“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me” – how completely untrue!
Have you ever been accused of doing something you are innocent of? Have you ever been in one of those situations where insults were coming your way – someone is harassing you with things that are not true? Words hurt – a lot.
In this kind of situation, it is natural to feel the urge to defend ourselves. It is no fun to be the butt of a joke or worse the target of harsh accusations, especially when we are truly innocent of the charges. But there is a better way to handle this kind of treatment other than fighting back with words or insults of our own.
This same kind of thing happened to Jesus as he was on his way to the cross. It seemed as if the whole world had suddenly turned on him, though he had done nothing wrong. He was truly innocent, yet the people hated him and began mocking him and yelling all kinds of false accusations and unwarranted insults at him. He would have been justified in fighting back, but what did he do instead?
“When they had hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly.” (1 Peter 2:23)
I find great advice and comfort in that. Jesus was God in the flesh. He was perfect in all aspects and completely blameless, yet the the people of the world wanted to kill him. They threw unjustified insults at him, but he did not fight back. I think there are a few things that we can learn from this.
1. Jesus knew that retaliating would not accomplish anything. He had already spent the past three years telling them who he was and showing them with many signs and miracles. I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the people insulting him were the same people he had healed at one time in his ministry. He knew the proverb: “Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you will be like him yourself.” (Prov 26:4) In keeping his mouth shut, he was leaving them to their folly instead of joining in. If he had spoken up and tried to defend his innocence, these people would not have listened. They were not accusing because they actually thought he was guilty, they were accusing him to distract the attention away from their own sin – even in their own minds.
2. Jesus knew who he was. He did not gain his sense of self worth from what other people said about him. He knew who he was at his core, and he was confident enough in his relationship with the Father that he did not need external confirmation of his identity. We too can have that same confidence when we know who we are in Christ. Because I have accepted Christ’s salvation, I am now a child of God. As a child of God, I can have confidence that I have worth and status that this world does not understand. I do not need to rest on the opinion of others, because God has told me who I am.
3. Jesus knew that these people were not the judge of him. He “entrusted himself to him who judges justly”, meaning the Father – God. God is my judge, not the people at work. Yes, I still fall under the human judgement of the laws of this country – but in an eternal sense, in the sense of my account with God – he is my judge, and he is just. People’s judgement is extremely biased and fickle, but God’s judgement is true and never changing. He knows me completely – even more than I know myself – and he has called me friend (James 2:23) because I have trusted him instead of myself.
I love this example in the Bible. It reminds me that I have a foundation in Christ that cannot be shaken by the words of others. If insults and accusations come my way, when I feel that urge to fight back and defend myself – I will think about this verse, keep my mouth shut, and just let them have their insult party. I know that I’m good with the one that matters – Jesus Christ.