1 Peter 2:21–23 (NASB95)
21 For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, 22 who committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in His mouth; 23 and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously.
I have spent a good portion of my adult life building into the lives of middle and high school students. If there is anything I know now, it is that the middle school years are especially tough. I know from my own experience that it held some of the hardest times for me, I have seen it in the lives of the many students that I’ve had in youth group, and experienced it in new and even more deeply felt ways as my daughter and son went through it. The middle school period is typified by some of the most overt expressions of self-centeredness (since it is before we learn to hide this ugly part of our humanness), and middle school kids can be especially cruel in their struggle for acceptance and self-worth.
I have found myself coming back to this passage in scripture so many times in my life, and it is a place to which I have continued to point my daughter and son. I think it is such a clear picture of who our Lord was when he was mistreated, and it is so applicable for us who want to follow in His footsteps when we feel mistreated. In fact, our Lord is calling us out to respond just like He did. The list in verses 22 and 23 is so practical and so against our natural inclinations.
When someone mistreats us, it seems only fair and just that we find a way to get back at them. Yet, when Christ was hurt, He didn’t hurt them back. This isn’t because He didn’t have the ability to do so. He had all power at His beck and call but chose in that moment not to retaliate. He didn’t try to lie to or manipulate His persecutors in order to lessen His pain. There have been numerous times in my life that I would have said almost anything to get out of a painful situation. When someone makes fun of us and tears us down, our first instinct is to think of anything we can to bite back at them. How satisfying it is to have that perfect comebacker after someone hurls an insult. Sometimes we can’t think of a zinger in the moment, but later on we think of that perfect slight and bank it for future ammunition. They heaped insult after insult upon Jesus, and He did not say a word in retaliation, not a word. He didn’t say, “You’ll get yours!” or “Just you wait!” Instead, he quietly suffered.
How in the world could he quietly suffer? How is it possible for us to do the same when we are mistreated? The key is in whom He entrusted Himself. See His life and death were not in the hands of His captors. His value and self-worth were not wrapped up in those who surrounded Him. He, instead, knew the One who is in control at all times, had His best in mind, and loved Him with a limitless love. When our eyes are fixed on the opinions, actions, and acceptance of those around us, we will find it impossible to imitate Jesus’ humble response to suffering. In fact, even if we somehow mustered the strength to endure, it would only be a cheap knock-off imitation. The true secret to this kind of endurance in the face of all hardship is to have our eyes firmly fixed on “Him who judges righteously.” He alone is the one who can sustain us.
People can and will hurt us. May we lift our eyes and entrust our hearts to the One who will deal righteously with all our hurts and the ones who have hurt us.