One thing that usually raises my blood pressure and elicits a less than gracious response is when I’ve changed lanes to comply with a “right lane closed ahead” sign, and someone flies by me on the right. Invariably the “lunatic” is allowed to merge into my lane several hundred feet ahead of me which usually my triggers frustration.
Sadly, the absence of gentleness which should mark a follower of Jesus, is increasingly missing in the actions and interactions of believers with others in a culture where outrage is the new normal.
In James 1:19, God’s people are commanded, “…But let everyone be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger”. Unfortunately, the exact opposite is frequently true. What steps can be taken for us to become more tranquil and less triggered? I’ll offer two suggestions.
First of all, it helps to see ourselves realistically. We can all identify “lunatic” drivers, but rarely consider that some people put that label on us. Every one of us without exception has blemishes, imperfections, and shortcomings that disqualify us from perfect status in the eyes of men or God. We are all in need of a Savior who rescues rebels from His wrath (Romans 5:1). God, in Christ, responds graciously with forgiveness to all who believe.
We’ve been forgiven despite our indwelling battle with sin. Allowing that sobering truth to marinate in our hearts increases our compassion, gentleness, and kindness towards others who’ve done horrible things. As undeserving people transformed by the gentleness of Jesus, believers are empowered and expected to express to others the kindness we have experienced.
Secondly, being settled in our spiritual identity is a guard against responding with hostility. In our pride and self-sufficiency, we naturally dismiss criticism and demand our rights. With humility and reliance upon the Lord. we supernaturally deal with criticism and deny our rights. Resting in God’s promise to complete His transforming work in us (Philippians 1:6) and in His unfailing love for us (Romans 8:35-39) helps us view criticism and confrontations as refining tools to mature us with no power to separate us from God’s love. We are not slaves to what others think, believe, or say about us, but rest firmly in the arms of Jesus.
May the words of Saint Francis be our prayer and our practice. “Lord, make me an instrument of your peace. Where there is hatred, let me bring love. Where there is offense, let me bring pardon. Where there is discord, let me bring union. Where there is error, let me bring truth. Where there is doubt, let me bring faith. Where there is despair, let me bring hope.”