The other night while studying a seemingly unrelated subject the word “blaspheme” came up. I thought it strange this word would be associated with the subject I was studying especially in the context it was used. Usually when the word is used it referring to what is being spoken, but in this case it seemed to refer to ones actions, and even then indirectly ones attitudes. I was a bit perplexed and began to do some more research on the word “blaspheme”, and what I found was both surprising and unexpected.
Over the years I have heard many different interpretations on what “blaspheme” means, especially since Jesus indicated in Matthew 12:31-32 that blaspheming of the Holy Spirit would not be forgiven. This is what many have identified as “the unpardonable sin”. As I looked deeper into what it means to blaspheme I was surprised by what I found. I saw many different definitions of the word, both from spiritual and non-spiritual sources, and the underlying idea is any speech, action or attitude that is expressed with a mocking or deep, vehement contempt or disdain for God, or to claim for oneself the attributes and rights of God. Wow. I don’t know about you but that sure makes me stop and take notice.
In my search of the word blaspheme and the actual Greek words translated as blaspheme, one word kept coming up, “revile”. I don’t know about you, but I’ve heard this word used at times and had a general idea of what it meant, but seeing it in my research propelled me to delve deeper and find out what it actually means. Again, I was surprised by what I discovered.
When I think of the word “revile” my thoughts immediately go to I Peter 2:21-24. In this passage we read that Christ suffered for us, leaving us an example we are to follow. When we continue down to verse 23 we read that when Jesus was reviled He did not revile in return, so what does it mean to be reviled and to revile? Do we have an accurate understanding of what these words mean, and would others say that we are following Jesus’ example in this area?
One of the best definitions I found for the word “revile” came from the Cambridge Dictionary Online. The definition they give is, “To criticize someone strongly, or say unpleasant things to or about someone”. It isn’t hard when looking at this definition to see how it flies in the face of the speech, attitude and behavior we are told to have as followers of Christ. Whether we look at Philippians 4:8, or the fruit of the Spirit outlined in Galatians 2:22-26, or even at the “Love chapter”, I Corinthians 13, it is evident that there is no room for a follower of Christ to revile anyone. So, how does this play out for the follower of Christ?
Based on the above definition we can see that Jesus had been reviled often, usually by the religious leaders. Jesus was possibly the most reviled during His trial, beatings and subsequent crucifixion, yet He didn’t revile in return. Oh, what a temptation there is to respond negatively when others revile us. When people strongly criticize us, or when they say unpleasant things to us or about us to others, it is very hard to not respond in like fashion. We tend to respond in like fashion by being just as critical or unpleasant with our words and behavior as they are, and in doing so we tarnish our witness as followers of Christ. After all, isn’t that our right? Not if we are followers of Jesus, following the example He laid out for us to follow.
Jesus was confident in who He is, what He was doing, and for which purpose He had been sent to earth for. It didn’t matter what others said about Him, or even what they thought about Him, because He committed Himself to Him who judges righteously. Jesus was willing to endure whatever came His way and to trust that the Father had His ‘backside’ at all times, and this attitude and mindset was evident in His refusal to revile those who reviled Him. In a nutshell, are you confident that you are Gods, and that He is watching out for you with your best interests at heart? Are you willing to commit yourself to Him fully with your life, and to withhold any form of retaliation whether in heart, mind, speech or action when others speak or act negatively towards you or about you to others? James tells us in James 3:1-12 that the tongue is untamable, and Jesus tells us in Matthew 12:34 that out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks, so it is vital for us to make sure what we fill our heart with is of God and glorifies Him. Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 10:5 to take every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ. Also, we need to focus our thinking in line with what Philippians 4:8 tells us and to pursue the fruit of the Spirit for our lives. If we will do that then our responses to those who “revile” us will be in accordance to the example Jesus left for us to follow.
I challenge you to stop and take a moment to re-evaluate your conversations and comments in recent weeks and see if what’s been said would fit the definition of “revile”. If it has, this is the time to repent of such and to honestly begin making the necessary changes to remove this behavior from your speech and lifestyle. This should not be something that others can say you’re guilty of as a child of God, a follower of Christ, or as an Ambassador of Christ.