By Chris Blevins
Today is part three in a series titled “The Strength of Restraint”. The previous articles have focused on the empowerment of doing nothing when wronged and the satisfaction that can result from being silent in the face of scorching criticism.
No doubt most of us have found ourselves on both sides of this spectrum. We may be the one who spoke the words of slander or gossip against someone or we may be the one who was the subject of such an attack. Neither is a good place to be. If we are the one who spoke the slander or gossip we will be eaten alive by guilt for we know God is not pleased with such actions.
If we are the one on the receiving end of the attacks it can be devastating, embarrassing and hurtful which can cause us to fight fire with fire and reciprocate with our own slander and gossip instead of practicing the Strength of Restraint. The reason we want to reciprocate is generally because our pride has been injured. There is nothing wrong with wanting to defend ourselves. The process of defending ourselves against hurts can be found in Matthew chapter 18. There we are directed to go alone to the person that hurt us and try to work it out. If that doesn’t work then you take a witness. If that doesn’t work then you involve the leadership of the church.
The only problem for us in Matthew 18 is that the hurtful words may be healed in private but maybe the initial slander and gossip was done in the public arena. How do we fix that? Our pride can really cause us to do strange things. The Strength of Restraint is what we SHOULD practice and forgive and move on but the PRIDE OF LIFE says I have to defend myself openly because we don’t want people to think negatively towards us. Maybe you have worked hard to build trust and integrity and through careless words of another damage has occurred to our reputation and that hurts our pride. Proverbs 16:18 states that “Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall”. Proverbs Chapter 6 also states there are seven sins that God despises, and a proud look, which is pride, is first on the list.
What we have to understand is yes when someone speaks negative things about us it is a sin but that does not give you and I a free pass or a license to reciprocate. What good have we done ourselves or the offender if we answer sin with sin? Christ gave us the beautiful example of love and Strength in Restraint in Luke 23 while He was dying of the cross. People were mocking Him, He was being spit on, He was being ridiculed and most importantly He was being murdered. But in the midst of it all, in His dying breaths, He said “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.” With the restraint He displayed in the worst conditions imaginable Christ showed true Strength.
No doubt we have all failed in various situations and spoke out of turn. Let us learn from our Savior Jesus Christ. Any fool can open his mouth but a wise man learns to be silent and display the Strength in Restraint. We will continue next Friday. Blessings to all!