“A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (Proverbs 15:1).
The verse jumped out at me from the pages of my devotional booklet. I winced. How often do I need to be reminded to tame my tongue? When I let fall a few unsavory words while on the road; when I’m tempted to answer a sincere question with sarcasm; when momentary frustration threatens to spill over into irritability.
As an editor, I’m well-acquainted with the power of words, both written and spoken. Scripture reminds us repeatedly of this power and the wisdom of learning to use it well:
- “He who conceals his hatred has lying lips, and whoever spreads slander is a fool. When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise. The tongue of the righteous is choice silver, but the heart of the wicked is of little value.” (Proverbs 10:18–20)
- “A truthful witness gives honest testimony, but a false witness tells lies. Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing. Truthful lips endure forever, but a lying tongue lasts only a moment.” (Proverbs 12: 17–19)
- “The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell. All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and creatures of the sea are being tamed and have been tamed by man, but no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be.” (James 3:6–10)
Ouch. Think of the imagery. Careless speech is an indicator of sin and foolishness, a piercing sword, a fire, a “world of evil,” and deadly poison. All the more reason to answer people’s challenges to Christianity with “gentleness and respect”!
In the world of Christian apologetics, thoughtful speech is vital, especially on blogs and blog comments where disagreement can escalate easily into verbal warfare. The barbs lobbed by atheists sting and irritate. It’s tempting to respond in kind, with sarcasm, vitriol, and intellectual one-up-manship. Yet as Christ’s representatives, we need to submit to the Holy Spirit’s guidance and use words to bring healing, promote honesty, and sing God’s praises.
Resources: In the spirit of our commitment to providing gentle answers to challenges to Christianity, RTB offers several resources to help fellow believers do the same.
- RTB Live! vol. 13: Everyday Apologetics (DVD) with Kenneth Samples
- “An Intellectual Code of Conduct, Parts 1, 2, and 3” by Kenneth Samples (Reflections)
- “Explosive Debates Putting Out Fires and Dodging Verbal Bullets” (Take Two)
- “A Spoonful of Vinegar” (Take Two)
- “Why Can’t We Be Friends?” (Take Two)
- “15-yard Penalty” (Take Two)