"My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me."
- John 10:27
As the story goes, former British Prime Minister, Lloyd George, once made a speech before a large crowd. Attempting to embarrass him, a heckler interrupted, "Wait a minute, Mr. George. Isn't it true your grandfather used to peddle tinware around here in an oxcart hauled by a donkey?"
Lloyd George responded calmly, "I digress just a moment and thank the gentleman for calling that to my attention. It is true; my dear old grandfather used to peddle tinware around with an old cart and a donkey. As a matter of fact, after this meeting is over, if my friend will come with me, I will show him that old cart, but I never knew until this minute what became of the ass."
Lloyd George wasn't the first person to face a heckler, and he certainly wasn't the last. At one time or another, most of us become the object of another's demoralizing mockery. Judah's enemy neighbors mocked the Jews as they rebuilt the walls around Jerusalem during the time of Nehemiah, saying even a fox walking on the wall would be enough to topple it (Nehemiah 4:3). Greek philosophers derided the Apostle Paul as a "babbler" as he preached the gospel among them (Acts 17:18). Religious leaders taunted Jesus on the cross saying incredulously, "He can save others, but he can't save himself" (Matthew 27:42). We could quickly multiply examples. Very few, if any of us, are immune to the cruel words of others. If you've ever been mocked, know this: you're far from alone.
Most of us seek vindication by outwitting our hecklers, trading barbs intending to "put them in their place." That defensiveness is natural and might even feel gratifying in the moment. However, if we're honest, it might also reflect our deep insecurities.
Why do cutting words hurt so much? Why do we care what mockers say? Is it because we fear that others might believe them, that others' opinions of us might change for the worse? Is it because we so tightly tie our sense of identity and value to the views of others? Do we peg our happiness to the approval of others?
Child of God: When others speak ill of you, remember this: God doesn't. His banner over you is love (Song of Solomon 2:4). What are some of the great things God says of you? Here are just some of them:
You are his child (Galatians 3:26)
You are loved (1 Thessalonians 1:4)
You are forgiven (Ephesians 1:7)
You are set free (Romans 8:2)
You have a future and a hope (Proverbs 23:18)
You have life everlasting (John 3:16)
You have the riches of Christ's righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:21)
God is your shield and defender (Psalm 28:7)
God hears and answers your prayers (1 John 5:14)
God works all things together for his glory and your ultimate good (Romans 8:28)
God will not let evil prosper against you (Isaiah 54:17)
You are God's treasured possession (Deuteronomy 7:6)
You are royalty (1 Peter 2:9)
You are a priest of the Most High (1 Peter 2:9)
You are a member of a holy nation (1 Peter 2:9)
Jesus Christ is your elder brother (Hebrews 2:11)
God will soon crush Satan under your feet (Romans 16:20)
The storm will destroy the wicked, but you will stand firm forever (Proverbs 10:25)
God gives you wisdom as you seek it (James 1:5)
God grants you peace that surpasses understanding (Philippians 4:7)
You don't need to be anxious or filled with worry (Matthew 6:26-28, 10:31)
He will never leave you nor forsake you (Hebrews 13:5)
When the world speaks hurtful words, take time to listen to the healing words of Jesus. We all battle insecurities, but Jesus gives us every reason for confidence. Let the reassurance of his loving approval still your fears. He's for you. And, as the Apostle Paul said, if God is for you, who can be against you? Well, anyone really - but I wouldn't recommend it!
You're loved. Don't forget it.