Rev. Paul Mathole
Good morning. In a world of ever-accelerating technology, we live in an age of instant opinions - whether posting comments on blogs or on social networking sites. What can sometimes seem absent is any sense of mediation within the hubbub of divergent views. We might think this is an exclusively modern problem.
John Newton, Christian minister and hymn-writer, lived over 200 years ago, yet was sensitive to the same issue. He writes to a friend about 'engaging in controversy'. Newton says that by putting something in print, you will be met with three types of responses. Those who disagree in principle. Those who will readily approve what you say. And a third category who may or may not be persuaded, but will be influenced by the 'writer's spirit' – the tone and intention you appear to have in making your point. And so Christians, he writes, 'of all people who engage in controversy … are most expressly bound by our own principles to the exercise of gentleness and moderation'.What is most striking is how he ends. His greatest concern is reserved for the person who steps into any controversy. He finds there are 'very few writers of controversy who have not been manifestly hurt by it', whether by pride, an angry spirit or by no longer seeing what is of primary importance in life. 'What will it profit a man if he gains his cause and silences his adversary, if at the same time he loses that humble tender frame of spirit in which the Lord delights?' He concludes: you will need to watch and pray.
Lord God, give us a gentle and humble spirit in our engagement with others. Help us to be quick to listen and slow to speak. Give us the grace to live out a spirit of gentleness and moderation. Amen.