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Quick to Listen

James 1:19-20
My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. (NIVUK)

We tend to think that temptation is an inner urge to do the wrong thing. That is a part of the tempter's work, but not all of it. The impulse to lash out in anger is an issue for many Christians. It can even become so much a part of their lifestyle that they no longer need tempting: anger becomes a habitual response to things going wrong. It becomes an unthought part of their character (Matthew 15:10-20) - but demonstrates what is in their heart. They may start by copying someone who gets their own way by such bullying, or they may have learned that they can win by making others lose an argument. They do not use logic and truth in the context of respect and love - they are verbal bullies who want to grab pole position as others are intimidated by their bad temper.

Someone said that we have two ears and one mouth, so we should be twice as quick to listen as to speak. James would agree. It is difficult to be verbally abusive if you are listening properly! Sensitive listening is a good antidote to angry speaking; because anger has no interest in the other person, it is just a way of justifying self. But more importantly, anger cannot build righteousness into our life: and we are fooling ourselves if we think that we are doing God's will through our anger. Worse still, unresolved anger gives a foothold to the devil (Ephesians 4:26-27), allowing him to manipulate us to anger more easily next time.

The problem stems from failing to listen to God, and by that we mean - absorbing His Word until it becomes the construction blocks of daily living. It may well be that the Lord gives us inner nudges by His Spirit but we need to check out that our convictions are fully consistent with His Word, otherwise we may confuse our emotions with God's speaking. Satan's activity is much like the clever malicious corruption of electronic data; everything looks good and normal until the system starts becoming destructive, by which time it is too late. Regularly reading the Scriptures will alert us early.

It can be difficult to work with angry people, especially if they are forcing wrong objectives or corrupt business methods onto you. But think, these people are going to be lonely and feel isolated (all angry people lose friends). More than their idea of success, they need somebody to care about them. The first step is to be interested in them and listen to them. Not only are you defusing tension (Proverbs 15:1), you are starting to act like Jesus - who showed His interest in the socially isolated tax collectors and prostitutes. When you think about it, the angry response is a cover for an empty loveless heart, frustrated ambitions and lonely, friendless life. So rather than be intimidated by them, seek to win them for Jesus. And at the same time, make sure you stop becoming like them!

Dear Lord. Thank You for Your gentleness towards me, even when I was angry, lonely and lost. Forgive me for my angry outbursts and habits of self-protective hostility towards others. Help me to show Your gracious character towards others so that they too may know that You care for them. In Jesus' Name. Amen.
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© Dr Paul Adams