Lord, help me to listen to The Holy Spirit as I consider how I can best handle controversy during this election season. Amen.
“Remind the believers to submit to the government and its officers. They should be obedient, always ready to do what is good. They must not slander anyone and must avoid quarreling. Instead, they should be gentle and show true humility to everyone. Once we, too, were foolish and disobedient. We were misled and became slaves to many lusts and pleasures. Our lives were full of evil and envy, and we hated each other. Do not get involved in foolish discussions about spiritual pedigrees or in quarrels and fights about obedience to Jewish laws. These things are useless and a waste of time. If people are causing divisions among you, give a first and second warning. After that, have nothing more to do with them. For people like that have turned away from the truth, and their own sins condemn them.”
Titus 3:1-3, 9-11 NLT
As a superintendent of schools, I was placed in a position to have all my decisions examined and open to second guessing. I usually did a pretty good job of listening to the criticism and taking from it the element of truth and move on. On one occasion the newspaper editor wrote a scathing editorial about something we had initiated in the district. I was extremely upset about it and decided to write a response to him and set him straight.
I wrote a two-page letter to him (not to be published) informing him about where he was mistaken. After I had finished the rough draft I handed it to my administrative assistant to fine tune it, which she did. She handed it back to me and said, “this is not how you handle things. Now that you have it off your chest, why don’t you tear it up and go down and meet with him.” I followed her advice and went down and met with the editor and we ended up agreeing to disagree, but we remained friends. This incident reminded me that nothing is gained by responding in written form to my anger. It is best to discuss it face-to-face.
Throughout my career as an administrator, I had two Scriptures by my telephone that reminded me how to respond to angry patrons. One was Proverbs 15:1, “A gentle answer deflects anger, but harsh words make tempers flare.” And James 1:19b, “be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to anger.” These two Scriptures plus today’s focus Scripture are good advice for handling the highly charged atmosphere of today’s election season. We don’t want to lose friendships over opinions that won’t matter in eternity.
Lord, help me trust in you with all my heart and to not lean on my own understanding (Proverbs 3:5) as I consider how to best to respond to controversy. Amen.