"I was thinking..."
I was thinking…Pastor Steve
“My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man's anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.”
James 1: 19, 20 (NIV)
This is a tough one. I was thinking about the many times I have spoken before I had all of the facts. Maybe you have, too. But what James is talking about is more than not listening, it’s about becoming angry…angry because we didn’t listen. It seems that this whole country has become one big rant fest. There aren’t as many conversations as there are debates, and each side wants to win the argument. We tend to set up our own camps with barriers to keep anyone else away. Our goal, as Christians that is, is to win people over to Christ. If we are perceived as argumentative, people will tend to avoid us.
Paul was a good example of someone who could get into, and out of, a situation without quarreling. He had a concept of how to win and influence people way before Dale Carnegie wrote his book. Paul said in his first letter to the church in Corinth: “To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some.” (1 Cor. 9: 22) Paul’s goal wasn’t to argue people into the faith but to give them a reason and a living example of what Jesus was teaching to His followers.
Jesus spoke of a life that is lived in God’s Kingdom. Take a look again at the first sixteen verses of Chapter 5 of the Gospel of Matthew. (Yes, it is the Sermon on the Mount. I keep saying you should make this a “must read” section of Scripture.) Christians aren’t to be bullies or argumentative, although we are called to be defenders of the Faith. Jude says as much in his letter, “Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt I had to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints.” (v. 3) Contending is being faithful and unwavering. We can be bold without being ugly.
If we listen to what other people are saying, we may be able to see where there are flaws in their arguments. There’s no benefit if we shout over each other and get all red-faced. I like the saying, “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and to remove all doubt.” Some think President Lincoln came up with that (yes it’s Presidents Day this month). But look at what Proverbs 17: 28 has to say: “Even a fool is thought wise if he keeps silent, and discerning if he holds his tongue.”
James had something else to say about speaking unwisely in Chapter Three: “With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God's likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be.” (v. 9, 10) If we let anger gain control of us, we can lose all of the good we may have garnered in our witness to Christ. Think about it, would you want to be friends with a hot-head? I watched America’s Funniest Videos the other night, and I saw men losing their cool at trash bags, screen doors, and weed eaters. Things weren’t going well, and they tore up each of those things. They were pretty funny, until I realized that could have been me at various times in my life.
Do we lose our temper with others? I pray not. However, harnessing our tempers might take a supernatural act of God. We’ve heard of it happening. A gang member, a drunk, an abusive spouse, gives their life to Jesus, and their attitude gets readjusted. Pray for peace in a situation that may be overtaking your anger. I believe God will answer that prayer. Peace out and God bless.