Paul A. Creasman, Ph.D., Professor of Communication, Arizona Christian University
“A patient man has great understanding, but a quick tempered man displays folly.” (Proverbs 14:29)
In 325 A.D., bishops of the early Christian Church gathered to settle several pressing theological issues. The gathering—the Council of Nicaea—included were several notables including Nicholas of Myra, now called Saint Nichola, or Santa Claus.
One issue before the Council was the nature of Christ. Was He fully God? Fully man? The deliberations were intense. At one point, one of the participants, Arius, suggested that Christ was not God. Arius reasoned that if Christ was indeed “son of God” there had to be a time when Jesus did not exist, making him less than eternal, less than God. What happened next is a matter of historical debate.
Folk tales and church paintings tell us that Nicholas—that’s right, old Saint Nick—incensed at what he was hearing, rose and punched Arius in the face. Some representations of the event are a bit kinder. They show St. Nick merely slapping Arius on the back of the head, as if to say, “What are you thinking?” Arius was eventually branded a heretic but Nicholas apparently got off scot-free.
What do we do when faced with ideas that challenge our most strongly held beliefs? Do our tempers get the best of us? In these moments, few of us would likely ever consider physically assaulting our opponents, but we can still cause harm, “punching” in other ways: (1) cutting others off, (2) raising our voices, (3) failing to listen, or (4) tweeting an angry response—also known as the “virtual jab.”
The pace of modern life strains communication by encouraging a quick response. Technology teaches that we must react immediately, without deliberation. In the face of this tyranny of the now, Proverbs encourages the opposite. It says that patience breeds listening, brings about dialogue, deepens understanding, and slows our anger. Anger, James notes, “does not bring about the righteous life God desires” (1:20).
You might not face the heresy of Arius, but you likely encounter other moments that challenge biblical truth and make you want to punch out loud. What will your response be?
Reflection: What are your ‘hot-buttons’? What issues are likely to ‘set you off’? How have you reacted in the past to ideas that challenge your core beliefs? Have you used social media in a way that you regretted?
Today’s Challenge: Listen closely to others before you speak. Try to discern not just others’ beliefs and values, but why they hold them. Monitor your own communication during confrontations. Instead of using technology or social media, have a conversation face-to-face.
* This devotional is included in a book of 365 devotionals on Christianity and Communication Studies, forthcoming, from Integratio Press. All Rights Reserved. If you are interested in contributing a similar devotional, please contact: [email protected]