‘Keep Yourself Restrained Under Evil’
“A slave of the Lord does not need to fight, but needs to be gentle toward all, . . . keeping himself restrained under evil.”—2 TIMOTHY 2:24.
1. When engaged in Christian activity, why do we occasionally encounter people who speak harshly?
HOW do you react when you are confronted by those who are not favorably disposed toward you or toward what you represent? In his description of the last days, the apostle Paul foretold that people would be “blasphemers, . . . slanderers, without self-control, fierce.” (2 Timothy 3:1-5, 12) You may encounter such individuals in your ministry or in other activities.
2. What scriptures can help us to deal wisely with people who speak harshly to us?
2 Not everyone who indulges in verbal abuse lacks all interest in what is right. Extreme hardship or frustration may cause people to lash out at whoever is around them. (Ecclesiastes 7:7) Many act this way because they live and work in an environment where rough speech is common. This does not make such speech acceptable for us as Christians, but it does help us to understand why other people use it. How should we react to harsh speech? Proverbs 19:11 states: “The insight of a man certainly slows down his anger.” And Romans 12:17, 18 advises us: “Return evil for evil to no one. . . . If possible, as far as it depends upon you, be peaceable with all men.”
3. How is peaceableness involved in the message we preach?
3 If we truly are peaceable, this will be evident in the spirit that we show. It will be reflected in what we say and do, perhaps also in our facial expression and in our tone of voice. (Proverbs 17:27) When sending his apostles out to preach, Jesus counseled them: “When you are entering into the house, greet the household [“wish the house peace,” The New English Bible]; and if the house is deserving, let the peace you wish it come upon it; but if it is not deserving, let the peace from you return upon you.” (Matthew 10:12, 13) The message that we bear is good news. The Bible calls it “the good news of peace,” “the good news of the undeserved kindness of God,” and “this good news of the kingdom.” (Ephesians 6:15; Acts 20:24; Matthew 24:14) Our objective is, not to criticize the other person’s beliefs or to argue with him about his viewpoints, but to share with him good news from God’s Word.
4. What might you say when told “I am not interested” before you even have an opportunity to state the reason for your visit?
4 Without really listening, a householder may abruptly state, “I am not interested.” In many cases, it is possible to say, “I was hoping to read just this one brief text from the Bible.” He may not object to that. In other cases, it may be appropriate to say: “I was hoping to tell you about a time when there will be no injustice and all people will learn to love one another.” If that does not promptly elicit a request for an explanation, you might add: “But evidently this is not a convenient time for you.” Even if the householder’s response is not peaceable, should we conclude that he is “not deserving”? Regardless of the reaction, remember the Bible’s counsel to be “gentle toward all, . . . restrained under evil.”—2 Timothy 2:24.
Insolent but Misguided
5, 6. How did Saul deal with Jesus’ followers, and why did he act that way?
5 In the first century, a man named Saul was well-known for his disrespectful speech, even for his violent behavior. The Bible says that he was “breathing threat and murder against the disciples of the Lord.” (Acts 9:1, 2) He later acknowledged that he had been “a blasphemer and a persecutor and an insolent man.” (1 Timothy 1:13) Although some of his relatives may already have become Christians, he said of his own attitude toward Christ’s followers: “Since I was extremely mad against them, I went so far as to persecuting them even in outside cities.” (Acts 23:16; 26:11; Romans 16:7, 11) There is no evidence that the disciples tried to engage Saul in public debate while he was conducting himself in that manner.
6 Why did Saul act like that? Years later, he wrote: “I was ignorant and acted with a lack of faith.” (1 Timothy 1:13) He was a Pharisee, educated “according to the strictness of the ancestral Law.” (Acts 22:3) Though Saul’s teacher Gamaliel was evidently somewhat broad-minded, high priest Caiaphas, with whom Saul came to be associated, proved to be fanatic. Caiaphas had been a ringleader in the plot that led to the execution of Jesus Christ. (Matthew 26:3, 4, 63-66; Acts 5:34-39) After that, Caiaphas saw to it that the apostles of Jesus were flogged, and he sternly ordered them to quit preaching on the basis of Jesus’ name. Caiaphas presided over the Sanhedrin at the emotionally charged session during which Stephen was taken away to be stoned. (Acts 5:27, 28, 40; 7:1-60) Saul observed the stoning, and Caiaphas authorized him to follow through on further efforts to suppress the followers of Jesus by arresting them in Damascus. (Acts 8:1; 9:1, 2) Under this influence, Saul thought that his conduct gave evidence of zeal for God, but he actually lacked real faith. (Acts 22:3-5) As a result, Saul failed to realize that Jesus was the true Messiah. But Saul came to his senses when the resurrected Jesus miraculously spoke to him on the road to Damascus.—Acts 9:3-6.
7. What happened to Saul as a result of his encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus?
7 Shortly after this, the disciple Ananias was dispatched to witness to Saul. Would you have been eager to make that call? Ananias was apprehensive, but he spoke to Saul in a kind way. Saul’s attitude had changed as a result of his miraculous encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus. (Acts 9:10-22) He came to be known as the apostle Paul, a zealous Christian missionary.
Mild-Tempered but Courageous
8. How did Jesus reflect his Father’s attitude toward people who had done bad things?
8 Jesus was a zealous Kingdom proclaimer who was mild-tempered but courageous in dealing with people. (Matthew 11:29) He reflected the spirit of his heavenly Father, who urges the wicked to turn from their bad ways. (Isaiah 55:6, 7) In dealing with sinners, Jesus took note when there was evidence of a change for the better, and he encouraged such individuals. (Luke 7:37-50; 19:2-10) Rather than judging others on the basis of outward appearances, Jesus imitated his Father’s kindness, forbearance, and long-suffering with a view to leading them to repentance. (Romans 2:4) It is Jehovah’s will that people of all sorts should repent and be saved.—1 Timothy 2:3, 4.
9. What can we learn from the way that Isaiah 42:1-4 was fulfilled in Jesus?
9 Giving Jehovah’s view of Jesus Christ, the Gospel writer Matthew quotes these prophetic words: “Look! My servant whom I chose, my beloved, whom my soul approved! I will put my spirit upon him, and what justice is he will make clear to the nations. He will not wrangle, nor cry aloud, nor will anyone hear his voice in the broad ways. No bruised reed will he crush, and no smoldering flaxen wick will he extinguish, until he sends out justice with success. Indeed, in his name nations will hope.” (Matthew 12:17-21; Isaiah 42:1-4) Consistent with those prophetic words, Jesus did not indulge in noisy arguments. Even when under pressure, he spoke the truth in a manner that appealed to honesthearted ones.—John 7:32, 40, 45, 46.
10, 11. (a) Although Pharisees were among Jesus’ most vocal opposers, why did he witness to some of them? (b) What sort of replies did Jesus occasionally give to opposers, but what did he not do?
10 During his ministry, Jesus spoke to many Pharisees. Though some of them endeavored to trap him in his speech, Jesus did not conclude that all of them had bad motives. Simon, a Pharisee who was somewhat critical, evidently wanted to get a closer look at Jesus and invited him for a meal. Jesus accepted the invitation and witnessed to those present. (Luke 7:36-50) On another occasion, a prominent Pharisee named Nicodemus came to Jesus under cover of night. Jesus did not reproach him for waiting until it was dark. Instead, he witnessed to Nicodemus about the love shown by God in sending his Son in order to open the way of salvation to those who would exercise faith. Jesus also kindly pointed out the importance of obedience to God’s arrangement. (John 3:1-21) Nicodemus later spoke up in behalf of Jesus when a favorable report about Jesus was belittled by other Pharisees.—John 7:46-51.
11 Jesus was not blind to the hypocrisy of those who were trying to entrap him. He did not allow opposers to lead him into fruitless debates. When appropriate, however, he did give brief, powerful replies by stating a principle, using an illustration, or quoting a scripture. (Matthew 12:38-42; 15:1-9; 16:1-4) At other times, Jesus simply did not answer when it was evident that no good would be accomplished by doing so.—Mark 15:2-5; Luke 22:67-70.
12. Even when he was shouted at, how was Jesus able to help people?
12 Occasionally, Jesus was shouted at by people under the control of unclean spirits. When that happened, he exercised restraint and even used his God-given power to bring relief. (Mark 1:23-28; 5:2-8, 15) If some people become angry and shout at us when we are engaging in the ministry, we similarly need to exercise restraint, and we should endeavor to handle such a situation in a kind and tactful manner.—Colossians 4:6.
Within the Family
13. Why do people sometimes oppose a family member who begins to study the Bible with Jehovah’s Witnesses?
13 The need for Jesus’ followers to exercise restraint often becomes most evident within the family. A person whose heart is deeply touched by Bible truth longs for his family to respond in the same way. But as Jesus said, family members may show hostility. (Matthew 10:32-37; John 15:20, 21) There are various reasons for this. For instance, while Bible teachings can help us to become honest, responsible, and respectful, the Scriptures also teach that in any situation our higher responsibility is to our Creator. (Ecclesiastes 12:1, 13; Acts 5:29) A family member who feels that his influence in the family is somehow being diminished because of our loyalty to Jehovah may take offense. When dealing with such a situation, how important it is that we follow Jesus’ example of showing restraint!—1 Peter 2:21-23; 3:1, 2.
14-16. What brought about changes in some who formerly opposed their family members?
14 Many now serving Jehovah had a marriage mate or other family member who was opposed to the changes they were making when they began studying the Bible. The opposers may have heard negative comments about Jehovah’s Witnesses, and perhaps they feared that there would be an undesirable influence on the household. What caused them to change their attitude? In many cases, good example was a big factor. Because the believer steadfastly applied Bible counsel—regularly attending Christian meetings and participating in the ministry while also caring for family responsibilities and showing restraint in the face of any verbal abuse—family opposition sometimes softened.—1 Peter 2:12.
15 An opposer may also have refused to listen to any explanation from the Bible because of prejudice or pride. That was true of a man in the United States who said that he was very patriotic. One time, when his wife was at a convention, he took all his clothes and moved out. Another time, he left home with a gun and threatened to kill himself. He blamed her religion for any unreasonable conduct on his part. But she endeavored to keep applying Bible counsel. Twenty years after she became one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, he did too. In Albania a woman became angry because her daughter studied the Bible with Jehovah’s Witnesses and then got baptized. On 12 occasions the mother destroyed her daughter’s copy of the Bible. Then one day she opened a new Bible that her daughter had left on a table. By chance, it opened to Matthew 10:36, and the mother realized that what was said there applied to her. Still, concerned about the daughter’s welfare, the mother accompanied her to the boat when she was going to depart with other Witnesses for a convention in Italy. When the mother saw the love, hugs, and smiles of the group and heard their happy laughter, her feelings began to change. Soon after this, she agreed to study the Bible. Today she endeavors to help others who initially oppose.
16 In one instance, a knife-wielding husband confronted his wife, hurling bitter accusations at her as she approached the Kingdom Hall. She gently replied: “Come into the Kingdom Hall, and see for yourself.” He did, and in time he became a Christian elder.
17. If the situation sometimes gets tense in a Christian home, what Scriptural counsel can help?
17 Even if everyone in your household is a Christian, there may be times when the family situation becomes tense and words even become harsh because of human imperfection. It is noteworthy that Christians in ancient Ephesus were counseled: “Let all malicious bitterness and anger and wrath and screaming and abusive speech be taken away from you along with all badness.” (Ephesians 4:31) Evidently, the environment that surrounded Christians in Ephesus, their own imperfection and, in some cases, their former way of life influenced them. What would help them to change? They needed to “be made new in the force actuating [their] mind.” (Ephesians 4:23) As they studied God’s Word, meditated on how it should influence their lives, associated with fellow Christians, and earnestly prayed, the fruitage of God’s spirit would be more fully manifest in their lives. They would learn to “become kind to one another, tenderly compassionate, freely forgiving one another just as God also by Christ freely forgave [them].” (Ephesians 4:32) Regardless of what others may do, we need to exercise restraint, being kind, compassionate, forgiving. Indeed, we must “return evil for evil to no one.” (Romans 12:17, 18) Showing genuine love in imitation of God is always the right thing to do.—1 John 4:8.
Counsel for All Christians
18. Why was the counsel found at 2 Timothy 2:24 appropriate for an elder in ancient Ephesus, and how can it benefit all Christians?
18 Counsel to keep ourselves “restrained under evil” applies to all Christians. (2 Timothy 2:24) But it was first directed to Timothy, who needed it when he served as an elder in Ephesus. Some in the congregation there were quite vocal in making known their views and were teaching wrong doctrine. Because they did not fully discern the objective of the Mosaic Law, they failed to appreciate the importance of faith, love, and a good conscience. Pride created strife as they engaged in debates over words, while missing the point of Christ’s teachings and the importance of godly devotion. To handle this situation, Timothy was to be firm for Scriptural truth yet gentle in dealing with his brothers. Like present-day elders, he knew that the flock did not belong to him and that he was to deal with others in a way that would promote Christian love and unity.—Ephesians 4:1-3; 1 Timothy 1:3-11; 5:1, 2; 6:3-5.
19. Why is it important for all of us to “seek meekness”?
19 God urges his people to “seek meekness.” (Zephaniah 2:3) The Hebrew expression for “meekness” denotes a disposition that enables a person to endure injury patiently, without irritation and without retaliation. May we earnestly petition Jehovah for help so that we can exercise restraint and represent him properly, even under difficult circumstances.
What Did You Learn?
• When you are confronted with insolent speech, what scriptures can help you?
• Why did Saul act in an insolent manner?
• How does Jesus’ example help us to deal appropriately with all sorts of people?
• What benefits may come from exercising restraint in our speech at home?
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In spite of Saul’s reputation, Ananias treated him with kindness
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A Christian’s faithfully caring for responsibilities can soften family opposition
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Christians promote love and unity