The 'picture' of the ideal Christian life!
(J. R. Miller, "A Word About TEMPER" 1888)
Most of us are bad-tempered in various degrees. The dictionary has been well-near exhausted of adjectives, in giving the different shades of bad-temper: aggressive, angry, bickering, bitter, capricious, choleric, contentious, crotchety, despotic, domineering, easily offended, gloomy, grumpy, hasty, huffy, irritable, morose, obstinate, reproachful, peevish, sulky, surly, vindictive—these are some of the qualifying words!
We do not like to believe that the case is quite so serious—that many of us are unamiable in some offensive degree. It is easier to confess our neighbor's faults and infirmities, than our own! So, therefore, quietly taking refuge for ourselves among the few good-tempered people—we are willing to admit that a great many of the people we know, have at times rather ungentle tempers. They are easily provoked; they fly into a passion on very slight occasion; they are haughty, domineering, peevish, fretful or vindictive!
What is even worse, most of them appear to make no effort to grow out of their infirmities of disposition! The sour fruit does not come to mellow ripeness in the passing years; the roughness is not polished off the diamond to reveal its lustrous hidden beauty. The same petulance, pride, vanity, selfishness and other disagreeable qualities are found in the life, year after year!
Where there is a struggle to overcome one's faults and grow out of them, and where the progress toward better and more beautiful spiritual character is perceptible, though ever so slow—we should have sympathy. But where one appears unconscious of one's blemishes, and manifests no desire to conquer one's faults—there is little ground for encouragement!
Man-like it is—to fall into sin.
Fiend-like it is—to dwell therein.
Saint-like it is—for sin to grieve.
God-like it is—for sin to leave.
Bad temper is such a disfigurement of character, and, besides, works such harm to one's self and to one's neighbors, that no one should spare any pains or cost to have it cured!
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. "Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs." That is the 'picture' of the ideal Christian life!
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 patience, in self-denying love. Like the flowers which give out their perfume only when crushed; like the odoriferous wood which bathes the axe which hews it with fragrance; the life of Christ yielded only the tenderer, sweeter love—to the rough impact of men's harshness 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 souls!
Bad-tempered people are continually hurting others, ofttimes their best and truest friends.
Some people are sulky—and one person's sulkiness casts a chilling shadow over a whole household!
Others are so sensitive, ever watching for slights and offended by the merest trifles—that even their nearest friends have no freedom of fellowship with them!
Others are despotic, and will brook no kindly suggestion, nor listen to any expression of opinion!
Others are so quarrelsome that even the meekest and gentlest person cannot live peaceably with them!
It would be easy to extend this portrayal of the evils of bad temper—but it will be more profitable to inquire HOW a bad-tempered person may become good-tempered. There is no doubt that this happy change is possible in any case. 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.