by Matthew W. Bassford
The spiritual wisdom of the Bible is usually easy to understand but hard to put into practice. There are few better examples of this than Proverbs 15:1. There are no big words in this verse. The concepts are so simple that a child can understand them. However, even those who have been disciples for decades still struggle to respond to anger with a gentle answer. Can any of us claim that we do this consistently?
Against the dark backdrop of our own difficulties, the wise behavior of Abigail in I Samuel 25 shines forth all the more brightly. We don't know whether Abigail ever heard the proverb that Solomon later recorded, but her actions certainly exemplify it!
The situation in which Abigail finds herself in I Samuel 25:12-17 is truly desperate. Nabal, her jerk of a husband, has offended David, the most famous war leader in all of Israel. Even now, he is coming with 400 men to take bloody vengeance on Nabal’s household. Worse still, Nabal himself cannot be trusted to make amends.
In these dire circumstances, it would have been easy for Abigail to dither and panic. However, she takes intelligent action to avert disaster. Her wisdom provides us with a template that we can follow when someone is angry at us.
First, she is honest about the problem. She doesn't try to tell David that he's overreacting. Instead, she frankly acknowledges her husband's bad behavior.
By contrast, we too often get defensive when someone angrily confronts us. That only makes the situation worse. Rather, we need to step outside ourselves, see things from the other’s point of view, and candidly acknowledge our own failings.
Second, Abigail comes to David with a plan and a solution. She brings him the provisions that her husband had arrogantly denied him. So too, when we have wronged someone, the onus for making things right is on us. We shouldn't demand that they come up with a solution or, worse still, reject the solutions that they offer. It's up to us to build the bridge of reconciliation to our friend or loved one.
Finally, Abigail shows David how doing what she wants him to do is in his own best interest. She points out that if he sheds blood without cause and avenges himself, he will forfeit the protection of God. Consequently, David accepts her peace proposal not grudgingly, but enthusiastically.
Likewise, we must show those who are angry with us how reconciliation will benefit them. Frequently, we take the opposite tack. We tell them they should make peace for our sakes, even though our good is frequently the last thing on their minds! That doesn't work. What does work is looking at things from their perspective and showing them how giving up their grievance will make them better off.
Blessed are the peacemakers, but peacemaking isn't easy. It requires humility, foresight, and understanding. The worldly are terrible at this, which is why we are surrounded by conflict. As the people of God, however, we can draw upon His strength and wisdom to bring about reconciliation and peace.