Response to abuse

How did Jesus respond to abuse? It seems He responded with an honest statement of the truth, often in the form of a question.

Take the betrayal of Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane. He asks Judas, ‘Do you betray the Son of Man with a kiss?’ No accusation was needed, no anger, rather He confronted his betrayer with truth.

Take the incident of the slap. John 18:22-23 ‘When Jesus said this, one of the officials near-by struck him in the face. “Is this the way you answer the high priest?” He demanded. “If I said something wrong,” Jesus replied, “testify as to what is wrong. But if I spoke the truth, why did you strike me.” Jesus does not justify himself; nor does He accuse his assailant, rather He confronts with truth through a question.

A spiritual leader is behaving badly and I am unsure how to deal with it. I was all for charging in on a white horse named Truth and Righteousness. Then I read in Psalm 45, alluding to Jesus, that he comes ‘on behalf of truth, humility and righteousness.’ (45:4) The attitude I was missing was humility. It is so easy to exchange righteousness for self-righteousness. The problem with self-righteousness is that it wants to stand over the other in order to force its own will.  There is nothing of this in Jesus’ responses. He seems more interested in helping the other person to understand himself and develop as a person towards righteousness, and so He exposes the truth behind the situation, while permitting the abuse to continue. What amazing love.

Out manoeuvred?

How do I behave before a schemer who always seems to defeat me? When I focus on my adversary, wickedness surges up as I plan strategies to fight back. Can I surrender this person to God, lifting my eyes to Him who is my help and my salvation? If my aim is not ‘to gain control’ but ‘to be with God’ then I must entrust this issue to Him.

How does the Lord work with such hard hearts? Psalm 81 gives a rather surprising answer. He does not overpower –

‘But my people would not listen to me; Israel would not submit to me. So I gave them over to their stubborn hearts to follow their own devices.’

When we won’t listen to Him, the Lord cuts us loose to experience both the freedom we demand and the mess that follows. This sounds like something an opponent would relish for their adversary. My experience however is that it is hard to live with the mess, and harder to watch even an adversary suffer until the lessons are learned.

Psalm 82 adds an important perspective.

‘But you will die like mere men; you will fall like every other ruler.’

The end for those who indulge in wickedness is eventually a fall. So we are both in danger. When I am drawn into battle I become a wicked schemer as well. The Psalmist prays,

‘Rise up O God, judge the earth.’

This request for judgement requires purity, for the Lord’s judgement will be applied evenly.