Gentle Answer

Proverb 15: 1

A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. The tongue of the wise makes knowledge acceptable, but the mouth of fools spouts folly.

The way we say things can be as significant as what we say. This lesson is important in the homestead as well as the workplace. How we speak to our children and spouses will often be the message they hear. One can start a fight just in the way they speak, but let’s take a closer look at that.

The proverb says a gentle answer turns away wrath. That means the words we choose are important. It specifically does not suggest we choose scathing words and couch them in a chuckle or a smooth voice. That person is not a wise person being gentle. He is a weasel, a slick salesman who thinks so little of those around him that he believes he can fool them with his vocal gyrations. People see through that and are offended and angered. That can stir up a fight as much as a nasty tone. A wise person knows how to convey, even a difficult message, in a polite way. They choose words that are not harsh and they show respect for others even in correction.

Wise people are able to communicate wisdom in the face of adversity whereas fools spout so much foolishness in their pretense of being wise. They stir up strife where the wise person finds a way to soften a response and to defuse a situation. They are able to tell people the hard truth but in a way that causes the recipient to be grateful even when the truth stings a bit.

Truth is a value, but it must be delivered in a way that another can receive it. Don’t use truth to batter another but rather to free them. Show kindness and gentleness in your speech and in your choice of words.

Proverb 15

Kindness Benefit

Proverb 11: 17         NIV

Those who are kind benefit themselves, but the cruel bring ruin on themselves.

Let’s begin our meditation on this verse by thinking of synonyms for cruel. The word that stands out for me is mean, but there are others, everything from brutal to unpleasant and harsh. Just being harsh or hard can turn the tide against us. Kindness, habitual kindness, brings rain in its season, a ripe harvest and other benefits.

We do not live in a world which is kind. Yet, you can see kindness some places and some people overwhelm with their kindness. This verse puts us in mind that kindness benefits us as much as the benefit we do to others. Kindness should be its own reward, I suppose, but it is also seed which, when planted, yields a crop. That crop, however, is a harvest of multiple benefits. Not only do you reap kindness, but other good crops come up in your garden too.

So here is the rub, as I see it. I cannot do this on my own. I know people, you do too, you radiate kindness. In fact, you are some of those very people. For me, though, it is only Christ within me that exudes those wonderful traits. But for Jesus, I would not be able to demonstrate the very characteristics I value. If I am not spending enough time with my Father, then I don’t act with temperance and gentleness.

When a pastor reads this verse, the first thought is to encourage everyone to be kind. However, you already have that desire for yourself. What we all need is more Christ in our life. If I spend a lot of time in the world and watching the news, etc., then I can promise my kindness and gentleness factor is going to decrease. Then, as I sow less kindness, I am going to reap less kindness and other benefits. So, sure, I want to encourage you to be kind but I also want to empower you to do so. It is the grace of our Father that helps us and spending time with Him is the way to release more of His presence in your life.

Proverb 11:

https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=proverb%2011&version=NASB1995,NIV

Gracious and Merciful

Psalm 145: 8

The Lord is gracious and merciful; slow to anger and great in lovingkindness.

Now isn’t that what you want in a best friend? As I read this verse, I thought that is really what we all want in our closest friend and God can certainly be your best friend. Gracious means showing favor, kindness or courtesy; being merciful and compassionate especially to one’s inferiors. Mercy is refraining from harming or punishing offenders or persons in one’s power; kindness in excess of what may be expected or demanded by fairness; forbearance and compassion. An additional definition says that mercy is a disposition to forgive, pity, or be kind. That is all great! In addition God does not get angry easily or quickly. Plus he is loving and kind. I really don’t know what more I would ask of Him. He sounds perfect to me. And His love is perfect.

He is not mad at you. Isn’t that good news? He loves you and wants to show you mercy and compassion. He desires to shower grace on you. He just wants to love on you and set you on high places out of harm’s reach. Get in touch with your best friend today and just let him know that you are really glad He is the way that He is and that you want to be His best friend too.

Not Fair!

Matthew 20: 12

These who were hired last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day’s work and the scorching heat.

Do you remember this story, how the landowner bargained with workers at the beginning of the day to pay them a certain wage for a day’s work in his vineyard? Towards the end of the day he took on more workers. At day’s end, he paid all the workers the same wage, even those who came late in the day. The workers who worked all day were upset that the people who worked a half day, or less, received the same wage as they. I might be upset too.

This is a two-fold message I believe. First, it is an obvious salvation message. Those who come into the vineyard, or in this case the kingdom, are rewarded as generously as those who arrived early. Second, it is a message about God’s kindness and generosity. Why are we upset that he chooses to be generous to those who worked one hour?

I believe part of the answer is that we are still locked into an earning mentality. The workers thought they “earned” their wage by their full day’s labor. They thought they earned the reward through their labor. This passage reveals a God who doesn’t make us earn His benefits. He gives freely. If He chooses to bless people who don’t deserve it, we should be happy rather than angry or jealous because we see God’s love in action towards all people.

Then there are the rewards of salvation. Those of us who have worked in the vineyard for years ought to reap a bigger reward than those who show up at the last minute. Right? That is what our worldly self says to us. Moreover, we feel legitimate in that thought. The reality is, though, that God is giving gifts to all. Salvation is free. None of us deserved His grace when He extended it to us but with time, we have begun to feel that we have earned something. Some people live like the devil and then in the eleventh hour pray to Jesus for salvation while other people have served him all their lives. What is the equity between these two groups? The only equity in God is love. Love bestows great gifts without regard for earnings. That does not square with our brains, but we need to allow it to settle into our spirits. Those who come after us are just as worthy and unworthy as we. The only way we receive a wage or salvation is by the free grace of the Father’s kindness and generosity. We didn’t have to earn it and neither do those people who are making their way towards the kingdom.

I think this story rankles within us because it is so “unfair” in the way we were raised to think. However, when we look at this from God’s perspective it begins to help heal our hearts. We needn’t lament God’s kindness towards anyone for it is that very kindness that blesses us today.

The Test

Matthew 7: 16

You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes, nor figs from thistles, are they?

Jesus gave us the method by which we can know whom we can trust. We can know people by their fruit. We saw last week Paul’s elucidation of this principle. Colossians 3 shows the fruit of the chosen of God and also the habits and traits of those not reformed by Christ. Some of the traits Paul identified for Christians are: “a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other,” (Colossians 3: 12 – 13). In this list he also included the pursuit of unity (See the Word of the Day for 11/13/20).

Jesus’ teachings give us the principles. Paul’s teachings explain Jesus’ principles. He expounded on them to give further understanding. In his letter to the Galatians, Paul further described what the life of a Christian looks like. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus crucified the flesh with its passions and desires,” (Galatians 5: 22 – 24).

When I was practicing law I came to despise when a client offered that they were Christian. Why? Ask many business owners and you will get the same response. It is code language for, “I’m not going to pay you.” It is as though they offered that bit of information in order to cover a defect in their character. As I said last week, pretend I am from the Show Me state. Let your actions identify you as a Christian. As my friend, Robin, said yesterday, “Actions speak louder than words.” Anyone can say, “I am a Christian.” It is an entirely different matter to walk it out. Most people who wish to deceive and take advantage of others will not identify their motives. Instead, they will use some covering ploy and claiming to be a Christian is one of the best. So, how are we to know who is the real deal?

That is the purpose of this series of devotionals which began last week. I know who you are and how you strive to live in the light of Christ. I also know that you are the most vulnerable because you are attracted to people who self-identify as Christian. Now, you don’t have to take their word for it. Look at their lives. Are they givers? If no, then you needn’t ask any more questions. They are done because Yahweh and Jesus are mega-givers. You can’t be in them and be stingy. Beyond that run the test of Galatians 5 and Colossians 3. Here it is synthesized for you.

Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control, a heart of compassion, humility, bearing with one another, and forgiving each other.

You might want to cut and paste this bit into your own document or print it. We are not asking people to be perfect, but we are looking for a pattern of behavior. I hope you identify with people who are patient and kind, gentle of speech and generous. We can encourage and expect these traits of people. We should, in fact, expect these kinds of behaviors. More than ever, we need to be considerate. We need to concern ourselves with the best interests of all people. We need to think of others instead of ourselves. That is the Christian mandate. It’s the Word. Let the Word prevail over the lives of us all.

Missouri

Colossians 3: 12 – 14

So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so must you do also. In addition to all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity.

We can keep this simple today. Earlier in the week we saw what Paul said we should not do as children of the King. We are being called to put off the old dead self and to take up the garment of a new life in Christ Jesus. That new life, well, it looks like this. We are going to loop back around to this idea next week, but I think it is obvious. Don’t tell me you are a Christian. Just pretend I am from Missouri, the “Show me” state. Show me.

These are the characteristics or behavior traits of a child of God. Do we show and act out of a heart of compassion? Are we kind? Where is humility in our words and actions? Am I gentle? Patient? Can I show tolerance to another and forgive anyone? It all boils down to love. If we are not those who act in accordance with and motivated by love, then we ought not be so bold in declaring ourselves Christians because this is how Christians behave. Unity isn’t just a cool idea. It is a mandate. We do not have a choice. But then, unity is simply a byproduct of love. If love is our motivator, then all of the traits in today’s verses are ours and increasing.

Require this of others. Require it of the church! Without love, we are not the beautiful church. Without laying down the old man and picking up the new life in Christ, we cannot follow in Christ’s footsteps. It is time we looked to ourselves and strengthened ourselves as a body in Christ. This is the path that Paul laid out for us. This is the way.

Motto

Colossians 3: 12 – 14

So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity.

As you may have noticed, I am reading Colossians, the third chapter, and if you look at the digital Bible I am reading from, you will see that almost every verse is highlighted and the only reason it isn’t all highlighted is because I restrained myself. This chapter is a primer for the what the Christian life is to be. Today’s passage really spoke to me and I want to suggest that it is the seminal passage for this time in our history. However, we are so far from this paradigm right now, that I hesitate to speak what alit on my heart as I read it. Then again, many writers of truth have been shouted down throughout history and berated for speaking the truth. Just look at Paul, John and Peter for starters.

In trying times, and these certainly are, the kindness of God and His love are needed above all things. The language of love is what will resonate and it will resound above all else. Love is a hard thing, though, because it does not, under any circumstances, lie. Sometimes the truth is the hardest thing you will ever have to tell someone.

In trying to navigate the stress and to come to grips with a changing world, this advice from Paul resonates loudly. We must approach the changing dynamics from God’s perspective of compassion and love. Life is a challenged right now, I know, and that is why I want to offer this passage. I know some people feel trapped by the rhetoric. The political left has its message but on a different subject we are assailed by the right. Most people in the country can identify with some “ism”. Blacks, Asians, Hispanics, Native Americans, and every other identifiable race, excluding whites, has felt the sting of racism. Women have been abused, neglected, marginalized and discriminated against the world over. Even white males get old and are no longer viewed as valuable. It seems most are either the wrong race, gender or age. Then there is the gay and transgendered community. Many people would not think twice about making derogatory comments about this group. Not long ago people were saying that God created AIDS to eliminate them. Wow!

The only real answer for any of this is the love and compassion of God. If we don’t take our stressors to God in prayer and wield the love and patience of God, I fear we will never make any meaningful change. God changes hearts. I want to bring this discussion to a broad market. In response to the corona virus challenge, we all need to apply the love, patience, compassion and gentleness of God. I am not advocating passivity or a lack in your conviction. In fact, I advocate just the opposite. I want people of passion. I just wonder if we are taking our troubles to the Lord or just ranting on Facebook. We are the answer to the problem. If the Christians will adopt today’s passage and marry it with a strong dose, and a continuing practice of prayer, we can effect real change. God can soften hearts and change the course of human history. Whether right or left, the answer is the same – God! Faith only works by love which is why today’s passage is so important.

Paul had to deal with a changing environment too. He lived in very tumultuous times. For goodness sake, the Messiah had just been crucified. Followers of Jesus were facing the same fate. Those are dire circumstances. Yet, he understood that the real power in the community was love, compassion and prayer. Love moves mountains.

There are lots of stressors in our lives right now. Some of you are on furlough and worried about feeding your families. The number of cases of Covid 19 is still rising in some areas. The economy is fragile. People want the economy open; others see that as a risk. We have racial tension, police brutality and in some cases, lawlessness. It is a fine balancing act at this time. And in the wings is a Presidential election with all the turmoil that interjects. We need help.

Please hear me clearly, I am not criticizing anyone’s reactions to the situations or stress in their lives. I am recognizing that people are under enormous stress. The purpose of this writing is to suggest that God is the way and that we need Him like never before. Regardless of our beliefs, there is one constant and one ultimate truth: our God. This, then, is an appeal to adopt this language from Paul as our refrain and further, to passionately and resolutely take our problems to God. As we meditate upon these ideals, what will God speak to our hearts?

There is no one on the planet who has not been affected by the circumstances of 2020. God cares what is going on in your heart. He cares about your pains and worries. He cares that you feel stressed to the point of breaking or that you have been isolated from friends and family for months. He knows of your anxiety and is compassionate. He wants to aid you.

Let’s just look at this one more time – “So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity.” Though I have not written, specifically, on them, let us not overlook the words kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, forgiveness and unity.

No matter where we stand politically or on any given issue, we are all those “who have been chosen of God.” We are the people God has in the earth. We have an awesome ability to take everything to Him in compassioned prayer. Let us not miss our calling oh chosen ones of God. Let us recommit ourselves to prayer and remember, that person across the aisle may not think like you, but they are, none the less, a child of God and valued in His sight.