A Soft Answer

I’ve just been looking at a book by Ray Comfort, entitled “Think On These Things”. Below the main title we read: “Wisdom For Life From Proverbs”. It’s one of those volumes that takes you through the year, a day, a page and a proverb at a time. On each page we find a topical title, the proverb for that day (Proverbs 10.1 through to Proverbs 22.7), a short meditation, a “Soul Search” question and, at the end, a brief prayer.

The entry for May 31st deals with Proverbs 15.1. You probably know it: “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” His heading is: “How To Put Out The Flame”.

This proverb must be one of his favourites, because he also mentions it in his introduction.

While open-air preaching, I have often saved myself from being hit by remembering that a soft answer turns away wrath

Fair enough. He goes into more detail in his meditation.

If you’re a Christian and you’re faithfully sharing the gospel, deposit this verse in the safety of your memory bank. Someday you will need to make a quick withdrawal on its wisdom. Someone is going to be angered by the truth, and you will need to answer their wrath softly. A soft answer is like a bucket of cool water on hot flames.

That’s fine - except that he doesn’t go on to give us any examples of how this might be accomplished. Instead, he gives us an example of quite another tactic that you might usefully employ under such circumstances.

It is also wise to divert wrath. I was once approached by a very angry young lady who was deeply offended by my preaching. It seemed as though she was about to hit me, so I said, “That’s a nice sweater.” She immediately took her eyes off me and looked down at her colorful sweater, then smiled.

It’s an old trick, but it might just work.

What about a soft answer, though? What would that involve? I’ve just glanced at “Gill’s Exposition Of The Entire Bible”. This is what we read there.

A soft answer turneth away wrath.... Mild words, gentle expressions, delivered with kindness and tenderness, humility and submission; these will work upon a man's passions, weaken his resentments, and break and scatter the storm of wrath raised in his breast, just breaking forth in a very boisterous and blustering manner; so high winds are sometimes laid by soft showers. Thus the Ephraimites were pacified by Gideon's mild answer; and David by Abigail's very submissive and respectful address, Judges 8.1.

I wonder whether any of those of you reading this have put this advice about “a soft answer” into practice, particularly in the context of evangelism? How well did it work? I’d be interested in hearing about it. If you don’t know me by sight, you could always get in touch via this website. Keep accounts brief and to the point, if you would be so kind.    

A soft answer… That reminds me. A few years ago, a friend and I were visiting another church for the day. In the afternoon, hospitality was provided by a young man recently removed to these parts from the metropolis. There, he told us - more than once - he had attended a very fine and most important evangelical church. I won’t say which one it was, but “metropolis” might give you a clue. As we entered his flat, he insisted on us removing our shoes, to protect his precious carpets. I wasn’t keen, since my shoes were cleaner than the carpets, and it was a cold day and he didn’t have the heating on. 

To pass the time, he suggested a bible study, which he volunteered to lead, and he asked us to turn to Luke, chapter 6, and to verse 20. He took us through the beatitudes at a fair pace, occasionally asking us for a comment; but it was in essence a running commentary from some notes that he had by his side. 

Still, we were his guests, so we went along with it - until we reached verse 29: “To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also...” “So,” he continued, smiling brightly, “that means that if, say, we’re preaching in the open air, and someone comes up and hits us on one side of the face, we won’t hit back, but instead we will offer them our other cheek and...”

He didn’t get any further. As if on cue, though neither of us had even looked at the other, we both interrupted him at the same time: “Oh no we won’t!” 

Then there was a brief discussion, as we both weighed in with our objections, and some general observations on climate change in the infernal regions - and that was the end of that bible study. 

You can’t see why we objected so strongly to his interpretation? 

Soft words are not always the answer.

Oh, and it’s time you bought a better bible commentary, that’s all I have to say!