Friday, January 20, 2012

The Least Said

                                 A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger.” 
Proverbs 15:1 (KJV)

It is not my intention to insert politics into my devotionals, so I will not mention names or specifics, but I will say that I do enjoy following the political scene.  I think it is important that we stay informed of what is going on in our nation, as it has a direct influence on how we, as Christians, need to direct our reasons for fasting and prayer.  Since this is a presidential election year, I, along with millions of others, am praying hard for God’s hand to direct and lead our nation in the way we should go at this critical time.  I also listen to a lot and read a lot…about candidates, their beliefs, and their persuasions on issues that are important to me.  I was recently at a relative’s home, and I noticed that almost every time the television program being watched was interrupted by a commercial, it was one commercial after another about politics.  Candidate A was pointing out the faults of Candidate B.  Then in the very next ad, Candidate B was attacking Candidate A.  Then Candidate A was flaunting his many credentials, strong points, and experience.  On and on it went.  It was a constant war of mud-slinging and disrespect, in my opinion, each one vying for the votes and support of the viewers.

Have you ever been spoken to or about in an unkind, disrespectful way?  Maybe unexpectedly?  What was your first reaction?  Don’t we all have in instinct that immediately tells us to fire back at the person inflicting the impudence?  I have recently been studying the example of our humble Lord, Jesus Christ.  When I was faced with a situation that was especially hurtful, caused by the insolent, rude, and presumptuous tone of another, I felt flesh rise up within me to lash back….to point out the many faults and points that I found offensive about this person….to rise up in my own defense.  As I prayed, I said, “Lord, what would YOU do?  If You were in my exact situation, what would You do?”  Instantly, I heard His meek and quiet voice.  He answered my question, with a question of His Own.  “Child, what DID I do?”  What did He do?  The Bible says in Matthew 27:12, “And when he was accused of the chief priests and elders, he answered nothing.”  Nothing.  Not a word. 

Jesus’ chief accusers, persecution, and problematic acquaintances were who?  The chief priests and the elders?  How could this be?  Shouldn’t they have been His biggest supporters and defenders?  These were religious people who professed a relationship with, as well as the approval of, Almighty God.  They knew the law.  They were steeped in long-standing traditions; some of them part of the original Mosaic Law, some of them contrived by their ancestors.  Yet, their spirit was carnal, critical, condemning, judgmental, and extremely abrasive.  Who were they to judge Jesus Christ?  He was God in the flesh…the very One they professed to be serving and defending.  Yet, they were the ones who accused Him, constantly caused Him distress and trouble, and eventually condemned Him to the most cruel, agonizing, torturous death ever imagined by the human mind.

So, how did Jesus deal with these types?  Did He stand up and start pointing out all of their faults and offensive attributes?  Did He go through each of their accusations and defend Himself regarding them, even though every, single one of them were false?  Jesus knew the hearts and minds of each of the ones who were spitting on Him, saying He had a devil (can you imagine the impudence and insolence of these people?), and contriving other heinous lies against Him.  He could have risen up in the “courtroom” and spoken with tones of thunder.  He could have called thousands of angels to come down and destroy them all instantly.  He could have named out every, individual sin that was hidden in the hearts and lives of each one of His mean-spirited accusers.  But, what was Jesus’ answer and response?  Not a word.  No retaliation.  Just humble, complete silence.  And His very silence brought overwhelming condemnation on the minds and hearts of His accusers. 

The truth needs no defense.  Yet, there is something deep in the carnal heart and mind that longs for vengeance and yearns for self-justification.  Have you ever noticed how unkind words seem to “hang” in the atmosphere, long after they are spoken?  How they seem to continue to cut and hurt as their reality sinks further in?  Today’s Scripture came to me recently as I pondered on these thoughts.  It occurred to me that when I am spoken to in an offensive or disrespectful way, there should be no retaliatory retort on my part.  That if I remain silent and allow the hurtful words to hang in the air, their weightiness will echo back to the one who said them.  How many of us have not had this happen and been on the giving end of this kind of hurt?  Maybe we have lashed out in exasperation, self-defense, or frustration…and then when no one returned our grievous words, we heard the echo of our own voice ringing back to us loud and clear…our very own words hanging above us in the atmosphere like an ugly, black cloud.  And this is the very thing that caused us remorse….we felt like we would have given anything to take the words back, if only we could have.

Unfortunately, once words are spoken, they can never be taken back.  They are out there, and they are recalled time after time by their hearers.  I heard an analogy once comparing words being a feather pillow being opened in the wind.  Once the feathers are scattered, it is impossible to go around and retrieve them all.  Once words are spoken, we can never recapture them all, correcting every misconception, and erasing every hurt. 

God sees the heart and knows the motives and intentions of every action.  Offenses will come to us all.  Rude treatment, disrespect, and insolent people are always going to be a part of life.  We will be falsely accused; our Master was.  We will be confronted with sharp, hateful words filled with malice.  When it happens, as it inevitably will, is it really that important to give a sharp retort?  Must we lash back at the offender and correct every lie told, every wrongful insinuation implied, and every false accusation made?  Mom always tells me that the least said is the easiest mended.  I believe she is right.  A soft answer turneth away wrath….and sometimes, as in Jesus’ case, complete silence is the softest, most powerful answer of all.

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