Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you yourself will be just like him. -Proverbs 26:4 (NIV)
Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. -2 Timothy 4:2 (NIV)
One of the phrases that has most resonated with me in the past year is: Your response is your responsibility.
Every once in a while–or perhaps on a regular basis–there’s a person who knows how to push your buttons. They know exactly which ones to press to escalate the situation. Your flesh is burning with the desire to right the wrong, isn’t it?
Biblical examples of how to handle provocation
But there’s biblical backup in not fighting fire with fire. Take Jeremiah and Jesus.
Jeremiah: Waiting for the truth to be spoken
Hananiah, by all accounts, seemed to be a legitimate prophet to the people of Israel…till he opened his mouth and proclaimed false, but highly encouraging, prophecies to the people. Jeremiah, a true prophet of the Lord, bit his tongue and waited to hear the truth from the Lord…and only then did he go to Hananiah and let him know the price he would pay for misrepresenting the Lord to His people. It wasn’t a pretty truth (far longer suffering for the people, and death for Hananiah in under a year), but it was the truth.
Jesus: Step over the traps
Jesus, of course, is our prime example. He was very much in the spotlight during his brief public ministry…and He had a target on His head! The Pharisees loved to try and trap Him, especially in front of onlookers. But what did Jesus do when prodded? He laid down knowledge and truth on the Pharisees, who were not looking for answers, but instead looking to harm Him.
## This is everyday spiritual warfare
These are the battles we believers fight. We battle not just external evil and sin, but that within…and we have a choice in how we respond: with grace and truth, or compounding sin upon sin?
So we don’t have to be silent, or even avoid the provocateurs. We can wait till the time is right, and speak the truth. When we do that, we carry God’s light into enveloping darkness. We never, ever have to stoop and stumble to the level of those who are pushing our buttons.
Instead, when they throw fire at us, we are water. Water doesn’t fuel a fire. It puts it out.