Thursday, March 23, 2023

A Gentle Word (Proverbs 10:20–21; 12:25; 15:1)

"A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger" (Prov. 15:1).

A word gently spoken can turn away wrath and bind the cords of peace around the most ferocious enemy; however, a word spoken in anger can spark a flame that could consume nations. Choosing the road to peace is not easy because it is “man’s natural propensity to feed rather than to quench the angry flame,” Bridges wrote. Often we let our passions choose our words; we allow our anger to vent all our thoughts and feelings, and we insist on the last word. Many times rather than genuine and gentle reproof, we resort to bitter sarcasm which conforms more to our nature. It is easier to criticize and jest than encourage and speak with sincerity. Our flesh prefers to scoff and sneer rather than pacify and edify. We are naturally given to vulgarities in hopes that others will find us witty and clever rather than the simple pure and wholesome language of Christ.

We find in Scripture many examples of those who chose to speak gently, thus turning away wrath. With cautious and gentle words, Aaron pacified Moses (Lev. 10:16–20), Gideon calmed the men of Ephraim (Judg. 8:1–3), and Abigail cooled the temper of David (1 Sam. 25:23–32). In 1 Samuel 24:9–21, David assumes the role of peacemaker. Here was his opportunity to vent his frustration and anger at Saul for chasing and persecuting him. If anyone ever had a right to express anger, David did at that moment. But he opted for a gentle and humble answer, thus making peace with Saul.

Saul provides the opposite example in 1 Samuel 20:30–34. When he allowed his anger and jealousy to get the better of him. He lashed out at his son, Jonathan, denigrating him, slandering, and threatening him. Instead of producing peace through gentle words, as David later did, Saul incited anger and bitterness in his son.

On the one hand we see how gentle words can placate even the hardened heart of Saul, and on the other we see how harsh words can embitter the heart of a son. Do not choose the way of Saul, but that of David, and ultimately of Christ who “when they hurled their insults at Him, He did not retaliate; when He suffered, He made no threats. Instead He entrusted Himself to Him who judges justly” (1 Peter 2:23 NIV).

Read Ephesians 4:17–32 and Philippians 2:1–18. What is Paul’s remedy for corrupt and un-Christlike speech? What is the relationship between humility and gentle speech? In what way do you not conform to Christ in the way you speak to others? Confess and repent of thoughtless speech and harsh words today.