We know from James’ epistle that if a man can control his tongue, he is well-nigh perfect, capable of controlling his whole body. The difficulty is that there are so many imperfect people who have not as yet learned to bridle the tongue. So, in the meanwhile people are being hurt right and left by what other people say.
It is not only the tongue that can hurt, but also the actions. So not only must all our friends and acquaintances bridle their tongues, they must likewise apply this know-how to their bodies.
For some reason, we put all responsibility on the offender rather than the offended. I have no intention of excusing the uncontrolled tongue. The tongue must be controlled. But until it is, do I have a right to be hurt? Must I remain susceptible to hurt feelings until everybody else is perfect? It seems to me the less efficient of two ways for achieving the same result.
We would like to have people so nice to us all the time that there would never be an occasion for us to be hurt. Obviously, this is unrealistic, so what I am suggesting is that the offended toughen up.
One way I would suggest doing this is by looking at the example of Christ.
“He was despised and forsaken of men, a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief, and like one from whom men hide their face. He was despised, and we did not esteem Him … He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He did not open His mouth” (Is. 53:3,9).
Any of us in this same position would consider that we had every right to be hurt. If that’s the way they are going to be, see if I’m ever going to: 1) speak to them again, 2) be nice to them again, 3) forgive them, or 4) die for them. Yet if this had been our Lord’s reaction He would never have gone to the cross. Granted, this was an exceptional case. He did have all the power of God at His disposal. He is perfect and we are not.
“Have this attitude in yourselves, which was also in Christ Jesus who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond servant and being made in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Phil. 2:5-8).
In summary, we should have a like mind to Christ in these four aspects.
1. Don’t grasp onto your identity or your rights.
2. Empty yourself.
3. Be a servant.
4. Be humble.
With such an attitude, we can also “for the joy that awaits on the other side endure all sorts of crosses, thinking nothing of the shame attached” (Heb. 12:2).
Normally those closest to us are the ones who can hurt us the most. A stranger has much less capacity for hurting us than a husband, wife, friend, brother, or sister. When wounded by someone close, we tell ourselves, “If he really loved me, he wouldn’t say that.”
But on analyzing this statement, it is revealed about whom we are really thinking. Are we thinking about the lack of love in the other person and how he needs help? No, we are thinking how that lack of love in the other person affects us. In other words, we are conceited? thinking about self and how everybody else’s action relates to self.
A very favorite passage on love is I Corinthians 13. It describes love as “…not seeking its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered.”
When we feel hurt, it is because there is no ready forgiveness in our hearts. Forgiveness, by nature, does not keep a record of wrongs. In Ephesians 4:32, a well-known but rarely practiced verse, Paul tells us to “be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven us.” We must forgive as we have been forgiven. Remember, 70 times 7. There is no limit, and certainly none to the Lord’s ability to forgive. Considering that for every temptation the Lord provides a way of escape, there is no reason why any of us should ever be hurt again. This sounds like a tall order, I know, and many would say it is impossible. But it is my belief that if the Lord promised a way of escape, each time it will be there.