Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense. Proverbs 19:11 ESV
The Fort Worth Star Telegram reported that firefighters in Genoa, Texas, were accused of deliberately setting more than forty destructive fires. When caught, they stated, “We had nothing to do. We just wanted to get the red lights flashing and the bells clanging.”
We can sometimes be like that. Wanting some action or attention we deliberately start a fire. Not the kind you start with a match. The kind that’s started with the tongue (cf. James 3:5-6). The kind that’s started with mockery, criticism, gossip, jealousy, provocation, and the like.
It shouldn’t be that way. The job of Christians is to put out fires, not start more of them. In other words, Christians should be peacemakers and reconcilers. They must build bridges, elevate truth, and look to God to bring His righteousness to bear so that right relationships can be strengthened between people.
With that in mind, here are three practical ways to help you put out fires:
- Drop the matter. Many fires can be put out if we are willing to overlook an offence and forgive the person who has wronged us. Consider these texts. “A fool shows his annoyance at once, but a prudent man overlooks an insult” Proverbs 12:16. ”Starting a quarrel is like breaching a dam; so drop the matter before a dispute breaks out” Proverbs 17:14. “A man’s wisdom gives him patience; it is to his glory to overlook an offence” Proverbs 19:11. “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins” 1 Peter 4:8.
- Discuss the conflict. Certain fires can’t be overlooked. They need to be confronted. Serious conflict should be resolved through confession and loving confrontation. Consider these texts. “He who conceals his sins does not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy” Proverbs 28:13. “If … your brother has something against you … go and be reconciled to your brother” Matthew 5:23-24. “If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you” Matthew 18:15. “If someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted” Galatians 6:1.
- Negotiate the issue. Some fires can be put out when solutions are found to meet the interests of everyone involved. The following verses suggest the wisdom of this approach; “In everything, do to others what you would have them do to you” Matthew 7:12. “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others” Philippians 2:3-4.
So watch out for fires. Set a guard over your mouth (cf. Psalm 141:3). And remember that “without wood a fire goes out; without gossip a quarrel dies down” Proverbs 26:20.