Part 1: How Jesus Responds to Difficult People & Circumstances
Have you ever been accused of something that wasn’t true?
It’s an awful feeling. I’m sure all of us can think of a situation, big or small, where this has happened. But what did you do about it?
Did you get defensive? Argumentative? Did you revert to worry or fear? Did you get emotional trying to defend yourself?
Can I share a time when this happened to me? I was accused of not being a Christian by someone close to me. I needed space and stepped away from this particular relationship after realizing something wasn’t quite right. But when I tried to create that space to reflect, this person didn’t like that they couldn’t contact and control me. This person sent harassing messages and then took a shot at my faith. They had enjoyed getting reactions out of me so many times, and this time I decided I wasn’t going to give them one.
At that moment, I wanted to defend myself and point out how this person didn’t even know what they were talking about- they didn’t really know God nor did they read the Bible. I was angry. But because the accusation was sent via text message, I had more time to think and therefore didn’t respond. If it was an in-person conversation, I don’t know that I would have had the same restraint.
When I think about it now, I know the person sent those text messages out of fear. They knew they were losing me. They knew they had pushed me too far, and they wanted to take a dig at me and my faith. If they couldn’t control me, they wanted to destroy me (in an emotional way). Sound like someone else we know? When we aren’t following Jesus, we are against Jesus, and it’s much easier to succumb to the devil’s tactics (Matt. 12:30). It was Satan’s way of trying to trap me into going back to old habits and believing lies. God was breaking through in that darkness- patiently guiding and showing me the truth.
We’re not alone in our experiences of being accused of things that aren’t true. Jesus was often falsely accused. On several occasions, Jesus was accused by the Pharisees of getting His power from Satan. So how did He respond in situations where he was personally attacked?
In Matthew 9:34, we read about one such instance. Jesus is accused of being empowered by the prince of demons. But we don’t see any response from Jesus. He stays silent and continues doing what He came to do. His message of forgiveness and restoration to God was more important than giving in to feeble attempts from the Pharisees to discredit and slander Him. Jesus let His actions do the talking for Him.
But then another time, we see Jesus rebuke the Pharisees in Matthew 12. Jesus had just healed a demon-possessed blind man. People were amazed at the miracle, but the Pharisees weren’t impressed because their pride had blinded them. Once again, they accused Jesus of getting his power from Satan. In Jesus’ response to them, he rebukes the Pharisees by plainly stating the truth. He says that Satan fighting Satan would not survive- he would be destroyed. He then goes on to ask them a question, “For who is powerful enough to enter the house of a strong man and plunder his goods? Only someone even stronger- someone who could tie him up and then plunder his house” (Matt. 12:29 NLT). Only someone sent by God could combat Satan because He is stronger than Satan; the Pharisees’ logic made no sense. Jesus also questions them as to whether they would accuse their own exorcists of the same thing (Matt. 12:27).
In both instances of Matthew 9 and 12, the Pharisees weren’t interested in the truth, they just wanted to trap Jesus and use Him for their gain. They were losing control, so they lashed out in anger and used false accusations to draw others away from Jesus. But Jesus exposes what’s in their hearts.
So, what can we take away from Jesus’ response or lack thereof to the Pharisees when He was accused of something that wasn’t true?
First, there’s a time to stay silent. This is where we need the Lord’s discernment. Silence doesn’t always mean we are condoning someone’s words or behavior; it can just mean we are ignoring it. There are times when people say or do things just to get at us- they want a reaction. But what’s more important? Reacting with our words or showing with actions our true character?
Like Jesus, we have to evaluate if it’s worth our time and effort to respond to such a person. Jesus tells us directly, “Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces” (Matt. 7:6). Jesus is saying we shouldn’t entrust the Holy Word of God to someone whose heart and mind isn’t open to hearing it. It’s a waste of our time, and that person will just continue to slander and tear apart what we say. In Proverbs, we also receive lots of wisdom on not responding to fools (23:9, 18:2, 12:23). Wise people turn to the Lord for guidance and truth about their value and worth and are not swayed by foolish words that try to get a reaction out of us.
Secondly, we do see Jesus openly rebuke the Pharisees in Matthew 12. He sees what’s in their hearts. We may not be able to see what’s in a person’s heart, but we can see a pattern of words and actions that point one way or another- toward Jesus or away from Him. Jesus saw the need to correct the Pharisees on this occasion because they were leading people away from the truth. I would speak up too if someone were leading my children astray with false teachings! The Pharisees were continuing to spread lies; it wasn’t just a one-time thing.
Jesus poses several questions in Matthew 12. He chooses this way to respond because it makes people think. A question allows us to reflect on our logic and answer the “why” behind what we believe. This not only gave the Pharisees the opportunity to question their logic, but it also gave anyone else who might be listening an opportunity to think and compare what the Pharisees and Jesus were stating. Those who had ears to hear would know the truth.
Like Christ, we will all encounter difficult people and situations. We constantly need to be seeking our Lord for guidance in how to respond. At the end of our days, God will judge our words and actions, and He is the One who ultimately sees what’s in our hearts (Matthew 12:34-36). It’s beyond comforting to know we are not alone in our experiences. As Christians, we should expect hardships and false accusations to come. We won’t always respond like Christ, but when we are guided by the truth of God’s Word and the Holy Spirit, we are bound to be transformed from the inside out to become more like Him. And with that, we will become resilient when the arrows are flung at us, growing in endurance in our faith.
**This is my first article of many to come looking into how Jesus responds to difficult people and situations.
Photo by Keira Burton