For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. —1 Peter 2:21–23 (ESV)
When you read the Gospel accounts of Christ’s crucifixion, Jesus’ relative silence is striking. He says very little while being tried, mocked, beaten, and crucified. The soldiers dressed him like a king and mocked him, beating him and putting a ‘crown’ on him—a crown of thorns!
In our passage today, Peter draws on Jesus’ example to instruct his readers not to retaliate when they are reviled. The letter of 1 Peter gives every indication that the audience was facing persecution. Even so, Peter’s instruction is not to retaliate, not to revile when being reviled, to follow in the footsteps of Jesus. He says, “when [Jesus] suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.” Here Peter indicates how we avoid retaliation: by entrusting ourselves to God who judges justly. In other words, we don’t play judge when we are wronged and exact punishment on our offenders. Rather, we entrust our justice to God and do our best to maintain a strong Christian testimony.
We feel the urge to retaliate from an early age. If you have children or students, this is an important lesson for them when they have conflict. Unfortunately, we don’t outgrow the urge. Perhaps our sense of justice, which is good, contributes to it. But heed Peter’s instruction in these moments and follow in the steps of Jesus. Do not retaliate. Maintain your control. Turn the other cheek. And, as verse 25 reminds, seek God who is ‘the Shepherd and Overseer of your soul’.