(From “About Temper”, 1912)
“Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. Love does not demand its own way. Love is not irritable, and it keeps no record of when it has been wronged. It is never glad about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-7
The ideal Christian life, is one of unbroken kindliness. It is dominated by love—the love whose portrait is drawn for us in the immortal thirteenth chapter of First Corinthians. We have but to turn to the gospel pages, to find the story of a Life in which all this was realized. Jesus never lost his temper. He lived among people who tried Him at every point—some by their dullness, others by their bitter enmity and persecution, but He never failed in sweetness of disposition, in long-suffering patience, in self-denying love. Like the flowers which give out their perfume only when crushed, like the odoriferous wood which bathes with fragrance the ax which hews it—the life of Christ yielded only the tenderer, sweeter love to the rough impact of men’s rudeness and wrong. That is the pattern on which we should strive to fashion our life and our character. Every outbreak of violent temper, every shade of ugliness in disposition, mars the radiant loveliness of the picture we are seeking to have fashioned in our lives.
The perfect beauty of Christ, should ever be envisioned in our hearts, as that which we would attain for ourselves. The honor of our Master’s name, should impel us to strive ever toward Christlikeness in spirit and in disposition.
We represent Christ in this world; people cannot see Him, and they must look at us to see a little of what He is like. Whatever great work we may do for Christ, if we fail to live out His life of patience and kindness, we fail in an essential part of our duty as Christians. “The servant of the Lord must be gentle.” Only as our own lives shine in the brightness of holy affectionateness, and our hearts and lips distill the sweetness of patience and gentleness, can we fulfill our mission in this world as Christ’s true messengers to men.
Life is too short to spend even one day of it in bickering and strife. Love is too sacred to be forever lacerated and torn by the ugly briers of sharp temper. Surely we ought to learn to be patient with others, since God has to show every day such infinite patience toward us. Can we not, then, train our life to sweeter gentleness? Can we not learn to be touched even a little roughly, without resenting it? Can we not bear little injuries and apparent injustices, without flying into an unseemly rage? Can we not have in us something of the mind of Christ which will enable us, like Him—to endure all wrong and injury and give back no word or look of bitterness?
There is no temper so obdurately bad—that it cannot be trained into sweetness. The grace of God can take the most unlovely life—and transform it into the image of Christ!