I had sat down with this married couple trying to help them to broker peace. In the course of presenting his case, the man complained of a demeaning way the wife had treated him. She had actually hit him on the face when he sought to touch her. To my surprise she didn’t deny it. She told him, “haven’t you also hit me in the past? It serves you right. You’ve collected what you gave me back be that.”
This seems to be the natural response inculcated in us from childhood. If someone hits you, you hit him back. When they insult you, of course you have to say your own. Some parents will even supervise how their little children retaliate a blow or other transgressions. When the child is done retaliating, they commend them for being a true representative of the family.
But as we progressed with our study of the life Jesus lived which we are expected to exemplify in marriage, the next statement we saw was this: “when he was reviled (insulted), he did not revile in return…” 1 Peter 2:23a.
Retaliation of whatever kind was inconsistent with the pattern of life Jesus showed to us. He will never retaliate. If they hit him, he will not hit back; when they insulted him, he didn’t hurl back insults; whatever wrong they did to him, he never repayed with wrongs. He was good perpetually regardless of what anyone chose to be towards him.
There are just too many self-vengeance in marriage. No one wants to appear as a fool. The thinking is, “if I don’t do my own, he won’t know how painful it is and won’t have the motivation to stop the misbehavior.” Unfortunately the approach of retaliation doesn’t really serve deterrence (because no one likes to be bullied into obedience), it only takes a marriage into a war zone where couples deliberately hurt themselves in order to equalise scores. The implication of this is that a single wrong that could have been quelled by non-retaliation attains an endless lifespan as everyone seeks to ensure they have the last bite of the pound of flesh.
You hit me, then I hit you back, then because you don’t want my blow to carry the day, you release another one; I also don’t want yours to be the last blow, I give you another one, then you too, then I too, then you, then I. By now, it’s a full blown war difficult to halt.
The way of Jesus is however wiser. It pushes the devil out of your matrimony before he gets himself a seat. If a wife says to her husband, “Foolish man, you’re good for nothing;” and the man returns that insult with silence; there won’t be a fight that day. And that will permit no hiding place for the conscience of that woman.
Except you married a pure devil, she won’t be able to rest after making that statement. But if you insult back, there’s no more the opportunity for the Holy Spirit to convict her heart about what she had said. The two of you will then be at the same level – transgressors. None is better than the other, and none can sanctify the other. What a hopeless situation.
As we proceeded into marriage, this was another law we instituted in furtherance of our quest to keep our Likewise to be like Jesus and this has been a guiding principle in the last one year. I made up my mind that even if she insults me, I will not insult in return. I’ll either respond with silence or at the most with a protest that I feel insulted. But to retaliate and insult back? Not once in the last one year. And this will be the law I’ll abide by until I see Jesus. Forget about praying for me grace, I already have it, just like you!
Will my wife deliberately set out to insult me? Not likely. But can I tell you, in the midst of a heated argument, insults fly all over the place unplanned between couples. “I’m shocked at the way you reason.” “I don’t know if you do listen to yourself and see how reasonable your speeches are.” “The challenge is that you studied a science course in school, why I’m not always surprised at your general inability to present logical arguments that follow the rules of deductive reasoning.” Aren’t all these insult enough?
If you’ll keep your likewise friends, there must be non retaliation. By keeping quiet, you’ll really feel as though you’ve been reduced to a piece of paper. Something in you will be urging you to respond so that he/she will know they don’t have monopoly of violence. Don’t yield to that voice. It’s the human nature speaking. Allow yourself to be abased. He that abases himself shall be exalted.
A husband once asked me, “but where is the place of correction? Where does that come in in all these?” You can only have a moral justification to correct your wife (or vice versa) if by your gracious response to a grave insult, she sees how your christian life is higher than hers. That means, that very point when she is insulteing you is not usually the best time to try to correct her. It will only lead to arguments. Demonstrate Christ first, then later on when the atmosphere is calm, she’ll respect you enough to receive your correction with humility.
Can I ask those of you reading this; are you like Jesus when it comes to insults and offenses in your relationship with your partner and others? Do you always pride yourself in the ability to talk back and return two with four toward your spouse and others you share relationship with? What will be your response to this message? For Jesus, when He was reviled, He reviled not again!
Peniela E. Akintujoye.
©️Peniela Eniayo, Akintujoye| firstname.lastname@example.org