The Biblical Method for Soothing Rage: An Interview with Scott Sauls

In a defensive and divided era, how can followers of Jesus reveal a better way of living, one that loves others as God loves us? How can Christians be the kind of people who are known, as the book of Proverbs puts it, to “turn away wrath?” What does the Bible mean when it compels […] The post The Biblical Method for Soothing Rage: An Interview with Scott Sauls appeared first on Bible Gateway Blog.

The Biblical Method for Soothing Rage: An Interview with Scott Sauls
In a defensive and divided era, how can followers of Jesus reveal a better way of living, one that loves others as God loves us? How can Christians be the kind of people who are known, as the book of Proverbs puts it, to “turn away wrath?” What does the Bible mean when it compels us to give “a gentle answer” to hostile people? Bible Gateway interviewed Scott Sauls (@scottsauls) about his book, A Gentle Answer: Our “Secret Weapon” in an Age of Us Against Them (Zondervan, 2020). What led you to write A Gentle Answer? Scott Sauls: Originally, the book was conceived with the 2020 elections in mind. 2016 went poorly, and 2020 promised the same, given our increasingly polarized and “cancel culture” climate. Oddly, we’ve barely even begun to talk about the election because so much else in addition to it has come onto the radar. It seems everywhere we turn, there’s something to bicker about, something to get offended by, something to compel attack and shaming. My hope is that the book, which is based on Proverbs 15:1, will nudge Christians in the direction of being counter-culture in a polarized culture. If Christians don’t lead in the fruit of gentleness that leads to reconciliation and peace, then who will? What is the biblical context of that verse? Scott Sauls: Proverbs 15:1, which is a bit of a stand-alone verse, is the key inspiration behind the book. It says, “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” [Read the Bible Gateway Blog post, How to Be the Kind of Christian People Can’t Resist: An Interview with Scott Sauls] Why do you think outrage and a lack of civility are such rampant problems today? Scott Sauls: It’s a problem that’s not unique to our time, but that’s as old as time. When Adam and Eve turned away from God, it was only a matter of time before they began turning against each other also. Soon after this, their son Cain turned against their other son Abel. And the rest is history. The problem is a deeply embedded human problem that starts with shame. We feel ashamed not only of the things we’ve done, but of the people we’ve come to feel that we are. We’ve lost touch with the dignity that’s ours as Image bearers, and we’ve lost touch with the fact that God’s primary posture toward us is one of love. Because of this, we feel vulnerable and therefore resort to strategies of self-protection. And such strategies always lead us to either go on the attack or to pander to and appease those who are doing the attacking. It’s a painfully dysfunctional reflection of our human condition apart from God. In what ways do you see Christians reflecting problems seen in secular society? Scott Sauls: I believe many Christians (there are of course exceptions) have allowed themselves to become disciples of a partisan political platform, as opposed to being disciples of Jesus Christ. In doing this, we’ve placed the kingdom of God beneath the kingdoms of earth in our hierarchies of loyalty. Too many Christians seem much more Republican than Christian. Likewise, too many other Christians seem much more Democrat than Christian. But for Christians who look to Jesus not only as their theoretical King but their functional King, there’s this reality of not being able to fit nicely into any partisan tribe. Those Christians will soon discover that they’re too irritatingly conservative for their liberal friends on the one hand and too irritatingly liberal for their conservative friends on the other. But when Christians look to FOX News or CNN as their chief guiding light, this dynamic gets lost, and Christian integrity and fruitfulness with it. How do you define the difference between godless outrage and biblical righteous anger? Scott Sauls: Godless outrage attacks people, thereby adding to the problem. It seeks to destroy, caricature, and cancel, versus seeking to win and persuade. Righteous anger, on the other hand, attacks problems, and does so in an attempt to also win and persuade people. Godless outrage has no room for love toward disagreeing or dissenting parties, let alone love for enemies (as Jesus clearly taught and modeled). Righteous anger, on the other hand, does the hard and faithful work of love across the lines of difference. Righteous anger is completely on board with the biblical command that says, “as far as it depends on you, live at peace with all people.” What are some scriptural examples of when Jesus behaved with gentleness even when others did not? Scott Sauls: Well, there are of course the many occasions when Jesus healed the sick, welcomed and dined with sinners, and wept over rebellious cities like Jerusalem. There’s the eighth “I am” statement that usually doesn’t get mentioned in the list, where he said, “I am gentle and humble in heart,” promising rest to those who are weary. But perhaps there’s no greater string of gentle answers than the answers Jesus gave to his tormentors, betrayers, and persecutors on his way to the cross. He mended the severed ear of Malchus. He called Judas “Friend” even as Judas was in the act of betraying him, handing him over to be crucified. He prayed for his tormentors from the cross, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.” He promised Paradise to the unbaptized thief on a cross, who had only moments before been insulting him along with the others. From the cross, he looks after his own mother, instructing his close friend, John, to take her in. Do you want me to keep going? What do you think would happen if all Christians were to make gentleness their priority? Scott Sauls: I believe there would be a revival. Think of it this way. So many people are renewing their interest in Mr. Rogers, as evidenced through the wildly popular documentary about his life, followed by the Hollywood film in which Tom Hanks plays the part of Mr. Rogers. This man’s defining feature was his gentleness, which suggests a voracious appetite in American culture especially for this particular fruit of the Spirit. If that’s the world’s response to a single, deceased celebrity, what might the world’s response be to millions of Christ-followers who peace out on outrage and partisan and cancel culture, and instead begin to embody the gentleness of Christ in the places where they live, work, and play? It would be amazing, wouldn’t it? [Read the Bible Gateway Blog post, The Simple Faith of Mr. Rogers: An Interview with Amy Hollingsworth] What do you believe is the first step to becoming gentler? Scott Sauls: Individually and collectively, we must re-acquaint ourselves with the gentleness of Christ toward us. We must recall, and then deeply internalize, that it was and is the kindness of God that leads us to repent, not our repentance that leads God to be kind. When we become recipients of grace who are deeply aware of that grace, we become very difficult people to offend and very unlikely to cancel others. How should Christians balance needed firmness with gentleness? Scott Sauls: Whenever and wherever injustice is having its way, and weaker people are being injured by those with more power, it’s time for Christians to stand up in defense of the weak. This means we must become comprehensively pro-life, as opposed to a more “a la carte” approach (my friend Bryan Lorrits coined this term) to who will will stand up for and who we will not stand up for. Our credibility as Christ’s followers stands or falls on our willingness and readiness to defend the unborn and the poor, vulnerable women and vulnerable immigrants and refugees, elderly men and women at risk of being exploited and people of color at risk of being oppressed. As CS Lewis said, Christianity is a fighting religion…in that it fights against injustice and on behalf of the weak. To establish gentle space for injured parties, we must stand up to the bullies of the world. It’s called speaking truth to power. Bonhoeffer did it with Hitler, King with the US authorities, Wilberforce with Parliament, and more. Sign up for our Verse of the Day to receive a daily Bible verse in four well-known translations. 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[background] => #952004 [image] => placehold.png [text_color] => [template] => /mnt/www/blog_biblegateway_com/releases/20200615184423/wp-content/plugins/harpercollins_silverpop_wordpress_plugin/public/partials/form.php [code] => bgblog-pine-cone-em-d-cfecd5c4ec ) [fields] => Array ( [name] => pine-cone [votd1] => NIV [votd2] => ESV [votd3] => NLT [votd4] => NKJV [blog_form] => Yes ) [content] => [site_key] => 6LdMkEkUAAAAAGd5aGH1cwku1OFyHwKYW_QUDZxm [form_number] => 1 [domain] => biblegateway.com [value] => Yes [name] => blog_form ) With what tools does A Gentle Answer equip its readers? Scott Sauls: The first three chapters equip readers with reminders of the gentleness of Christ toward his own people. The last five chapters equip them with anecdotes and teaching around what biblical gentleness actually means, as opposed to what it doesn’t mean. Also, for both group discussion and individual reflection, there are questions provided at the end of each chapter. What is one simple message you’d like to communicate to Christians about the power of gentleness? Scott Sauls: In almost every conflict, the person who’s willing to become vulnerable and weak is actually the stronger, more powerful person. Consider those who go first in saying, “I’m sorry” or “Please tell me how I have hurt you” or “How can I do right by you?,” and the impact of such actions on the other party. Being the first to humble oneself is a powerful thing, because that’s typically the action that melts the heart of everyone else in the discussion. Christians, being secure in Christ (never condemned, always loved and kept) have every resource necessary to be the ones to go first. What is a favorite Bible passage of yours and why? Scott Sauls: Romans 8, hands down. Because as some have said, “It’s the entire Bible and story of redemption in a nutshell.” What are your thoughts about Bible Gateway and the Bible Gateway App and Bible Audio App? Scott Sauls: I mean, it’s awesome. Completely awesome. I use it weekly and sometimes daily. A Gentle Answer is published by HarperCollins Christian Publishing, Inc., the parent company of Bible Gateway. Bio: Scott Sauls is senior pastor of Christ Presbyterian Church in Nashville, Tennessee and author of Irresistible Faith: Becoming the Kind of Christian the World Can’t Resist, Jesus Outside the Lines, BeFriend, and From Weakness to Strength. Prior to Nashville, Scott served at New York City’s Redeemer Presbyterian Church as a lead and preaching pastor and planted two churches. Scott’s work has been featured in publications including Christianity Today, Relevant, Qideas, Catalyst, Leadership Magazine, aholyexperience, Table Talk, The Gospel Coalition, Key Life, as well as other publications. Scott can be found on Facebook and Twitter/Instagram at @scottsauls, and he blogs weekly at scottsauls.com. Transform your faith studying the Bible with your membership in Bible Gateway Plus. Try it right now! The post The Biblical Method for Soothing Rage: An Interview with Scott Sauls appeared first on Bible Gateway Blog.