By Larry Ray Hafley
From Ohio: “What are some passages provided by God to strengthen the inner man so that the reckless, offensive conduct of someone else will not embitter and destroy my own soul?”
Reply: Numerous passages can be cited. My favorite one in this connection is 1 Peter 2:20-24:
For what glory is it, if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently? But if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God. For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps: Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth: Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously: Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: By whose stripes ye were healed.
Paul faced anguish of spirit because of “reckless, offensive conduct,” but he did not permit it to embitter him. “When we are slandered, we try to conciliate” (1 Cor. 4:13-NASB). “For Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world . . . . Alexander the coppersmith did me much evil . . . . At my first answer no man stood with me, but all men forsook me: I pray God that it may not be laid to their charge. Notwithstanding the Lord stood with me, and strengthened me . . . . And the Lord shall deliver me from every evil work, and will preserve me unto his heavenly kingdom” (2 Tim. 4:10, 14, 16-18). “If I must needs glory, I will glory of the things which concern mine infirmities” (2 Cor. 11:30). “Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong” (2 Cor. 12:10).
Kindred Scriptures offer solace and strength. “My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience” (Jas. 1:2, 3). “And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; and patience, experience; and experience, hope” (Rom. 5:3-5). “And they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name” (Acts 5:41).
Three Things To Do
When one is mistreated, there are three things that will help to dispel malice. Also, these three items have no defense; there is no way for your enemies to forbid them.
(1) Love: God loved us when we were without hope and undeserving. “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” So, too, we must love those who abuse us. “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you” (Matt. 5:44). “Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good” (Rom. 12:20, 21). An opponent cannot keep you from loving him.
(2) Prayer: Pray for those who snidely or maliciously malign you – “Pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you” (Matt. 5:44). An enemy might not let you feed him, but he cannot prevent you from praying for him.
(3) Silence: An abusive heart desires a response. Any kind will do. He is ready to pounce on it and use it against you. Often, therefore, it is best to be like the Lord and say nothing (Matt. 27:12-14). “I will keep my mouth with a bridle while the wicked is before me” (Psa. 39:1). Those who are dedicated to degradation and deprecation can “answer” any reply, but they are frustrated by silence. A wicked man will wrest your best words in the worst way, but he cannot grapple with silence.
Hear my voice, O God, in my prayer: preserve my life from fear of the enemy. Hide me from the secret counsel of the wicked; from the insurrection of the workers of iniquity: Who whet their tongue like a sword, and bend their bows to shoot their arrows, even bitter words: That they may shoot in secret at the perfect: suddenly do they shoot at him, and fear not. They encourage themselves in an evil matter: they commune of laying snares privily; they say, Who shall see them? They search out iniquities; they accomplish a diligent search: Both the inward thought of every one of them, and the heart, is deep. But God shall shoot at them with an arrow; suddenly shall they be wounded. So they shall make their own tongue to fall upon themselves: All that see them shall flee away. And all men shall fear, and shall declare the work of God; for they shall wisely consider of his doing. The righteous shall be glad in the Lord, and shall trust in him; and all the upright in heart shall glory.
Truth Magazine XXIII: 42, p. 674
October 25, 1979