“To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps . . . 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.” –1 Peter 2:21, 23
Jesus set a perfect example for us in everything He did. By studying the Gospels and letters from those who knew him when He walked on this earth, we learn how to live. First Peter 2:23 gives us a clear, yet challenging, example to follow when people give us a hard time.
I’m not talking about when people who care about us approach to lovingly offer constructive criticism. I’m talking about when people come to us in anger with no goal other than to vent their frustrations. These people are not seeking peace or understanding. They don’t care about our point of view, our feelings, or our friendship. They feel offended; they demand to be heard. They want to inflict their pain on us with their words.
Though our first impulse may be to fight back or defend ourselves, Jesus shows us a better way. If the person is being abusive, hurling insults or making threats, our best course of action is to remove ourselves from the situation as quickly as possible. Jesus didn’t have this option when He was on trial, but He used it on other occasions. If the situation warrants it, we must feel free to do so, too. Don’t worry about hurting someone’s feelings if that person is threatening you. Protect yourself and walk away.
If the person is not abusive, we can:
1. Listen politely, patiently seeking to understand their point of view.
2. Thank them for sharing their thoughts.
3. Assure them we will consider what they’ve said . . . at home . . . privately.
4. Follow through, taking the matter to Jesus in prayer, entrusting ourselves to the One Who judges justly.
In Jesus’ case, He knew He was right. Jesus is always right. We might not always be, however. When someone confronts us, rather than rush to defend ourselves or our position, we should listen with an open mind then seek God’s opinion on the matter and His wisdom concerning how to proceed. Upon prayerful reflection, we may find we owe someone an apology or a thank you for setting us straight. It’s better to learn this early on, in God’s Presence, rather than after a lengthy, frustrating, and heated debate, the kind that leaves both parties feeling hurt.
Then again, once we’re alone with Him, God may assure us that we’ve done nothing wrong. If so, we can move forward in confidence and peace whether or not the other person ever accepts us or our point of view. Jesus didn’t retaliate or make threats. He doesn’t force His way on others either. He has presented the Truth through His life, death, resurrection, Word, and the testimony of His witnesses throughout history. He has fulfilled His mission; now we’re following in His steps to the best of our ability in everything we do.
Thank You for Your example, Lord. Help us to remember it when people give us a hard time. Teach us to respond with love, patience, dignity, and grace, entrusting ourselves to You. Amen.