Over the last several weeks, I recoiled in anguished revulsion at the unspeakable, vulgar, racist, and profane rants of the comedians, politicians, and media pontificators.
What can I as a believer in Jesus actually do to make a difference in the tasteless and vile language that comes from every side, quarter, and position?
How can I avoid displaying the behavior that I hate and find so revolting?
As I searched for an answer, an earthy and pithy statement from a mentor, Paul Faulkner, bubbled to the surface:
His point? Don’t try to fight ugly, hateful, prejudicial, vile, vulgar, profane, and unfairly critical speech by replying in kind! The wise one of Israel said it this way:
A gentle answer deflects anger,
but harsh words make tempers flare.
(Proverbs 15:1, 18 NLT)
We can’t get into name-calling and mean-spirited debates and do the work of God. The cause of Christ gets drug through the mud when we take the buzzard’s bait and start slinging words back that don’t reflect the Spirit of Jesus. This principle is true whether we are in a private conversation over coffee, on Facebook/Twitter/Instagram/WeChat or any other social media platform. We lose who and whose we are when jumping into these kinds of debates devoid of character and grace no matter their underlying principles.
If you are like me, you know this in your head, but the evil one and his minions know our buttons to push to get us to engage in his work. How do we get control of our heart, the source (Matthew 15:16-20) of our verbal and typed choice for speech? This control problem is why the wise one of Israel reminded us to guard our hearts. The flow of our life proceeds from our heart (Proverbs 4:23 NLT). But, is that enough for me to have a redemptive influence in a climate of hate, suspicion, and bile-induced verbal barrages?
Ah! Enter the Holy Spirit’s blessing as I walked through my daily reading which happened to be Luke chapter 21 — notice especially verses 12-15:
[Jesus warned his disciples,] ”But before all this occurs, there will be a time of great persecution. You will be dragged into synagogues and prisons, and you will stand trial before kings and governors because you are my followers. But this will be your opportunity to tell them about me. So don’t worry in advance about how to answer the charges against you, for I will give you the right words and such wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to reply or refute you!
As the Holy Spirit tuned my heart to hear these words of Jesus for my time in my world, Jesus’ words convicted me. I realized how shallow I was for chafing under the mild threats pushed on believers today and what feels like a growing tide of hate and spite directed at Bible-believing followers of Jesus. That was the message I heard from Jesus. Maybe, this is also a message that can be a blessing for you, as well.
Deep in my heart, I know that my witness to the world must be based on reflecting Jesus in what I say, do, and how I do it. The once impulsive and volatile apostle, Simon Peter, learned this truth that I must learn to live, too. Peter lived the last part of his life focusing on how to open the closed doors of people’s hearts. He wasn’t focused on winning political debates, justifying himself, or protecting his personal rights — read the whole letter of 1 Peter and notice how often he emphasized being willing to suffer for doing the right thing. His classic teaching is as good for us today as it was for those early disciples facing persecution:
Now, who will want to harm you if you are eager to do good? But even if you suffer for doing what is right, God will reward you for it. So don’t worry or be afraid of their threats. Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your hope as a believer, always be ready to explain it. But do this in a gentle and respectful way. Keep your conscience clear. Then if people speak against you, they will be ashamed when they see what a good life you live because you belong to Christ. Remember, it is better to suffer for doing good, if that is what God wants, than to suffer for doing wrong!
(1 Peter 3:13-17 NLT)
In a world of puking buzzards, let’s choose to respond to our critics in the Jesus way, the way Peter learned toward the end of his life. Let’s trust the Holy Spirit to help us with words to say and not to say as we seek to answer those who appear to be against us with gentleness and respect. We want people to see our hope and not our hate!