peace

Feeding Your Enemy

If your enemy is hungry, give him some food to eat,

and if he is thirsty, give him some water to drink.

⌊In this way⌋ you will make him feel guilty and ashamed,

and the Lord will reward you. (Proverbs 25:21-22 GW)

(Context—Proverbs 25:1-22 GW)


Polarized. This is the common and current description of American society. Where various groups of people are pitted against each other as archenemies. But the sense of polarization among people or within a culture is nothing new.

Perhaps the news media, the internet, and social media heighten our awareness of it. Even contribute to it. And, some of the reactionary rhetoric fans the flames higher than needed.

But enemies—perceived or real— have existed since the beginning.

The serpent in the garden of Paradise was no friend to God or the first humans (Gen 3:14-15). It appears Cain viewed is brother Abel as an enemy of sorts. Cain perceived God honored his brother over him, so he killed him.

And so it continues

Some people become our enemies because of nationalism, jealousy, economics, politics, religion, ambitions, and a variety of other reasons. These enemies can be real. They want to harm us, even destroy us.

Other people we perceive as enemies. Perhaps for one of the previous reasons given but more often it’s because of personal slights, insecurities on our part, or a difference of opinion.

Photo by  Bradford West  on  Unsplash

During the anti-war, anti-nuke protests and love-ins of the sixties, a popular slogan was—Make love, not war!

Maybe in our polarized times we can start a new slogan to depolarize things—Make friends, not enemies!

Both slogans may seem idealistic and naive but they echo similar conduct esteemed in preschool and kindergarten. Not only were we encouraged to share toys and such, but when some conflict erupted we were challenged to “say you’re sorry” and shake hands or hug.

Again, maybe this seems too naive and idealistic but this is the intent of these verses in Proverbs. The idea is to turn an enemy into a friend or at least defuse or deflect the animosity of an enemy.

Another Bible version phrases verse 22 this way—

In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head, and the Lord will reward you. (Prov 25:22 NIV)

Taken literally, this doesn’t seem to be an effective way to make a friend of your enemy. But there’s at least a couple of thoughts on this.

Taken literally, the inference is one person lending their “enemy” burning coals to start a cooking fire with much less effort. They would place the burning coals in a pot carried on the head of the other person.

But figuratively and most likely, it refers to the effect of a person’s kindness to an enemy. It brings a sense of conviction, perhaps shame for the enemy’s spiteful attitude.

Becoming peacemakers

Jesus referred to this in His sermons on the mount in Matthew (Matt 5:43-48) and on the plain in Luke (Luke 6:27-31). This is tied to the Golden Rule to—do unto others as you would have them do unto you, and to the merciful nature of God.

I’ve learned the effectiveness of this approach first hand from my wife. She’s done this many times with me when I’m in one of my antagonistic moods.

I’ve watched her successful use of this same strategy with feuding children, disgruntled staff, and quarrelsome people in our ministry in the US and abroad.

This is a simple way to turn enemies into friends or at least defuse their combative attitude.

But, it’s also difficult. What makes it difficult is our part. It requires us to be peacemakers—to humble ourselves, choose reconciliation instead of revenge, and trust in the Lord to honor our effort.

So, feed your enemy when he or she is hungry. It they’re thirsty, give them some refreshing water.

Be a peacemaker. It’s one of the ways we show ourselves to be true children of God (Matt 5:9).

Who knows, we just might bring some depolarization to the world around us.

Reflection—

God’s people are called to be peacemakers—to do our best to defuse and deflect antagonism from others. It requires humility and choosing to trust in God.

Prayer Focus—

Are there people who have slighted or wronged you? People you dislike because of their opinions, or what they stand for or who they are? Then, ask the Lord to help you see them with His eyes and to help change your heart to become a peacemaker.

©Word-Strong_2019


Would you like a free study guide for Proverbs?

Click Here to get a Free Study Guide for Proverbs

Peaceful and Pleasing

By mercy and faithfulness, peace is made with the Lord.

By the fear of the Lord, evil is avoided.

When a person’s ways are pleasing to the Lord,

he makes even his enemies to be at peace with him. (Proverbs 16:6-7 GW)

(Context—Proverbs 16:1-15 GW)


Stress—continuous and sustained—is unhealthy. This is well-documented and verified through life experience. Unhealthy stress can be emotional, mental, or physical—sometimes it’s all three at once. Stress can be self-induced but also beyond a person’s control.

Some common advice today is—focus on what you can control, not on what you can’t control. This is echoed by gifted athletes and business leaders alike. If only it were that easy!

People in war-torn nations and refugees seeking safety from war and oppression are in situations way beyond their control. Still, they look for ways to create a sense of normality and safety in whatever way they can.

Those of us in less desperate conditions may have a lot more freedom and opportunity to exert control over stress in our lives. Yet, too often we add stress rather than lessen it. This is unnecessary stress we choose to live under daily—often by default.

Think about what causes stress in your life. Now, consider how things might be different without certain stresses and what that would mean for you.

What do you have control over? What can you do about it?

Even when we focus on what we can control, it’s usually external things—what we do with our time, how we do our work, who we spend time with, and so on.

Not all unhealthy stress can be relieved by changing things outside of us. Why? Because we tend to bring unhealthy stress on ourselves.

This is where we need to consider what we worry about and why we do. Such things are often called first-world concerns—what we think we need and what we want are easily confused.

What if unhealthy stress can be relieved in a simpler and better way?

Think internal rather external. Think surrender rather than control. Yes, surrender.

When everything depends on us—our ability, our strength, our efforts—it’s a never-ending strain that produces and adds its own stress.

When we trust in the Lord—the way a young child trusts her parents—we learn to surrender and submit our worries and concerns to the Lord. This reduces our stress.

But how do we go about this in everyday life and within environments and situations where we are not in control?

We can choose how we respond rather than react to situations and people we encounter in a given day. We can extend mercy where our tendency is to be judgmental and harsh. We can remain faithful when dealing with inequity and unfairness.

When we choose to be peacemakers, God extends peace to us, as well as through us. When we choose the path of godly fear and integrity, we’ll avoid the evil others encounter.

And here’s the best part—God will extend His peace in our life so that even those who seem to be enemies will be at peace with us. This is a peace and a way of life guaranteed to reduce stress!

Reflection—

We can choose how we respond rather than react and choose the path of godly fear and integrity instead of the path everyone else follows. As we extend mercy and peace to others, we’ll experience God’s peace and freedom from unnecessary stress in our life.

Prayer Focus—

Begin each day in surrender to the Lord, asking Him to help you show mercy to others and for strength to be faithful in the midst of difficult and unfaithful times. Pursue peace with God and ask for His wisdom to navigate each day.

©Word-Strong_2018


Would you like a free study guide for Proverbs?

Click Here to get a Free Study Guide for Proverbs

The Power of a Gentle Answer

Photo by  Alfonso Ninguno  on  Unsplash

A gentle answer turns away rage,

but a harsh word stirs up anger.

The tongues of wise people give good expression to knowledge,

but the mouths of fools pour out a flood of stupidity.

The eyes of the Lord are everywhere.

They watch evil people and good people.

A soothing tongue is a tree of life,

but a deceitful tongue breaks the spirit.

 (Proverbs 15:1-4 GW)

(Context—Proverbs 15:1-7 GW)


I don't know about you but I'm fed up with the rancorous political rhetoric and mudslinging that goes on at election time. And it seems to get worse each election!

And the news media, including social media, plays off of it all and ramps it up even more. It doesn't matter what side of the political spectrum you're on—it comes from all sides. If it doesn't bother you too, you're probably caught up in it too much.

All of this rancor and uncivil debate confirms the second line of this verse—

...but a harsh word stirs up anger.

But what about the first line of the verse? How can a gentle answer turn away anger or rage? At first glance, it may seem absurd or naive. But it's true. I've seen how it's true firsthand.

I can get emotional and passionate about what I think is right or when I think I'm right in a heated discussion (aka– argument). My wife and good friends have turned away my anger and rage on more than one occasion. Thankfully!

It's been helpful to me personally but also an example for me to do the same. I'm also thankful I've become less easily angered over time, as the Lord continues to work His grace into my heart and life.

Perhaps this is why I'm bothered by combative talk, especially when one party really isn't hearing or considering what the other is saying.

As said many times before, it's not just what you say but how you say it. So, how can a person do this? How can we learn to give a gentle answer in the face of someone else's wrath?

The first thing is to observe how effective it is when someone else does this. For starters, we can all learn a lot from how Jesus deflected the animosity and opposition aimed at Him.

But how is really more about who—our character. This isn't an encouragement about self-improvement exercises or things to say. It's about an internal change in us—our heart, our nature.

It's about an internal change in us—our heart, our nature

Reading further in this chapter, three verses stand out to me in relation to this first verse—

The tongues of wise people give good expression to knowledge (Prov 15:4a GW)
The lips of wise people spread knowledge (Prov 15:7a GW)
A soothing tongue is a tree of life (Prov 15:4a GW)

The first two verses speak of the character of a person and how they speak and what they say. Wisdom isn't gained by osmosis or by birth—it doesn't just come by being around it. It's gained by taking wisdom in, considering it, understanding it, and then living by it.

The first part of verse 4, the third verse mentioned, is very similar to the first verse. It's a little different in its wording but conveys the same thing—a gentle answer... a soothing tongue. These words have power but are not intimidating.

When you speak gently to a scared animal, it tends to calm them down. Talking loudly and forcefully only reinforces the fear in an animal or a person.

When a baby is crying it doesn't help to yell, "Stop crying!" at the baby. But when you speak in a soothing way with encouraging and comforting words, it helps relieve tension and is reassuring. This is true for a baby, a child, and an adult.

So, when confronted with someone's anger or rage next time, try answering them in a gentle way and speak with a soothing tongue—whether in person or in some form of social media. Choose to lower the tension. Choose the wise way—the godly way.

But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace. (James 3:17-18)

Reflection—

If we want to give a gentle answer in response to anger or wrath, we need to embrace the wisdom from above and let it bring a change deep in our soul—our heart and mind.

Prayer Focus—

Ask God daily for His wisdom—it's pure, peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere—so you're able to give a gentle answer in the face of anger or rage.

©Word-Strong_2018


Would you like a free study guide for Proverbs?

Click Here to get a Free Study Guide for Proverbs

A Contented Soul

People have sought peace of mind and contentment of soul since the beginning of humanity. Various religions, philosophies, and psychologies claim to offer ways of finding contentment and peace, yet the pursuit continues.

This pursuit intensifies during times of personal crises and in the midst of external conflicts and tension. But there's no prescription anyone can offer that measures up to what God offers.

Praise in His Presence

Acceptance and approval are important for our sense of well-being. Children long for and need this from parents, siblings, and grandparents. When they don't receive it from family, they look to others for it.

There's both a sense of peace and joy when we experience acceptance and approval. How much more so when we know God's acceptance and approval.