"Pray for those who insult you." Luke 6:28 (GWT)
When it comes to being insulted, there is something Jesus said in Matthew 5 that can make us scratch our heads. "If someone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other cheek also" (Matthew 5:39 NCV). Huh?
In order to understand this verse, we need to understand the culture of that day. In biblical times, a slap was not an act of violence. It was a backhanded slap indicating an insult. When you slapped someone on the cheek, you were insulting that person. Many times the person would slap back with another insult.
People insult you to gain control. If they can get you to insult them back, you've given them the higher ground and it puts them in control.
What Jesus was saying in Matthew 5 is to just let it go. Don't play their game. Give the situation to God.
It takes a lot of strength not to insult someone in return. So how do you do it?
- Remember what God says about you. No matter what negative thing that person says, remember that God says he loves you. God made you, and he has a plan and purpose for your life. God's opinion is more important than any other person's opinion.
- Instead of retaliating, God wants us to break the cycle in a different way. "Don't retaliate when people say unkind things about you. Instead, pay them back with a blessing. That is what God wants you to do, and he will bless you for it" (1 Peter 3:9 NLT).
How do you return an insult with a blessing? Pray. "Pray for those who insult you" (Luke 6:28 GWT).
How do you pray for somebody who has hurt you? King David, a man after God's own heart, prayed for people who insulted and rejected him. You can find many of those prayers in the book of Psalms. What I love about his prayers is that he begins many of them by telling God his honest feelings about the people who hurt him.
That's how our prayers should start. Don't pretend to be pious; God knows what is on your mind anyway. Tell God how you honestly feel. Admit you are struggling to pray for the other person, but then ask God to bless him or her. Honest and humble prayers have the power to make a difference in this world.
Tom Holladay is a teaching pastor at Saddleback Church and author of The Relationship Principles of Jesus.
Tom is also co-author of Foundations, a comprehensive study of core doctrines: The Bible, God, Jesus, The Holy Spirit, Creation, Salvation, Sanctification, Good and Evil, The Afterlife, The Church, and The Second Coming.
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