This is a real-time essay. The Lord is calling me to obey him in something today, and I would like to write to you about it as I process it. The matter concerns an angry email I received this morning and my working through how to reply. My first reaction was self-defense. I felt I had grounds. I felt I had been misunderstood. I felt I could justify what I was being accused of.
Still, I have decided to wait a while before replying. In the meantime I have read the Bible, taken a long walk, had breakfast, replied to other emails, and watched a 1974 interview of Corrie Ten Boom.
This was enough time for the Holy Spirit who lives inside me to suggest I trash my scripted reply to the angry letter. It is possible to be right in an argument (and yet I may not be as right as I think I am) but to be called to a higher response than rightness. If I respond to my friend with my justifications, he may agree with me or he may not. But will that produce the best result? Paul says, "The aim of our charge is love" (1 Timothy 1:5). What response could I give to the man that would be most aligned with that aim?
Over the past few hours I have come around to seeing that my words to my friend (the words that prompted his terse email) were not the best; they fell short of Christ's call to "be perfect." There are a dozen things I could have said that would have been better-that would have been peaceable, gentle, fruitful (James 3:17). And when we know what is the best thing to do and yet we settle for something less, we sin (James 4:17).
I have found throughout my life that when apologizing and asking forgiveness, it is best to do it cleanly. Tacking on a rider, even a mild and subtle one, ruins a worthy apology. When I speak to my friend next, I will simply tell him that I should not have spoken to him that way-and then may the Lord put a clamp on my mouth. Let me make this a public commitment before you all.
I know that afterward I will feel strengthened in my spirit if I do things God's way and not in the way of fleshly desire. One always does. The choice of sin always carries its own punishment in the body (Romans 1:27), and the choice of obedience its own reward (2 Corinthians 3:18).