Have you ever dreaded getting together with extended family or neighbors because you just don’t have the energy for the arguments that may crop up? I have! However, as I’ve matured, I’ve figured out that having a biblical response to argumentative people can make all the difference.
When someone attacks our beliefs, or us, our natural reaction can be to launch an immediate counterattack. This approach rarely ever brings peace to a relationship. Our counterargument, no matter how true, more often results in a flare-up of both parties’ tempers than it does in helping us simmer down and resolve the issue.
A passage from the Book of Proverbs shows us how to respond to people who may be looking to start an argument: “A gentle answer turns away wrath, / but a harsh word stirs up anger” (15:1). By making gentleness and empathy our first response, we can often defuse the destructive power of an emotionally charged situation before it results in an explosive confrontation.
Then, once we have defused the conflict “time bomb,” the next verse in Proverbs shows us how, through the power of the Holy Spirit, we may actually be able to dismantle it: “The tongue of the wise makes knowledge acceptable” (15:2). Unfortunately, a wise tongue alone may still not make our knowledge acceptable to others, no matter what the strength or logic of our argument.
There are two big mistakes we can make in facing conflict: to think that we can hop over the initial step of defusing emotions and go straight to the dismantling of ideas; and, even more foolish, to think that we can do either the defusing or the dismantling with our own cleverness instead of with God’s grace.
Grace, wisdom, and love, these are the Biblical ingredients necessary to serving up peace around the dinner table at a family Thanksgiving. Equipped with these we can defuse emotional time bombs with gentleness. Then we may even be able to move someone towards the truth with the wisdom that God gives us. Our greatest witness to peace, however, may lie in loving others, no matter how difficult they are.
As we approach and then enjoy Thanksgiving we can offer this simple prayer: "Lord Jesus, you are my peace. Grant me grace to treat argumentative people with gentleness, wisdom, and love."
Quoted in part from "Finding God’s Peace in Everyday Challenges" by Heidi Bratton © 2015 by The Word Among Us Press, wau.org. Used with permission.
Copyright 2015 Heidi Bratton.
Photo copyright 2015 Heidi Bratton. All rights reserved.
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