Thursday, October 25, 2007

Trash Talking

I was talking to a friend lately about a book she had read about verbal abuse. She recommended it highly, especially for people in the ministry who might deal with people about verbal abuse. She commented off hand that the Bible doesn't deal with things like verbal abuse. REALLY? I challenged her on that!

Some biblical words for "verbal abuse" include insult, derision, scoffing, scorning, and slander. What about the command that forbids "bear[ing] false witness against your neighbor"? Anyone who has been on the receiving end of that could verify that he/she felt brutalized emotionally! Verbal abuse could also be a subset of larger concepts such as affliction, suffering, persecution, opposition, malice, anger, wrath.

In contrast, there are the faithful wounds of a friend and the rebuke of the righteous. Some things hurt because they are evil, other things hurt even though they are good. Pain is not a reliable means of evaluating the goodness of words or the motive of the speaker.

Do you remember what Joseph said to his brothers when they were afraid that he would retaliate against them for their malice toward him? "You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good." So even when we are verbally abused, God can use it for our benefit. Could He even use it for the good of the person who is verbally abusive? The good news for all of us is that the death of Jesus on the cross frees us all from the sin to which we are enslaved. And we have all been verbally abusive--we are just extremely adept at justifying ourselves.

God have mercy on us all!

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