Because we live in a sin-soaked world, we are all surrounded by difficult people. They are our neighbors, our relatives, they attend our church, drive on the roads…sinners are everywhere! The Bible gives us tools to help us live alongside the unlovable. The Lord Jesus demonstrates how to use those tools in a God-honoring way.
Before we look at the sins of others against us, the Bible teaches us to first turn the mirror on ourselves (Matthew 7:3-5). We need to honestly ask ourselves if we are the difficult person in the relationship. Perhaps we are in conflict because of our own sin. It could be that our children are provoked because of our over-discipline, overprotection, anger, ridicule, or unrealistic expectations (Colossians 3:21). A wife might be in a difficult relationship with her husband but is blind to her nagging and quarrelsome attitude (Proverbs 21:19). Perhaps a husband humiliates and ridicules his wife. We all can be hypersensitive to the words and actions of others (“Do not take to heart all the things that people say” Ecclesiastes 7:21a).
Once we have done a careful examination of our words and actions, we can take a look at the sins of the difficult people around us. The following points should be considered:
- Pray for the challenging person. Matthew 5:44
- Pray for yourself! James 5:16
- Overlook the offense, if possible. Proverbs 19:11
- If needed, go to the person seeking reconciliation. Matthew 5:23-24
- Involve others when appropriate. Matthew 18:16-20
- Seek (and follow) godly counsel. Proverbs 11:14b
- Do not spread gossip about how you have been offended. Psalm 34:13
- Recognize that you have truly been sinned against. Mark 7:20-23
- Do not sinfully react. Proverbs 21:23
- Seek the other person’s good. Romans 12:14
- Find ways to serve the troublesome person. Romans 12:20
- Have a heart ready to forgive. Matthew 6:12
- Leave room for the Lord to work in the one who opposes you.
- Above all, look to Jesus as your example. (“Consider Him who endured from sinners such hostility against Himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted” Hebrews 12:3).
Reconciliation may be limited (“If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all” Romans 12:18). We might be rejected and slandered. Others may “revile our good behavior in Christ” (I Peter 3:16). On other occasions, we need to remove ourselves from the troublesome person and leave room for the Lord to work in the situation.
God will bless as we remember that we live for Him (“I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God” Galatians 2:20). What comfort we gain knowing that our loving Heavenly Father is ruling over all, even over that family member who is so troublesome! He rewards those who remain “steadfast under trial” with the crown of life (James 1:12). We need to remind ourselves that “even if we should suffer for righteousness’ sake, we will be blessed” (I Peter 3:14).
We grow in patience once we admit that we are also sinners, who have experienced the love of God due to “the riches of His grace, which He lavished upon us” (Ephesians 1:7-8). “God shows His love to us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). The more we live in the truth of the love God has for us, the unlovely, the more we can shine that love back onto the difficult people around us.
For more information about loving difficult people, join us for the ACBC Annual Conference, Faithfully Protestant, where Caroline Newheiser will be teaching a breakout session.