“Again I say, don’t get involved in foolish, ignorant arguments that only start fights. A servant of the Lord must not quarrel but must be kind to everyone, be able to teach, and be patient with difficult people. Gently instruct those who oppose the truth. Perhaps God will change those people’s hearts, and they will learn the truth. Then they will come to their senses and escape from the devil’s trap. For they have been held captive by him to do whatever he wants.” – 2 Timothy 2:23-26
Life is full of difficult people. People who anger us, or rub us the wrong way, or are insensitive, or ill-mannered or loud, or the one person who drives you completely crazy. Maybe they say sly insults, tell bad jokes, invade our personal space, or are just annoying. They can be family, friends, co-workers, neighbors, or even people in your small group. The Bible addresses this in Ephesians 4:32: ”Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you”
Paul was giving us his advice to stay away from bitterness before it gets a hold of our personality. The Bible has all sorts of practical advice about how to interact with people. Sometimes we may feel as though the Bible is distant and unrelated to today’s culture, but upon closer inspection, we can see that human nature hasn’t really changed. The Bible remains and is still relevant to our lives.
As Christians, do we need to change or cope with difficult people? Christ calls us to love selflessly and ceaselessly. Does that include difficult people? Are we supposed to make nice, and force a smile, while inside we want to be thousands of miles away with anybody but this person? How can we love somebody who is making it as difficult as they can to love them? How can we show genuine love when there is anger and disdain percolating just below the surface?
The answer is we can’t. At least not on our own. We occasionally have trouble loving even those who are dearest to us. So you can imagine how we could fall short when it comes to loving difficult people. The only true source of compassion, strength, and love is God. If we rely completely on God’s love and forgiveness for us, we can then draw from his infinite grace to love the difficult people in our lives. If you know you’re about to enter into an interaction with a difficult person, appeal to the Holy Spirit for strength, compassion, and patience. Through Him, you have the power to represent Christ—even in the most trying of circumstances. Remember that your kindness and empathy could portray the gospel to someone who needs it.
It is hard, but try not to take everything personally. Let things go. Pray for discernment about whether to confront an issue or let it go. It’s difficult to know when we should call out an offense or drop it. We don’t want to seem upset or ruffled all the time, but we also don’t want to bottle up all our frustrations until they erupt.
- How do you define love when it comes to difficult people?
- How can we let things go rather than dwell on them?