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The Devil's Foothold The Devil’s Foothold
    by Rubel Shelly

EDITOR'S NOTE: Being a leader means maintaining a delicate balance between challenging people to new heights and deeper obedience while comforting them in their worst times and not alienating them in their disinterested ones. While we know part of our ministry is to “comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable,” we don’t want to needlessly provoke someone to anger. This article is a powerful reminder of this latter truth.

    Sherry Haught shared a story with me that you need to hear. It played out over two days in the flower shop where she works. A door-to-door salesman came into the shop on Tuesday afternoon. He said he needed just a few flowers and explained why.

    He told Sherry about making a call to a lady’s house to show his product line. “I made her angry,” he said. “I don’t know exactly what I did, but I would like to take a few flowers to her.” I know what you’re thinking. Showing up made her mad! Most of us have an aversion to door-to-door sales people — and tend not to be kind to them.

    The man came back to the flower shop the next day. He wanted to tell Sherry that the flowers had made the situation better. The lady was no longer angry with him. She was so startled by his gesture that she even asked him to tell her what he was selling. But he declared that his purpose had not been to use the flowers to get her to buy from him. They had been, he said, to keep her from sinning.

    He explained that the woman had been really angry when he interrupted her day. (Let your imagination kick in here: Was she taking care of a crying baby? Had she and her husband had a fuss that morning? Could she have been angry with herself for being short with the kids before sending them off to school that morning?) Whatever the reason, she was so angry that the salesman feared he might be part of a sin she would commit. And he explained what he meant.

“I didn’t want the sun going down on her anger,” he said.
    “I didn’t want the sun going down on her anger,” he said. “That would mean I made her sin. And I don’t want to be the cause of anyone sinning.”

    His attitude that day was rooted in this Bible verse: “Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold” (Ephesians 4:26-27).

    Most of us know to guard our own hearts from anger and a bad temper. But what about provoking others to anger? What about rude or thoughtless behavior? Sherry said the man’s extraordinary behavior toward a stranger set her to thinking: “It made me wonder how many people I have made to sin — when I cut someone off in traffic, punished my child unfairly, or was sarcastic to a clerk. I knew what I had done was wrong, but I had never thought about the effect on that person’s spiritual well-being by provoking them to anger.”

    Paul called anger a “foothold” for the devil. Guard your own heart against it. And be careful not to inflame others by your thoughtlessness. Too late, you say? If you can’t afford flowers right now, maybe a sincere apology would do just as well.

© 2000, Rubel Shelly. Used by permission. From Rubel Shelly's "FAX of Life" printed each Tuesday. See Faith Matters for previous issues of the "FAX of Life."

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See Also...
Related Heartlight Resources:
Are You Somebody Else's Idiot?
When is Anger Appropriate?
Learning to Forgive
Related External Pages:
Faith Matters

About the Author...
Rubel Shelly has preached for the Woodmont Hills Church of Christ in Nashville, Tennessee since 1978. He is the author of more than 20 books. For more details, click here.

Title: "The Devil's Foothold"
Author: Rubel Shelly
Publication Date: March 7, 2000



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