“When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued trusting himself to him who judges justly.” 1 Peter 2:23
In Jesus’ day, there was no social media, no Galilee Gossip twitter feed. Nope, news traveled the good old-fashioned way–by word of mouth. When someone had something negative to say about Jesus (and trust me, those old religious leaders infamously known as the Pharisees and Sadducees, had plenty to say!), they gathered together and conspired against Him. They did not hop on their tablets and spout off about Him. And Jesus did not respond @ anybody in His own defense.
Ultimately, what they had to say about Him, they said to His face as they slapped Him, mocked Him, beat Him, tortured Him, and crucified Him. And how did He respond? He did not revile in return, meaning He didn’t spout off or retaliate in an angry, abusive manner. He didn’t threaten them. He entrusted Himself to His Father. He knew that God would judge justly, regardless of what men were saying about Him or doing to Him.
In our modern era of technology, we would all be wise to take one out of Jesus’ playbook and hold our tongues…or perhaps, hold our hands tightly clasped together so we don’t get typing-happy with our fingers and in a matter of seconds, obliterate someone with our words. Even when we feel justified. Jesus, who WAS the only perfect human ever, would have been justified to defend Himself, but He trusted God’s plan for His life.
Jesus told His followers in Luke 6:27-28, “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.”** That is the epitome of living counter-cultural in our world. Our instincts and automatic reactions are to defend ourselves and go back after the offender. Jesus says to do differently than that–to love them, to do good to them, to bless them, and to pray for them.
I don’t always feel like praying for someone who has hurt me or even made me mad. In fact, it is usually the last thing I want to do. But, I have learned that it is impossible to retain feelings of anger and ill-will towards someone for whom we are praying. As we pray for them, our hearts are the one that begin to change.
Before Jesus was crucified, He warned His disciples of His pending death and resurrection, though they did not understand it at the time. In His discourse on the Mount of Olives found in John’s gospel, Jesus said this, “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you” (John 15:18). Jesus wanted them to expect hatred, just like His followers today can expect hatred. But Jesus also already told them how to interact with those who hated them. He instructed them to love them rather than respond with hatred, to bless them, to do good to them, and to pray for them. Exactly what we all feel like doing in that situation, isn’t it?
Jesus’ words apply to us in our culture today too. When we feel attacked for our faith or are on the receiving end of hatred, venom, ill-will, malice, anger, or anything of the like, we have the power to respond just like Jesus did as they reviled and abused Him. His Holy Spirit within us offers us the strength to apply the holy hush. By that, I mean, our lips and our fingers remain silent, though everything within us longs to defend ourselves, react, or even retaliate. We can trust that our God is our defender, and He sees and will judge justly–maybe just not on our timeframe or in the exact, public way we would love to watch happen.
David experienced something similar when he was running from King Saul prior to becoming king. He had a couple of opportunities to physically defend himself and end the pursuit on his life. Yet he refrained, saying in 1 Samuel 24:12, “May the LORD judge between me and you, may the LORD avenge me against you, but my hand shall not be against you.” The rising King David lived with and demonstrated complete faith and certainty in God’s justice, not taking it upon himself to mete it out.
We have that same choice. While it is so easy in our flesh to react or to go public with our grievances, even in self-defense, the wiser choice is to entrust ourselves to our Father in heaven who sees and judges justly. Will this be an easy feat? Absolutely not! But, Jesus is our example. Jesus even said that when He left, He would send His helper, the Counselor, and His Holy Spirit to us (John 16:7-11). That same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead is the same Spirit that will allow us to practice the pause and not lash out against our enemies, to those who abuse us, and to our persecutors.
Let’s be like Jesus and entrust ourselves to our heavenly Father who judges justly. Let’s be like Jesus and love our enemies, do good to them, bless them, and pray for them. Though it will not be easy, it will most definitely be worth it. The more like Him we become, the greater we shine for Him.
** If you are in abusive relationship, please seek help and get to safety immediately.