One of my favorite Old Testament prophecies about Jesus is found in Isaiah 52:13 – 53:12
, titled “The Suffering and Glory of the Servant.” Within these words about what would happen to Jesus when He was crucified, we find this passage that holds for us a wonderful example of how we should respond to accusations, complaints, and persecution.
He was oppressed and afflicted,
yet he did not open his mouth;
he was led like a lamb to the slaughter,
and as a sheep before its shearers is silent,
so he did not open his mouth.
Isaiah 53:7 (NIV).
This verse was fulfilled during Jesus’ “trial” before Pilate:
But when the leading priests and the elders made their accusations against him, Jesus remained silent. “Don’t you hear all these charges they are bringing against you?” Pilate demanded. But Jesus made no response to any of the charges, much to the governor’s surprise. Matthew 27:12-14 (NIV).
Sometimes in life, we face opposition. Others say things about us that are unkind, maybe not even true, in an attempt to provoke us or to get us into trouble with someone else. Jesus warned that we would face troubles and persecution, even that others might hate us because of Him. He told His disciples and us: “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33b (NIV). So the fact that others unfairly complain about us and that we face troubles is not really all that surprising.
Painting hung at the Cathedral of St. John the Devine in New York City
What is important is how we respond in such situations. Jesus provided an example for us to follow when He remained silent before the accusations of the leading priests and elders. I have found that His example is a good one.
Many years ago in a previous job, I faced a situation in which someone unfairly suggested that I and the people I supervised were not doing our best. At the time, I did not follow Jesus’ example. Instead, I became very angry and basically chewed the person out in front of a bunch of other people. I am not proud of that moment, and within 30 minutes of storming out of the meeting I felt compelled to apologize to all those present. I had not been a good role model for my staff and I had not been a good witness for my Christian faith. That was also the end of any helpful relationship with the person I had yelled at.
I suppose I could say I was like Jesus when He overturned the tables of the money changers in the temple, and that my anger was righteous in that I was defending my staff; but that would just be making excuses for my own poor behavior.
I have since learned there is a better way to deal with complaints, accusations, and persecution. The better way is to follow Jesus’ example of staying calm in the face of opposition. Often, by staying calm and saying nothing until the time is right, we allow others to see the falsity of the accusations against us rather than being convinced by our angry response that the accusations must be true. The saying “Methinks the lady doth protest too much” from Hamlet comes to mind.
The natural reaction to being falsely accused or having someone complain about us is to want to vehemently defend ourselves against anything being said against us, but that natural reaction does not often work to our advantage; nor does it further the Kingdom of God because it does not show the difference faith in Him makes in our lives. Responding with Holy Spirit gentleness and self-control will go a long way.
So the next time you face opposition or accusations, remember Jesus’ example. Step back and pray about it, just as He prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane when He knew persecution was on its way. Then when complaints and false accusations come, remain calm and silent until the Holy Spirit bids you speak. When you do respond, do so with gentleness and self-control so that others might see the work of God within you, and He be glorified.