How do you respond to conflict? Most of respond in kind. This means if someone raises their voice at us, we respond with a raised voice. If someone hits us, we hit them back. I have heard this referred to as “tit for tat.” The saying means that we respond to injury or insult in a similar way. Yet, is this really the best response? Is it a Christian response?
The writer of Proverbs reminds us of a better response, “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” (Proverbs 15:1) A “tit for tat” response insures that the conflict will continue. The writer of Proverbs reminds us that this kind of response “stir us anger” rather than calming a tense situation. The New Testament also speaks of defusing conflict with a “soft” or “kind” response. We read, “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay’, says the Lord. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12:19,21) This passage offers a number of valuable insights on responding with kindness. First, as mentioned above, let God deal with the issue. We need to be reminded that the Lord is not blind and will act in His time and His way. Second, as mentioned at the end of the verse above, kindness breaks the cycle of evil. A tit for tat response only leads to more conflict. But when we respond with kindness, like giving our enemies a drink of water, we break the cycle of evil. Third, Christian kindness does not mean one is a door mat and anything goes. We are reminded that we are to do our best to bring peace, and do what is acceptable in the eyes of others and leave the results to the Lord.
A dramatic monologue from 1 Samuel this past Sunday powerfully illustrated this truth. It is the account of David, Nabal and Abigail. We learn that David had prevented his men from taking advantage of Nabal’s flock and shepherds. Nabal benefited from the presence of David and his men. When shearing time came, David sent some men to approach Nabal about sharing the celebration with David’s men. Nabal, aware of the benefits gained, instead, chose to insult David. David responded in anger and rallied his men and was going to teach Nabal a lesson. Fortunately a wise woman was present. Abigail responded with kindness when she learned of her husband’s foolish response. She humbly met David’s advancing forces with food seeking his favor. Her kindness protected not only her husband and herself but all their men, women and children. It also prevented David and his men from shedding innocent blood.
This Biblical account calls us to be peace makers not war mongers. I encourage you to practice humility the next time you encounter conflict by breaking the cycle of evil through your kindness. Then step back and watch how the Lord works.
-Pastor Joe Parkinson