To continue on from my last post (though it’s been a hot minute since I last posted), I am just going to dive right in. My apologies for not writing as frequently as planned, life has been a little crazy with the holidays coming up!
I could write about so many other times that it is just simply not necessary to speak up, (and I would love to!) however there is one instance that stood out to me above all — if your words will be a poor reflection of the Lord. This instance surpasses all others. Yes, shut up if you don’t know the full story, if you will offend a weaker brother or sister, or if it becomes gossip or corrupt slander, but this would all be avoided if we simply just asked ourselves, “Is this what would come out of the lips of Jesus?”. In 1 Peter 2:21-23, Peter urges “God’s elect” (1 Peter 1:1), and furthermore, us, who are God’s chosen people, to “follow in his [Jesus’] steps.” The verse continues to demonstrate Jesus’ extreme patience when it comes to holding the tongue, and even more, how he managed to do it.
He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth. When they 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.
Here, Peter brings us back to the scene of Jesus at the cross. He takes us back to the extreme humiliation, severe torment, and image of sinners spitting insults in a perfect man’s face. The level of injustice is inconceivable, yet Jesus did nothing. NOTHING. That blows my mind! Put yourself in his place for a second. How many times have you wanted to serve up your own form of justice to those who have persecuted you? Often times, my own form of justice included hurling insults back, getting even, and making sure that I had the last word. I wanted power in the argument by treating that person as they had treated me, but that is not the standard that we are called to live out. That is not love. Furthermore, that is definitely not how Jesus acted towards his oppressors. HE DID NOT RETALIATE. HE MADE NO THREATS. He did not become defensive, he did not see it as an opportunity to display wrath, he did not fight back. Jesus received this torment and loved anyway.
Quick story: The other day I was at work behind the cash register, and a rude woman approached me, calling me “stupid” and “a waste of her time.” You better believe that I wanted to fight back and argue the opposite, which I knew to be true, but I said nothing. I let her yell and take her aggression out on me, and as she continued to hold up the line with her anger mismanagement, I thought about how difficult it really is to avoid a sassy rebuttal. After the lady had worn herself out and exhausted all insults, she took a breath, looked at me standing there in silence, and apologized. She explained that she had realized her mistake, but the reason why may surprise you. She said (very briefly and slightly embarrassed) that seeing me stand there taking the heat had won her over. Moral of the story? This was nowhere close to the affliction that Jesus experienced, but it was SO difficult not to fight back, especially considering this woman’s blinding ignorance. Yet silence spoke louder than the words I wanted to scream back at her, and patience triumphed over anger.
But even later on verse 23, it explains HOW Jesus had the patience and self control to hold his tongue and take the beating. Instead of throwing out snarky remarks, performing a miracle, or rebuking everyone on the spot, which would seem to be justifiable, Jesus entrusted himself to “him who judges justly.” Jesus understood that even during a time of torture, he could not let other people’s unrighteousness affect his righteousness. He surrendered all tempting thoughts, actions, or words to God, knowing that his Father would take care of the battle. He acknowledged that God’s fair and perfect judgment supercedes human’s erroneous anger-motivated judgment. By keeping his mind on things above, understanding and having full faith that his oppressors would be justly judged, Jesus was able to keep his mouth shut and radiate love worthy to imitate.
People often say think before you speak, it is a common phrase used to promote reflection before words are just blurted out without a thought. I would like to take that phrase to the next level though, and get right to the heart of the issue. Think before you speak, but what are you thinking of? Is it how you can be the better person and promote self righteousness or is your mind on God and his role in the situation at hand? Being the better person is made out to seem like a healthy alternative to choosing not to fight back, however I find it is ironically prideful. By not speaking when provoked, even though you never got the last word verbally, you did in your head. Why? Because in your eyes, you are the superior by holding the tongue and the words that will consequently follow. It is righteousness for the wrong reasons. This is not an act of dependence on God, it is dependence on yourself and your own human capabilities. In order to truly follow Jesus and his example, the only option is to shut up because your eyes on God, who calls you to a higher standard.
Even Jesus had to rely on God for strength, so why would you be any different?