It doesn’t make for good news headlines, but if more heeded the sage’s counsel, it probably would make for a better world.
Inflammatory speech is big business nowadays. Outrageous rhetoric is sure to make the front page (for those who still read newspapers). Whoever thought that 140 character sound bites could stir up so much collateral reaction? And with the world wide web, everybody has a platform . . . a soap box . . . a pseudo-legitimacy to enter into any number of battle fields in which words are the preferred weapons. Maybe that’s why the opening verses of Proverbs 15, and their counter-cultural wisdom, jumped off the page this morning.
A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. . . .
A gentle tongue is a tree of life, but perverseness in it breaks the spirit.
(Proverbs 15:1, 4 ESV)
A soft answer. A gentle tongue. Doesn’t that sound like appealing speech?
Tender talk has a way of diffusing escalating tension. It says “return to sender” and refuses delivery of wrathful words.
A gentle, or healing tongue is more concerned with remedy then it is rhetoric. With building up, than tearing down. With reviving, than reviling.
Civility, it seems, is fast becoming a non-value in our world. And calm, quiet, thoughtful conversation just seems to be regarded as counter-productive to achieving one’s goals.
And the answer isn’t going to be found in courses on how to communicate or negotiate more effectively. The silver bullet isn’t going to come from “active listening” skills. Because it’s not really a mouth problem, it’s a heart problem.
” . . . for each tree is known by its own fruit. For figs are not gathered from thorn bushes, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush. The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.” ~ Jesus
(Luke 6:44-45 ESV)
A soft answer comes from a soft heart. A gentle tongue is the evidence of a gentle soul. Peace-making words have a way of flowing from someone at peace.
So, we don’t need more “good headlines”, we need more good news. For the gospel is the power of God unto salvation . . . and sanctification . . . and appealing speech. By faith, it turns hearts of stone, and tongues of fire, into hearts of flesh, and tongues of healing.
If anyone should model a soft answer and a gentle tongue it should be the child of God, the follower of Christ, those called to be the light of the world. We need to beware of the old nature’s tendencies to buy into the value our culture places on bombastic bullying and no-holds-barred debate.
The Lords servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth.
(2Timothy 2:24-25 ESV)
Might not make the news at 6, but may be used of the Spirit to draw people to Christ.
Words seasoned by grace. Words spoken for His glory.