Insults, criticism, and rebukes help me to grow spiritually as God uses them to prune and refine me. I don’t have to be afraid of them – even if they are a bit painful at times.
First, let’s define the difference between an insult and a rebuke. Both can be challenging – but the key is the motives of the person speaking to us.
- An insult is a hateful comment intended to hurt us just for the sake of causing pain.
- A criticism is a negative comment that can be helpful feedback sometimes – depending on the source.
- A rebuke is a constructive criticism given by someone who loves us who perceives sin in our lives and wants us to grow in spiritual maturity.
Our flesh has a very predictable way of wanting to rise up and respond to insults, criticism, and even loving rebukes:
- We want to defend ourselves.
- We want to feel highly offended.
- We want to fight back and retaliate.
- We want to insult the person who insulted us.
- We want to resent and hate the person who said something hateful to us – or at least withhold love from them.
To respond in a godly way to a rebuke, Scripture says:
- Do not rebuke mockers or they will hate you; rebuke the wise and they will love you. Proverbs 9:8
- Like an earring of gold or an ornament of fine gold is the rebuke of a wise judge to a listening ear. Proverbs 25:12
- rebuke the discerning, and they will gain knowledge. Proverbs 19:25b
We can thank someone we love and trust for rebuking us, then take their words to God in prayer and seek His wisdom about whether their words are true or not. If the rebuke has merit in light of God’s Word, we can repent to God and to the people we have hurt. If the rebuke is not Scriptural, we may not need to do anything with it, but rather just quietly discard it.
To respond in a godly way to an insult, Scripture says:
- Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing. 1 Peter 3:9
- Fools show their annoyance at once, but the prudent overlook an insult. Proverbs 12:6
- “Blessed are you when men hate you, and ostracize you, and insult you, and scorn your name as evil, for the sake of the Son of Man. “Be glad in that day and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven. For in the same way their fathers used to treat the prophets.” Luke 6:22-23
- Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. Luke 6:27b-28
- Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Romans 12:14
- Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Romans 12:17
- Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. Luke 6:19-21
It helps me to realize that someone who insults me is most likely dealing with spiritual issues in their own heart – what comes out of their mouth is about their character, primarily. Jesus said:
A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of. Luke 6:45
I can recognize that for someone to speak hatefully to me, there is an issue between them and God and they are walking in the power of the flesh rather than in the power of the Spirit – at least at that moment. I can choose to pray for that person, to respond in the power of God’s love, and not absorb the hatred. I can see that this person may be speaking out of fear or out of hurt or pain. I can see their need for Christ. I can ask God to help me bless them if possible.
I do have to admit, if I am constantly getting negative feedback (rebukes and insults) from many sources in my life on a daily basis – I can be tempted to begin to doubt myself. It is more important than ever to stay in God’s Word and to hear His voice clearly. Ultimately, His voice is the only one that matters.
If someone continuously insults or criticizes you, there are times when a loving, truthful confrontation may be necessary on your end. Please check out this post about confronting someone who has sinned against us.
How has God empowered you to respond in a beautiful way to an insult, criticism, or a rebuke?
Please, please check out the book Absolute Surrender by Andrew Murray. Here is a website where you can get a free download or you can listen to the book for free. It will help you learn to fully yield yourself to God and to have more and more of His Spirit’s power filling your life and enabling you to walk in obedience and holiness for Christ.