When we are angry, we usually open our mouths! And what comes out is not usually very loving, especially when we have been deeply hurt. Paul challenges us to speak “the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15). This is a difficult challenge when we are angry. But Paul goes on to make it very clear that love “is not easily angered” (1 Corinthians 13:5). When I am angered easily, it indicates that I’m not practicing love, no matter what I say with my mouth!
Imagine that a close friend betrays your confidence. You shared a personal prayer request and later discovered that your friend had told others! What will you say? Servant leaders learn from Paul to speak truth but without being easily angered.
Speaking the truth without anger requires balance.
When you see your friend, you might explode and say loudly, “I can’t believe you told others what I shared with you; that was so wrong. I’ll never talk to you again!” Did you speak the truth? Yes, but with a lot of anger!
Or you might be so angry at your friend that you decide never to trust them again but choose not to speak about what happened. So, you keep quiet and fail to speak the truth!
Paul calls us to balance truth and love. We should speak the truth but not with anger. We cannot ignore what happened, but we should only speak when we are not consumed with anger. We may need to acknowledge our anger but find a way to speak with gentleness. Perhaps you can say, “What you did really hurt me, and I was very angry about it. God helped me to forgive you, but I would like to talk about what happened so that it does not destroy our friendship.” This is truth spoken with love!
Speaking the truth without anger reveals maturity.
How easily am I angered? That’s a test of my maturity. Immature leaders quickly become angry. If I am quick to become angry, I need the Spirit to keep working in me to produce patience and gentleness in my heart. Then I need to think about what I say when I’m angry. Being able to balance truth and gentleness is also a test of maturity. It is much easier to explode in anger than to speak the truth gently in love!
To speak with love and without anger when we have been hurt is a sign of maturity which often takes a long time. That’s why Paul says that as we learn to speak the truth in love we will, “grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ” (Ephesians 4:15).
Servant leaders learn that sometimes the best thing to do is to stop and let God help them control their anger before they say anything. But then, when their anger is controlled, they seek courage from God to address the issue truthfully in the right spirit. Mature servant leaders are able to speak truth without being easily angered.
Speaking the truth without anger reflects Jesus.
Jesus’ life shows us that it is not always wrong to be angry. He was angry when others were mistreated, when His Father’s house was misused and when peoples’ hearts were stubborn. But he was not ‘easily angered’ and did not react to personal insults or betrayal.
Even when Jesus knew that Peter would betray Him, He calmly spoke the truth with no hint of anger. Jesus answered, “I tell you, Peter, before the rooster crows today, you will deny three times that you know me” (Luke 22:34).Later, after Peter denied Him,Jesus simply looked at Peter. We don’t know what Jesus ‘said’ with His eyes but it must not have been a look of anger since His look caused the bold Peter to weep tears of grief and repentance. (See Luke 22:61).
Jesus spoke truth without being easily angered and He calls all servant leaders to follow His example.
Until next time, yours on the journey,
For further reflection and discussion:
- What is my natural tendency, to speak “truth” with anger or to keep quiet when I’m angry and avoid the truth? What is the result in my leadership?
- When have I spoken truth, but with anger? What was the result in my own life and in the life of the person to whom I spoke? Do I need to ask forgiveness of that person?
- What times in Jesus’ life and ministry reveal that Jesus was not “easily angered”? How would I have responded to these situations?
- Look at the following passages in which Jesus was angry or spoke very strong words: Mark 3:1-5; Matthew 23:1-4; John 2:13-22. Reflect on what happened in these situations. What can we learn about the things He was angry about? How did He speak truth in these situations? What can we learn from His example?
- Reflect on what James teaches about anger in 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.” What does this teach us about speaking the truth without being easily angered?
Copyright, Global Disciples 2019.