I had been driving for almost half an hour when my daughter suddenly wailed from the backseat. When I asked, “What happened?” she said her brother had grabbed her arm. He claimed he had grabbed her arm because she had pinched him. She said she pinched him because he had said something mean.
Unfortunately, this pattern, which is common between children, can show up in adult relationships too. One person offends another, and the hurt person shoots back a verbal blow. The original offender retaliates with another insult. Before long, anger and cruel words have damaged the relationship.
The Bible says that “the words of the reckless pierce like swords,” and that “a harsh word stirs up anger” but “a gentle answer turns away wrath” (Prov. 12:18; 15:1). And sometimes not answering at all is the best way to deal with mean or cruel words or comments.
Before Jesus’ crucifixion, the religious authorities tried to provoke Him with their words (Matt. 27:41-43). Yet, “When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate . . . . Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly” (1 Peter 2:23).
Jesus’ example and the Spirit’s help offer us a way to respond to people who offend us. Trusting the Lord, we don’t need to use words as weapons.
Dear God, please give me self-control through Your Holy Spirit when I am tempted to retaliate with words.
A soft answer has often been the means of breaking a hard heart.
To “follow in [Christ’s] steps” means we are called to pursue a walk of purity and honesty (vv. 21-22), a walk that is not vengeful or vindictive (v. 23), and a walk of deep trust in God the Father (v. 23). This is not only an example of how to build personal relationships, but it’s also the essence of the gospel of grace—God’s favor to those who do not deserve it. Bill Crowder