The Bible verse of the day today in the YouVersion app is from Proverbs 15:1:
“A soft [gentle] answer turns away wrath.”
I try to read Scripture every day. I have a reading plan (reading through the Bible chronologically this year), and I usually read the Scripture of the day. Every once in a while, the Scripture I am reading for the day comes up that day in another context.
Today is Sunday, and the sermon I listened to today by Jeff Frazier at Chapelstreet Church in Batavia, IL was about the misconception that we should not judge. I would post the message (because it’s a good one), but it isn’t on the Internet yet for viewing. The message was somewhat along the lines of an article I wrote, 8 Important Points About Judging and Judgment.
Keys points are that God didn’t tell us to judge; he told us to judge others with the same measure we judge ourselves; we need to take the logs out of our own eyes before we can take the specks out of our brothers’ eyes; we are not instructed to judge the world (God is their judge), but we are to judge those in the church; we need each other’s righteous judgment and gentle help in dealing with sin (speaking the truth in love to one another).
Jeff said something about removing specks from brothers’ eyes that I hadn’t thought about before. I note that we must be close to our brothers to remove specks from their eyes, and that requires close, intimate relationship. He added that we don’t go about removing objects in our loved ones’ eyes with a screwdriver and a pliers! We do it gently, carefully with a delicate touch.
The real take away for me in his message, and the reason that I write is not about relationships in the body of Christ among the brothers and sisters in the faith, but our relationship to the world with people who do not subscribe to the faith. This is where he used the statement in proverbs – a gentle answer turns away wrath – and it couldn’t be more relevant to the times.
We live in what seems like the most turbulent, hateful, polarized, angry, violent and angst-filled time in recent history in the United States. (It isn’t, but it certainly seems like it is!) Social media has opened up the world to people and people to the world, and it is the bane of our times. It has amplified all the disquiet in peoples’ hearts into a constant and continual clamor of contentious voices.
The world is angry.
How are the followers of Jesus to live in such an angry, contentious world?
Perhaps, the answer lies in an ancient proverb: “A gentle answer turns away wrath.”
Jeff Frazier said in today’s sermon,
“Perhaps the most counter-cultural, radical thing we can do in the world is be gentle. Not cowardly, not clamming up and never speaking the truth, but doing it with gentleness, compassion and kindness.”
One of the most liberating verses in the Bible for me is Paul’s admonition to the Corinthians:
“What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church?” (1 Cor. 5:12)
They have a judge, and He is God! (1 Cor. 5:13) If we want to love the world as Jesus loved the world, we should not be condemning the world! (John 3:17) Remember what Jesus said? He said he didn’t come in to the world to condemn the world… He came to save it.
If we want to follow Jesus, we need have the same attitude, don’t we?
They already feel condemned. They don’t enter our churches because they feel we are condemning them… and we are.
A couple of nights ago, my wife and I were in the backyard of a gay couple who live on our block, sitting and talking under a gazebo they built. Adam (not his real name) said to me that his mother always invites him to church when he visits. He goes with her because he loves her, but he wondered aloud, “Doesn’t she know her church condemns me?”
When I read through my social media feeds on a regular basis, I see a lot of condemnation coming from the church. I see sharp-tongued, harsh voices that make me cringe. I see Christians fighting with the world, brandishing the Word of God like a sword against them.
There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ (Rom. 8:1), but the world doesn’t know that. The world can’t get close enough to us to learn that when we have our swords drawn against them. We may be the only Jesus our neighbors encounter, but they won’t close enough to see Jesus if we have our armor on and our swords drawn.
The armor of God and the sword of His word are meant to protect us from Satan, not from the world. We can’t follow Jesus and fulfill his purposes by keeping the world at bay. He told us to go out into the world gentle as doves, like sheep led to the slaughter.
To do this, need to have the same attitude as Jesus. Though he was God in his very nature, he didn’t use his power to his own advantage (to protect himself). He “made himself nothing”, making himself a servant, humbling himself to the point of death.
We can’t pick up our crosses up to follow Jesus without taking off the armor we wear in front of others and laying down the swords we wield for own protection. Following Jesus isn’t for the fainthearted, proud or self-righteous. We must die to that stubborn self that insists on having its way.
Jeff Frazier’s sermon was inspired by Scott Sauls’ book, A Gentle Answer: Our ‘Secret Weapon’ in an Age of Us Against Them. Max Lucado calls the message in the book living with “countercultural gentleness”.
If we practiced gentleness as we speak the truth in love, we would be salt and light in an angry world. It won’t protect us against a world that hates us, but it will accurately display the character and love of God to the world that Jesus came to save. We honor Jesus, and his call to follow him, when we answer everyone with “gentleness and respect”. (1 Peter 3:15)
As I write things, I hear the gentle voice of the Holy Spirit probing the ways in which I have failed to be gentle and failed, at that same time, to speak the truth in love. “There’s no doubt about it. I’m on my way home…. I am not where I’m going, but I’m a long way from where I was.”
 The Hebrew word translated “soft” in the ESV and “gentle” in the NIV is rak, meaning tender, delicate, soft; substantive, mild, gentle words; tenderhearted.
 Phil. 2:5-8:
In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!