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How to stem a flood tide of anger


Fresh from a killing spree and out of the darkness came Brian G. Nichols into the life of Ashley Smith. As the young widow attempted to find the key that opened her Gwinnett County apartment, the gun-wielding fugitive appeared and threatened to do her bodily harm if she screamed. Within seconds the man, who had terrorized a city and left in his wake a path of destruction, was inside the home of the woman he would later call "an angel sent from God."

The hand-written list of names in his jail cell appeared to be a hit list of people Nichols intended to eliminate. This rather incriminating piece of evidence has provided some reason to believe that at least part of his homicidal rampage in the Fulton County Courthouse was premeditated - the diabolical contrivances of an angry man.

The reckless and malevolent binge that followed included five carjackings and the murder of yet another innocent man who valiantly fought to subdue the fugitive. Nichols plundered through the city like a tasmanian devil, yet leaving law enforcement officers without a clue as to his whereabouts.

Those who encountered Nichols on that fateful Friday were shot, bludgeoned, pistol-whipped, intimidated or frightened into submission. While the nation watched the horrifying scene unfold, the city of Atlanta was put on alert as if terrorists had flown a Boeing 767 into the Westin Peachtree hotel in a fiery crash.

Law enforcement officers seemed bewildered and disengaged from the catastrophic events that were unfolding. They didn't seem to be getting any traction in the search for Nichols. The Fulton County sheriff seemed to be baffled and uncertain of what to do.

In the wee hours of the morning Nichols was sitting in a truck in the Gwinnett County apartment complex contemplating his next move. Enter Ashley Smith. Nichols accosted Smith, and in doing so the merciless killer encountered someone who by no means was perfect, but her faith and life experiences made her perfect for the occasion.

In the course of Nichols' conversation with Smith his temperament, which had been seething with anger and boiling over in a murderous rage, began to subside. His vindictive binge ended and his hard heart began to open to the words of a woman who spoke with grace and wisdom beyond her years.

With her life never out of danger, Smith gave the alleged rapist and murderer a place to bathe, a change of clothes, and cooked him pancakes "with real butter" as he noted with real appreciation.

She read the Bible and The Purpose Driven Life to Nichols and indicated that it was not too late for him to discover God's purpose for his life. Smith suggesting that if he would only yield to God's purpose that he could become a missionary to his fellow inmates by turning himself in to the authorities.

Smith's demeanor and hospitality proves the truth of Proverbs 15:1 that says, "A soft answer turneth away wrath; but grievous words stir up anger." Ashley Smith turned a life-threatening situation into an experience that honored the Lord, saved her own life and quite possibly spared the lives of others.

How would you handle a violent killer? Perhaps a more likely situation will occur. How will you handle a cantankerous neighbor, an obnoxious colleague at work, a pusillanimous partner in the battle for right, or an obstreperous fellow church member?

Our tendency is to react, retaliate, to become argumentative, to fight back. Someone said, "You can get in a fight with a skunk and probably win the skirmish, but you won't ever smell the same." Why do we always want to become so pugilistic, so combative, so negative?

Some church business meetings are often marked by people with a belligerent, quarrelsome, antagonistic, confrontational spirit. If we battled the devil and his diabolical dominions as energetically and enthusiastically as we sometimes battle our own brothers and sisters in Christ, we might have well have won the battle for the souls of men by now.

The truth is that a "soft answer" disarms our enemies, engages the unsaved, endears us to others and honors the Lord. In fact, "A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver" (Proverbs 25:11).