A while back, a well-known conservative Christian blog ran a series of posts entitled "Next". They were designed to be short, witty, and occasionally snarky responses to objections people raise about the church.
Often the responses were well-thought out and reflected very good answers to sometimes tough questions. However, I shuddered a little every time I read them because answers that end with, "Next!" just don't seem to reflect the type of grace I'd like them to.
If you know me well, you know that I'm not always the most gentle of people, but I feel like this is an area of my life that the Spirit has shaped over the years... which is perhaps why I'm more sensitive to this.
So I asked in the comments of one of these posts if they could show me some Proverbs (the author is absolutely brilliant in his use of Proverbs) that demonstrate this type of dialogue as appropriate. After not receiving a response, I went ahead and did a quick word search in Proverbs for "answer".
Below I listed the verses which seemed appropriate to this discussion, and then made a short list of things I learned about wisely answering people (especially those with whom you disagree):
Proverbs 1:28 - "Then they will call to me but I will not answer; they will look for me but will not find me.Proverbs 15:1 - A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.Proverbs 15:28 - The heart of the righteous weighs its answers, but the mouth of the wicked gushes evil.Proverbs 18:13 - He who answers before listening— that is his folly and his shame.Proverbs 18:23 - A poor man pleads for mercy, but a rich man answers harshly.Proverbs 21:13 - If a man shuts his ears to the cry of the poor, he too will cry out and not be answered.Proverbs 22:21 - teaching you true and reliable words, so that you can give sound answers to him who sent you?Proverbs 24:26 - An honest answer is like a kiss on the lips.Proverbs 26:4 - Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you will be like him yourself.Proverbs 26:5 - Answer a fool according to his folly, or he will be wise in his own eyes.Proverbs 26:16 - The sluggard is wiser in his own eyes than seven men who answer discreetly.Proverbs 27:11 - Be wise, my son, and bring joy to my heart; then I can answer anyone who treats me with contempt.
Obviously, the art of listening to and answering people is an important skill for any small group leader. Reading these verses is a challenge to me regarding my own skills in answering graciously. I'll continue working on answering THIS way, I hope you will to. Below are a few nuggets of wisdom I gleaned from these great verses:
WISDOM FOR ANSWERING PEOPLE:
1. Be Gentle, not harsh.2. Listen well before you formulate your answer.3. Weigh your answer, don't immediately gush.4. Give answers that reflect Scripture.5. Don't endlessly debate with a fool.