Monday, July 16, 2018

How to Love and Cope With Difficult People

“If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone” (Romans 12:19 NIV)

“Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law” (Romans 13:8 NKJV).

Why Are Some People Difficult?

This week's message is equally important to us as we are encouraged to maintain a culture of humility and become truly God-fearing Christians. In this work, we aim to draw your attention our day to day relationship with others within the Christian family. Like with all our other articles, this message is not an exhaustive study, but intended to be an eye opener to encourage you to seek the Lord further if you are struggling to maintain a healthy relationship with others. Having personally experienced the Lord's sharp and soul-penetrating rebukes for wrong doing, I am indebted to share with you and to draw your attention to things we often overlook which displease the Lord. This message concerns some matters of the heart and the deceitfulness of the human heart (Jeremiah 17:9). I would also like to point out that it greatly displeases the Lord when we use our minds as an instrument of harboring evil thoughts towards others (Matthew 7:2). The Lord said if we are continuously thinking bad and wrong things about others is it a condemnable sin, because bad thoughts translate into hateful feelings and evil intentions (Luke 6:45). Now this has a bearing on our eternal destiny: NO LOVE, NO GOD, and NO HEAVEN! (1 John 4:20-21; 1 Corinthians 13:1-3). It is a known fact that we are all different physically and emotionally. Therefore, what defines human relationships is how we relate to one another in a social context. Once again, we do not intend going into a detailed discussion on this subject; our aim in this work is simply to give a Scriptural appreciation on loving and helping difficult people.

From all backgrounds and within various families, people have a hard time dealing with the disposition of others simply because of the unique or different way they perceive and understand things. This is because various factors play a role in shaping the human personality, for example, our upbringing within a family and the values we were taught by close relatives and friends, our education, cultural background, and our relationship with God. As we freely make choices (Deuteronomy 30:15-20) and form good or bad habits, we may also be influenced by other forces  that may shape our total personality and character (John 12:6; 13:27). As a result of the various influences vying for our attention, we use our personality traits with or without restraint to engage with others socially. Based on the above, the tone and level of our interactions is determined.

Adjusting our Standards to Love and Accommodate Others

We may find it both difficult and almost impossible to effectively communicate and engage with other people who are culturally diverse from us. The secret to winning people’s trust and confidence is to find common ground with them, without compromising our Christian faith. For example, the apostle Paul crossed the cultural divide and wisely practiced with success cultural tolerance in order to effectively communicate his message (1 Corinthians 9:19-23). Generally, people from all walks of life identify with things and mannerism that reflect some of the values they have. Again, when the apostle Paul visited Athens, he made a careful study of the practices of the local people (Acts 17:22-24) so that he may challenge and adapt his message to win them for the Lord (Acts 17:23-34). Contrary to Paul's behavior, the apostle Peter was at first reluctant to embrace other cultures, until the Lord Himself rebuked him for refusing to adapt culturally in order to present the holy gospel of salvation (Acts 10:14-15). Despite the opposition from his company, Peter finally obeyed the Lord (Acts 11:17-18). The Apostle Paul also rebuked Peter for hypocrisy with regards to relating to the Gentiles (Galatians 2:11-21).

How often do you obey your cultural inclinations to restrict the Gospel? From my experience, I know some people are afraid to cross the cultural divide because they are afraid of change and the trouble that sometimes results from adaptation. Most of us are too comfortable in our culture and are unwilling to venture outside. When we are unwilling to adapt culturally, we often deny ourselves the experience and honor of giving and showing appreciative love to others.

Surviving the Moods and Temperament of Difficult People

Being in this life is not a guarantee that we will be ever trouble-free as we’ve all come to know. Given the various factors we alluded to above, our attitudes get affected and we voluntarily respond defensively and often with retributive vitriolicism or malice. Brethren, such actions render us guilty before the Lord and we are denied peace with others. Remember the Lord commands us to be at peace with men and to love another (Romans 12:19; 13:8). Being guilty of sin is a bondage which hinders our relationship with the Lord and denies us His peace (1 John 1:9). Brethren, have you ever offended someone and after some time you were bothered by a guilty conscience, and you realized your guilt and ask the Lord for forgiveness? Instead of owning up to your shame, are you sometimes too lofty to submit yourself and apologize to your brother or sister? Such pride and arrogance are the very things that turn us into difficult people to live with, causing shame that destroys our love for others and the truth.

In the Bible, we learn that King Saul became a very difficult and unreasonable man after being influenced by an evil spirit (1 Samuel 20:30-32). He despised the law of God that commands us to love our neighbor (Leviticus 19:18). Even though he was being vilified and pursued, King David responded to King Saul’s anger in kindness and not in a retaliatory way and out of malice (1 Samuel 24:8-20). Also, when being cursed by Shimei, King David kept his composure and temperament and endured humiliating insults (2 Samuel 16:5-13). In many of his trials, including the wicked schemes of his son Absalom, King David did not demand an apology to forgive; he allowed God to judge his offenders so that he might receive grace (2 Samuel 16:12). Whether the other person asks for forgiveness or not, we should always be ready and willing to forgive them for our soul's sake (Matthew 6:14; Colossians 3:13; Ephesians 4:32).

Under the new covenant (Hebrews 12:24) and in the New Testament, the Lord commands to "love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven" (Matthew 5:38-48 NKJV). In practice, when our Lord Jesus Christ was being falsely accused, insulted, humiliated and mocked, He did not offer threats or hateful feelings, but He forgave unconditionally while allowing God to judge (1 Peter 2:22-23). Responding in submission to such humiliation and insults defies human understanding. One thing was clear: love was complete in Christ and it could not be shaken!

Appreciating Experience to Endure Difficult People

A few years ago, a good friend of mine related to me how he failed the test of enduring insults by the proverbial mark. He told me that he dished out the same kind of insult to his opponent and this caused his fall in the Lord. He related to me after this experience how he had to learn humility, tolerance, and submission to insults. If we respond out of our feelings and emotions to hurtful words, we will end up exposing our own weaknesses, and for that there is only one reward – our shame! The Lord has also rebuked many of us in this ministry and commanded us to pursue peace by being submissive to those who intend hurting us. A few years, ago a sister who just could not get over the insults of her ex-boyfriend vengefully retaliated at him, thereby making herself guilty before the Lord while exposing her vulnerabilities and weaknesses. The Lord encouraged her in a rebuke to simply forgive her offender and allow the Lord to deal with him. She obeyed at first, but later allowed her weaknesses to take over, and this led her into sin and eventually away from the Lord. Brethren, we must guard against hateful feelings!

The Bible says: “A soft answer turns away wrath, But a harsh word stirs up anger. The tongue of the wise uses knowledge rightly, But the mouth of fools pours forth foolishness” (Proverbs 15:1-2 NKJV). I would encourage you, dear brethren, if you find yourselves in the crossfire of insults, remember that silence is golden (Matthew 27:14). We must remember the offending party will always portray his or her victim(s) as very lousy and often with malicious intent fabricated with lies and exaggerations (Mark 15:3). Mark this: a person with an insulting and offending spirit speaks from a hateful heart, his intent is malice and inflicting emotional pain.

In conclusion, let us love, and submit to insults to avoid quarrels, hateful feelings to gain peace! To receive Jesus as your Lord and Savior, please start by praying this Prayer of Sincere Repentance. For any questions or comments on this article or our ministry, please contact us.

Blessed love in Christ’s service,

Brother Glenn.