“A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” —Proverbs 15:1
We live in a fallen world in which we daily experience the pain and destruction of sin. There is anger, back biting, disappointment, impatience, selfishness, complaining, ungratefulness…the list goes on and on. There are times that we may be tempted to think that there is no hope for any kind of peace or joy in our lives.
You see, our hearts suffer from a sense of displaced anger. When we should be fighting for justice with a godly anger we are instead busy with bitterness towards our coworker, impatience with our children or frustration with our neighbor who doesn’t live up to our standards.
So what is one to do when facing an angry spouse, a child who is hurling meaningless yet hurtful words in your face or a client who is making false accusations?
Proverbs 15:1 tells us that “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” Where do we find that soft answer? How do we endure the wrath and answer back softly when we’ve been hurt?
When attacked, our instincts tell us to shrink back and run away from the situation or to put our boxing gloves on. Both of which are obviously not peacemaking responses, so where is our hope?
Look to the Gospel
The cross of Christ was the soft answer that was given to God on our behalf. You see as Christ hung there on that splintered beam among thieves, He became everything that we were (sinful and flawed) and made us everything that He is (perfect and righteous) by absorbing the wrath of God on our behalf. Oh, the pain and agony of not only the physical torment but of the emotional separation from His perfect union with His Father. And He did this so that we may have peace!
Here we see Jesus absorbing the wrath and then in turn speaking the truth on our behalf. “It is finished!” was spoken not referring to an end to His physical suffering but rather a declaration of victory on our behalf. Christ absorbed everything that was deserved by us and then responded with the truth of God’s love for us by redeeming us and making us righteous.
The grace to absorb
Because Christ’s soft answer turned away God’s wrath for us we now have the grace to absorb what is coming at us and to return it with truth and love.
By absorbing I do not at all mean to say that we internalize or ignore the hurt. No, there may still be the anger of injustice but rather than running or retaliating we are able to speak back the truth. We are able to say, “It is finished. I don’t need to do anything else to prove my worthiness. I have God’s approval.” This allows us the boldness to return the accusation of “You hate me” with the truth of “No, I love you” or to stand our ground when we are falsely accused by holding to the truth while still loving our neighbor.
When we remember what Christ has done for us we are more likely to absorb the anger like a sponge diffusing the hate. When we bask in the mercy and grace that was showered upon us on the cross we will have more of a desire to be peacemakers. And when we are able to find our hope for conflict in the cross we are truly free.
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In what ways do you see the Gospel penetrating your heart as you relate to others?
Check out Kimm’s new book, Christ in the Chaos ! It’s a “must read” for every mother who longs for what is seemingly impossible: peace and freedom in the midst of her chaos.