Paul tells us to “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Philippians 2:3-4). We are called to sacrificial love. However, I do want to clarify a misunderstanding in this. Though some will have to endure persecution for the gospel, this does not mean that any time a person disrespectfully treats us that we should just stand there and say nothing. Oftentimes, when the Pharisees criticized or belittled the poor, sick, or seekers of Christ, our Lord defended these people (John 8:7-11; 8:13-18; 9; Mark 3:1-5; 8:11-13; 10:13-16). When others speak lies, judgement, cursing, disrespectful or demeaning words to us, this is a form of verbal abuse. When they try to punish us emotionally through manipulation, intimidation, longs periods of silence, or harsh tones, this is emotional abuse. When they push, throw things, threaten to harm, or strike us or our children, this is physical abuse. When they make sexual comments or engage in sensual touching, this is sexual abuse.
In these situations, we are to put up boundaries. This means to tell your offenders during a peaceful time that if they speak or act in a disrespectful way (be specific and give examples), that you will walk away from them. When they speak lies and demeaning names to you, tell them the Truth of what God’s Word says about you. If they continue to mock you, tell them you believe God’s Word over their opinions and walk away. If they threaten you, seek help from someone who can protect you. Remove yourself from this offender. This may mean giving up a job, moving away, temporarily moving in with a friend, buying a new lock for the door, or talking to someone in authority or the law enforcement. You may have to take these drastic steps in order to protect your child from a bully. Pray a lot and ask God to give you faith that He will protect you and/or your child and show you a way out of this situation.
Quite often when we do not tolerate this abuse but remove ourselves from it, the abuser will stop. If it is physical or sexual abuse, it is usually best to remove yourself for an extended period of time or permanently from the relationship. If it involves your children, definitely immediately remove your children from this person. A promise to change is not enough. Insist that they get professional help before you will consider continuing the relationship. Loving your “enemy” means to pray for them and treat them with forgiveness and Christ-like respect. But it does not mean to subject yourself to their abuse.