So what do we do now?
This is a sentiment I am seeing across media, social and otherwise, this week. Most of the country is in the midst of opening up after three months of shelter-in-place, many are prayerfully determining how to mitigate an uncertain economic future, and now, we find ourselves in the midst of significantly heightened racial tension. Each of these are weighty matters. They have resulted in a spectrum of vocalized opinions and actions, from salons and restaurants opening prior to government approval in other parts of the country, to peaceful protests taking place past imposed curfews in larger, more concentrated areas (to say nothing of numerous protests around the country that started peacefully, but went beyond their intended and best purpose in the form of civil unrest). We find ourselves in the midst of arguably, the highest tension point of this generation, and it breeds a very natural question for the Christian…
What do we do now?
To this, I offer you a few points of consideration and application.
The picture above is of the whiteboard in my office at the Crown Point campus. This whiteboard was hung for me by a couple of gracious folks on our facilities team within a day or two of my coming on staff at the church. The very first thing I did upon my brand-new whiteboard was write the phrase that you see across the top.
Respond Thoughtfully, Don’t React Emotionally
Almost everyone who has done counseling with me has heard me use this phrase. Most hear the story of it being the first thing I wrote on the board. And many have shared with me that when it is applied in their life, it has been among the most effective tools that I have shared with them in biblically addressing what it is that brought them to counseling in the first place. As such, this phrase is among the most significant applications that I can share to biblically and wisely live within these tumultuous times. It captures a mindset echoed throughout Scripture in various ways. Consider the following verses…
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart,and do not lean on your own understanding.In all your ways acknowledge him,and he will make straight your paths.Be not wise in your own eyes;fear the Lord, and turn away from evil.”
Simply put, someone who is responding thoughtfully and not reacting emotionally is one who is trusting God for their direction. They are not operating based on what they may want or feel to be true, but what God says is true. They are also not allowing emotions like anger or grief to cloud their judgment or operate out of their own opinions, but respecting God and what he says, and actively pursuing it.
“There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts,but the tongue of the wise brings healing.”
Rashness is thoughtless. It is associated with the idea of being headstrong and inconsiderate. Instead, we are called to be wise. Wise, thoughtful words have the potential to bring about healing. I think we can all agree on the need for healing currently, and should therefore be pursuant of it.
“Whoever restrains his words has knowledge,and he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding.”
Here, Solomon is noting that to be cool-spirited is to be a person of understanding. Meaning, in being thoughtful and intentional with our speech, we have the ability to create helpful dialogue that has the potential to lead to change, and not get caught in a cultural echo chamber. Regardless of our personal opinions on any matter, this is an essential consideration for genuine conversation that breeds change to take place.
“Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.”
If there is anything that reflects thoughtfulness right now, it is a willingness to be gracious. Graciousness, like salt, adds a pinch of needed flavor and creates approachability in dialogue. It sets the correct tone and reflects an attitude of showing honor and deference to others. Grace is an active demonstration of mercy. Reactivity, by contrast, is bland, usually self-focused, and ultimately designed to accomplish an act of self-interest and not focused on love of others described in 1 John 4:19-21.
So, what does responding thoughtfully, and not reacting emotionally, practically look like right now? It means…
I could clearly write more and pair each of the above points and more to various passages of Scripture, but I believe the point here is clear. As Christians, we must respond biblically, slowly, and wisely. Our words must be thoughtful and intentional, speaking God’s truth in love, because we are to be characterized by love, a point echoed throughout God’s Word. We must actively avoid rashness, reactivity, and self-interest.
As a helpful summary, I’ll say it this way: slow down. Usually, if we stop for a moment before typing, speaking, or acting, by taking a few deep breaths and carefully considering the message we desire to communicate, and then compose that message in the most thoughtful manner before releasing it—we are far more likely to be clear, unoffensive, and receive a helpful and productive response.
God’s grace and mercy to each of us as we apply these truths to our lives.