“Scoffers set a city aflame, but the wise turn away wrath.”
In contrast to the agitators, wise people seek communication, not conflict. They are the voice of reason in the midst of the anger and wrath. The wise work for unity in the midst of the diversity.
Wise people prevent the relationship or organization or city from (figuratively and sometimes literally) going up in flames by “turning away wrath.” One of the primary ways that wise people accomplish this is through how they communicate.
“A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. The tongue of the wise commends knowledge, but the mouths of fools pour out folly.” (Proverbs 15.1-2)
A “soft answer” is not about about the content of the response, but rather speaks to the manner of delivery. A soft answer is not harsh, sharp, angry, biting, or scathing; rather, it is respectful, direct, and effective. It seeks communication, not confrontation.
In other words, wise people do not use combative language that inflames or divides. This is especially important for leaders. Wise leaders engage people with effective communication and exchange of ideas and views so that problems can be solved and conflicts can be resolved.
Unfortunately, many of the politicians, pundits, and people on both sides of the political spectrum fail to meet this standard. The consequences for our society are devastating. Certain conservative politicians and pundits are infamous for their combative, caustic declarations and commentaries. The same holds true for certain politicians and pundits on the left.
The result is that, together, they “set the nation aflame” with unnecessary controversy and conflict. They are not wise, and they certainly do not turn away wrath. Their messages stir up anger and division.
James 3.17-18 speaks to wisdom and peace: “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.”
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus declared a blessing on those who are agents of conflict resolution: “Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.” (Matthew 5.9)
We need leaders who are wise peacemakers. We need to be wise peacemakers. As we watch our nation (and now the world) aflame with conflict, let us resolve to be people who seek peace. Let us engage the difficult issues and problems with wisdom, and let’s collaborate to find solutions.
We are better together.