Moral of the story? First and foremost, these verses (Proverbs 15:1, 18) explain the need for us to be calm and quiet in answering people to stir away anger.
Imagine I had left a gentle, friendly note on Mr. Smith’s car. Though he owns the right over the parking lot, he probably would have been remorseful for blocking me. We probably would have gotten off on the right foot, talked a bit more and who knows, I could have won a soul for Christ. But it goes deeper than that.
My issue with Mr. Smith was not just a hot temper, there was pride, there was ego. He had hurt me and I had to get back at him one way or the other. I would not let him cheat me and get away with it.
Many months after that experience, I stumbled on a sermon by A.W. Tozer and he was talking about some keys for a successful Christian life. One of the keys he mentioned was vowing never to defend yourself. Wait a minute, that does not make sense! Why would you let someone play a fast one on you and get away with it? Why would you let people cheat you and you let them go? It was then that I remembered some of the teachings of Jesus and the apostles from the Bible:
- “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles.” (Matthew 5:38-41)
- “Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, ‘Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?’ Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.” (Matthew 18:21-22)
I giggle whenever I read this one because I honestly do not think anyone would wrong you as many as 77 times in one day.
- “Make every effort to live in peace with everyone…” (Hebrews 12:14)
Christianity is counter-cultural. It goes against today’s societal norms.
The Bible instructs us as Christians to always turn the other cheek, go the extra mile, strive for peace with all men at all costs, and forgive each person that wrongs us every day at least 77 times. We are taught to uphold these always and not only when convenient.
In today’s world, as you may have noticed, it is extremely difficult to open your house up to complete strangers. What made Abraham so different? Many would not welcome strangers into their houses because of fear – is that a good enough reason? You be the judge.Christianity is counter-cultural. It goes against today’s societal norms. Click To Tweet
Ask yourself these sincere questions: Based on your relationship with people, would they be surprised or disappointed if you told them you are a Christian? Would they be willing to know about Jesus having met you? Do your actions preach Christ, or prepare hearts’ soils for the seed of the Gospel by other co-planters?
What then should be our reaction to people who try to cheat us or take advantage of us? Obviously, we need to stand for what is right and protect ourselves duly, but let everything you do be done in the light of eternity.
Remember that no gain of yours is more important than an opportunity for someone to encounter Christ our Lord because they encountered you. They act in ignorance, so we must see them like Jesus saw us on the cross, love them regardless and pray for them like Jesus did from a place of love, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do”, realizing they are work-in-progress.
I wrote down this personal prayer and it has helped me a lot. I hope it helps you too:
Dear Lord, help me to deal with my hot temper and hot-headedness. Help me to be patient and calm, not to stir up anger but to turn it away. Let the work of the Spirit and the fruit that ensues be more evident in my life, that I may adequately represent you on this earth as an ambassador of Christ. Amen.
The work of the Spirit in you is progressive, causing you to grow in grace and love; the fruit of the Spirit are increasingly evident in your life, to God’s glory, Amen!