My dear readers,
A Soft Answer?
Proverbs 15:1 “A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger.”
Anger and quarrels are like two peas in an unsavoury pod. When they come together there are “sparks”. A little fire can readily turn into a flaming forest burning all the lives around them like tinder heaped upon hot coals. Why is it so hard to put out anger? When anger subsides, quarrels will evaporate into thin air almost immediately. Everyone is happy. Christ is honoured. God is glorified! Despite these blessings and benefits, quarrels will remain a common experience in many Christian homes and relationships. These quarrels will ruin testimonies of Christians as raised voices will turn anger into wrath.
Proverbs 15:1 teaches a child of God how to control his own anger and the anger of others. It does not matter if the other person is a believer or not. However, the ability to deal with anger according to Proverbs 15:1 applies to the child of God only. It does not apply to an unbeliever; he can try but he will not succeed in the way that God intends it to be applied. For the child of God, the testimony of Christ is impacted either for good or bad depending on how the believer reacts to anger. Also, the child of God has the indwelling of the Holy Spirit to help him succeed.
Therefore we must look at Proverbs 15:1 as an instruction from our heavenly Father on how to respond to anger!
I. Speak for yourself only – No one can speak for another person, literally. It is the other person’s mouth and we cannot control it. However, we can control our own mouths. If we allow our mouths to get out of control, we have no one to blame but ourselves. To this end, every one of us must be held accountable for what we say and intend to say. This means that no matter how the other person tries to rile us by using expletives or absolutes (like “never”, “always”, etc.) which are very incendiary and are uttered deliberately to hurt, we must keep silent first and not respond and react in kind. The moment anything is uttered with feelings of hurt and passion, nothing good can come out of it. Both parties will probably regret it once things cool down. The name of Christ will surely be tarnished and the only winner is the devil!
The bottom line is to not blame anyone but ourselves if we utter any words that hurt the other person. We must control our own mouths. If we do not, especially when we do not depend upon the Holy Spirit who dwells in us, we must blame only ourselves. God expects us to be careful with our mouths as Christians! James 3:2 “For in many things we offend all. If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body. . . 5 Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth!”
II. Turn away wrath? – Once the emotions are under control at the moment of anger, pray for strength from the Lord to bite the tongue, especially if we’re about to say something that is not “soft” but “hurtful” and out of a desire to retaliate. The word “soft” means “tender.” When the sincere reply is gentle and apologetic, the anger will dissipate. However, when the reply is harsh and retaliatory, the quarrel will elevate to the level of no return. Relationships will be broken and lives hurt, at times irreparably. All of us can identify with this response. This was the only response when we were unbelievers, steeped in sin and self-centredness. Such harsh sinful responses belong to the old unregenerate man.
The child of God has the help and strength of the indwelling Holy Spirit to control him. He does not need to respond in a helpless and hurtful manner any more. He has the strength to answer softly. The Bible’s promise to us is that a soft answer will turn away wrath. Wrath is more intense than anger whereby one is already red hot with anger; whereas with anger it is merely a flaring of the nostrils and a raised temperature perhaps. A soft answer from children of God means that we forgive the person and are very apologetic for the hurt caused. It is the unspoken message.
The Bible is teaching us that as children of God, we have the power to make a “u-turn” and avoid the wrath! The soft answer is like building a high wall to turn away a tidal wave of wrath! Lives are saved. Relationships are strengthened. Best of all, Christ’s Name is honoured. Christians are able to show love to one another because they have experienced the love of God in Christ in their lives. Love is real. Love is experienced. Love will cover a multitude of sins by the soft answer of God’s children.
III. Or Stir up? – This would be a great tragedy. “Grievous words” will stir up, i.e. turn up, the flame of anger! It is like a person turning the knob of an oven to a higher temperature! The anger, which is the flaring of the nostrils stage, can turn into wrath which is rage. Grievous words include any form of retaliatory comments. For example, when unsavoury adjectives are used to hurt us, we might be tempted to use the same adjectives to hurt in return. It is a “tit for tat” situation. Then there might be more mudslinging which becomes a back and forth calamity. It could escalate, from a close working relationship or even a marriage, to a disastrous arch enemy-like confrontation.
All that is needed is for the child of God to reply with a soft answer such as “I am so sorry” or “please let me explain” or “please forgive me”, and the situation will be calm and a potential disaster will be averted to the glory of God in Christ. It would be a wonderful testimony of Christian maturity!
Conclusion – The choice is before every child of God. He can either turn away wrath with a soft answer or he can increase the temperature of anger and turn it into wrath by grievous words! Let us pray that God will help us to love one another by turning wrath away with a soft answer always. Amen.
Yours faithfully in the Saviour’s Service
Rev Dr Quek Suan Yew, Pastor