"When He was reviled, He reviled not again" (I Peter 2:23).
"Walk, even as He walked" (I John 2:6).
"I will dwell in them, and walk in them" (II Corinthians 6:16).
The most important aspect of suffering verbal abuse concerns not the fact that it has happened, but rather our response to the fact of its happening. We cannot control what people say to us or about us. Through Christ, however, born again believers can determine whether we will respond in a manner faithful to God and His Word. We must determine to avail ourselves of the power of the Holy Spirit so that we may "walk, even as He walked" through the power of His dwelling and walking in us.
Such determination does not minimize the fact of cruel words, or their effect. They hurt and the communicator of them bears responsibility toward God and the recipient of sinful verbal abuse. That which hurts worse, however, involves our reacting after the flesh rather than the Spirit when we are the victim. If we revile those who revile us or succumb to bitterness, we are no better than the original perpetrator as we join him in the dark reality of verbal and attitudinal sin. We allow him to hurt us twice, as it were. Moreover, this "second sin" will prove more harmful than the first, since it affects our fellowship with God. We can bear the sword of people who hurt us. "In God I have put my trust. I will not fear what flesh can do unto me" (Psalm 56:4). We cannot, however, bear the breach of fellowship between ourselves and the Lord when we distrust and disobey Him. "O God, Thou art my God… my soul thirsteth for Thee, my flesh longeth for Thee in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is" (Psalm 63:1).
I shared this truth with one who responded, "But that doesn't seem fair! Why should somebody else's sin have the power to affect my relationship with God?!" The answer is simply that it doesn't. We rather give the sins of others such power when we wrongly perceive their words or actions as more consequential than our Lord's glory and will. I am reminded of the Roman soldier summoned to go to war. A friend asked him if he feared the possibility of death in the conflict. "It is necessary that I go" responded the soldier. "It is not necessary that I live." In similar manner, we must all acknowledge that our comfort does not presently constitute the most important aspect of our existence. To honor, trust, and obey our Heavenly Father serves as our reason for being, and as the quenching of our soul thirst. Nothing more. Nothing less. Nothing else. "To live is Christ" (Philippians 1:21). Thus, we must prepare ourselves for hurtful words by hiding such Truth in our hearts, and by drawing this sword of love, faith, and submission to God when others draw against us the sword of sin.
The childhood chant, "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me!" is not true. Words do hurt when used against us cruelly and unjustly. However, they also provide opportunity to follow in the steps of our Lord, who "when He suffered, He threatened not, but committed Himself to Him that judgeth righteously" (I Peter 2:23). I would submit unto my heart and to yours that anything which provides such opportunity to know, love, trust, obey, and glorify the Lord Jesus ultimately serves rather than damages us. This is not easy truth. But it is Truth, the Truth of the Savior, the Spirit, and the Scriptures whereby we discover a path of faithfulness as paved by foe rather than friend…
"Lead me in Thy righteousness because of mine enemies, make Thy way straight before my face."
Weekly Memory Verse
Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.
(I Corinthians 15:58)