When people slander you, what do you feel like doing? When someone hurls insults in your face and maligns your integrity, how should you respond? What does human nature demand?
Please hear this: When we respond in our fallen human nature, war breaks out!
I grew up in a family of 10 kids, and if you know anything about children, peace does not always freely reign. We could sing "When Peace Like a River Attendeth my Way," "Let There be Peace in the Valley," or "Peace On Earth, Goodwill Toward Men" all we wanted to, but when one of us was offensive, only Dad or Mom could break us up. That's fallen human nature. Why are we that way?
Now, lest my siblings find this and read it, I want to affirm that we had a lot of fun and have a barrel of good memories. Our family memoir, "Looking Through the Rearview Mirror," bears this out. But we did have war at times.
When emotions get riled up, words tend to fly out of the mouth that might not be true. But if there is any truth to the words, the angry person tends to blow it out of proportion. And this problem is not relegated to children. Adults from 18 to 100 are just as guilty.
So, how should we react when someone attempts to destroy our character? How should we respond when someone broadcasts his or her disdain for us?
The wrong answer is to fight back; to fight fire with fire. Bristling, getting huffy, and trying to set that person straight tends to prove the angry person's accusations.
There are several versions of the right answer. But since I have a habit of giving simple answers, let me give you one right now although I'm not the author of it.
Jesus said in Matthew 5:44, "I say unto you, love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you" (KJV).
The Aramaic Bible in Plain English says it this way, "I say to you, love your enemies and bless the one who curses you, and do what is beautiful to the one who hates you, and pray over those who take you by force and persecute you."
But 18 of 28 versions I read simply say something very close to, "I say unto you, love your enemies, and pray for them that persecute you."
Loving others simply means, be kind to them.
When I was 12 years old, one of my school-mates hollered, "Your family isn't fit for a pack of wolves!" When I complained to Dad, he said, "If kids say things like that, just respond, You're right. We can't stoop that low." A few days later when the junior high school thug hurled another similar epithet, I responded as Dad suggested. Amazingly, that was the end of the potential feud.
The old saying, it takes two to tango, can be applied to many situations. Recently, when a man who despises my worldview hurled hateful words at me in a public setting, I told him I considered him a friend. Was he friendly? Of course not, but his actions do not mandate my reaction. I purposely chose to respond in the manner that Jesus taught, and I pray for the man.
Getting angry raises our blood pressure and increases our cholesterol level, both of which are hard on the heart. Anger confuses us and immerses us in a moral quandary. Angry people don't merely offend people they dislike, it puts a wedge between them and their friends.
An angry person develops a hollow feeling that cannot be filled. The person then has a compound-problem: he must amplify angry emotions and increase his outbursts to justify the feelings of hate. As the situation intensifies, a false reality develops which deepens the deception.
What should angry people do? If they enjoy being angry, they'll continue as they are. But if they want peace in their lives, they'll need to realize that the answer to the problem comes from Jesus and can be found in the Bible.
Jesus, the Prince of peace, wants to heal us of our self-inflicted problems, and as Philippians 4:7 says, Jesus gives us peace that cannot be adequately explained.
What else should we do? Follow Jesus' example and forgive those who offend you. You'll be happier and healthier if you do.
-- S. Eugene Linzey is an author, mentor, and speaker. Send comments and questions to [email protected] Visit his web site at www.genelinzey.com. The opinions expressed are those of the author.