The Two Kinds of Reviling

Easter 4 Wednesday

1 Peter 2:23

“When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; he did not threaten when he suffered.”


In order to exhort and move us all the more by this example of the patience of Christ, St. Peter continues and explicates it further, painting it in its true colors and all its circumstances, demonstrating its preeminence before all others. Peter had said that Christ had not committed any sin and that no false or reprehensible word had been found in his mouth – what then was the reason why the Jews persecuted, crucified, and killed him? … He walked about, brought God’s grace and salvation to the Jewish people, proclaimed God’s Word, made the blind to see, healed the sick, cast out the devils, and fed great multitudes of the people when they did not have anything to eat. In summary, in his life, in words and works, there was nothing but pure truth, goodness, benefit, and help. For this he had to take as thanks and reward that they hated and condemned him out of pure hardened, malicious, devilish evilness. They could not cease to persecute him until they had brought him to the cross which he had to ascend naked and bare in the most shameful manner, hanging between two murderers, as one who is not worthy to walk the earth and live among the people. … See, this is an all-around excellent perfect example of the highest patience we all do well to emulate and we will have enough to do to follow him only a little. … Here you might say: “But did Christ not also revile in return when he, in the gospel, calls the Pharisees and scribes hypocrites, murderers, serpents, and brood of vipers – and how many woe does he pronounce over them in Matthew 23?” Answer: Indeed, we would love to follow this example so that we might confidently revile and strike in return; for it would be much easier to do and we did not need a teacher to do so. But it says, says St. Peter: “At the time when he was to suffer, after he had carried out his office, had spoken the truth, and had rebuked the lies, and had been nailed to the cross for this reason and had to conclude his life with suffering – at that time, he did not revile in return, but, like a lamb led to slaughter (says Isaiah in Isaiah 53:7), he allowed himself to be executed and did not open his mouth against his blasphemers and murderers.” This is why one must properly distinguish here: There are two types of reviling or cursing and threatening. One type is that of the office; it takes place for God’s sake. The other type is that of the person who does this outside the office for himself. It is fitting for the office Christ held on earth (and that after him everyone holds who has been called into it) to speak the truth and to rebuke what is evil. This is necessary both for God’s glory and the salvation of souls. For if everyone were to keep silent about the truth, who would come to God? And such office of rebuke is a work of divine and Christian love. … Out of such love and faithful heart, Christ, in his office, also reviled and rebuked, earning thereby nothing but anger and hatred … But now that such office had been carried out and the hour of his suffering was at hand, he patiently endured and let them do whatever evil they could in return for his love and benefit. … Look, this is how you distinguish between reviling and rebuking that happens ex officio and out of love and one that happens out of a person’s own anger and hatred. But the world is clever and skilled, once it has heard of this distinction, to confuse the two and mingle them together, presenting its own vengeance as the anger and rebuke of the office. You see this in pastors, judges, mayors, and officials. … Let each who wants to be a Christian pay heed to himself, how to answer for his actions. For God will not be deceived. He will help the innocent who suffers injustice at the right time and find the others as well.


St. Louis ed., 12:551-556.

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