Subjecting a person to insulting speech, heaping abuse upon him.
For Israelites to revile or call down evil upon their parents was an offense punishable by death. (Ex 21:17; Mt 15:4; Mr 7:10) Like verbal abuse, physical abuse of parents originated from the same evil disposition and, therefore, carried the same penalty. (Ex 21:15) Since parents were Jehovah’s representatives in relation to their children, a son who reviled his parents was, in effect, reviling God.—Compare Ex 20:12.
Due respect was also to be shown to those who were rulers in Israel. That is why the apostle Paul, although having been treated unjustly, apologized for having unknowingly addressed the high priest with words that were regarded by others as abusive.—Ex 22:28; Ac 23:1-5.
Deliberate reviling had no place among first-century Christians. (1Co 6:9, 10; 1Pe 3:8, 9) One guilty of habitually and intentionally vilifying others was to be expelled from the congregation.—1Co 5:11-13.
Being seemingly insignificant and unpopular in the world on account of their activity and message, followers of Jesus Christ were often the objects of reviling. (Compare Joh 9:28, 29; 17:14; 1Co 1:18; 4:11-13.) But they were not to retaliate by reviling opposers. In this respect Christ Jesus had set the example for them. (1Pe 2:21, 23) Accused of being a man given to wine, a glutton, an agent of the Devil, a Sabbath breaker, and a blasphemer of God, Christ Jesus did not retaliate by reviling his accusers. (Mt 11:19; 26:65; Lu 11:15; Joh 9:16) When false charges were leveled against him in the presence of Pilate, Jesus remained silent. (Mt 27:12-14) A Christian’s imitating the example of Jesus could have a good effect on some opposers, causing them to recognize that their abusive words were without any basis. This realization could even lead them to become glorifiers of God.—Compare Ro 12:17-21; 1Pe 2:12.
Christians had to exercise care that they conducted themselves in a fine manner so as not to give needless occasion for opposers to revile. This is a point the apostle Paul made in connection with younger widows in the congregation. Since they were prone to gossip and meddle in other people’s affairs, he encouraged them to marry and become occupied with raising children and managing a household. Being busy wives, they would not be giving inducement for any opposer to revile Christians as gossipers and meddlers in other people’s affairs.—1Ti 5:13, 14.
Some who did not accompany Jesus Christ when he was on earth showed by their actions that they were ‘on his side’ and would not quickly be joining opposers in reviling him. This was the situation with a certain man who expelled demons on the basis of Jesus’ name, evidently having been empowered by God to do so. John and others concluded that this man should be stopped, as he was not accompanying them. But Jesus said: “Do not try to prevent him, for there is no one that will do a powerful work on the basis of my name that will quickly be able to revile [literally, speak badly of] me.” (Mr 9:38-40) At the time Jesus made this statement the Jewish congregation still had divine recognition and the establishment of the Christian congregation was yet future. (Compare Mt 16:18; 18:15-17.) Also, Jesus did not require that all believers follow him bodily. (Mr 5:18-20) Therefore, the performance of powerful works by a Jew, one of God’s covenant people, on the basis of Jesus’ name would have been a proof that this man had divine favor. However, as soon as the Christian congregation was established, individuals desiring God’s favor had to be associated with it as faithful followers of Jesus Christ. (Compare Ac 2:40, 41.) The mere performance of powerful works on the basis of Jesus’ name would no longer be an evidence of a person’s being on the side of Jesus Christ, nor would it guarantee that such a one would not be guilty of reviling God’s Son.—Mt 7:21-23; see ABUSIVE SPEECH; BLASPHEMY.