We all know someone that is difficult to deal with.
It may be a family member, boss, or neighbor that can’t be easily shut out from our lives. So what do we do, as Christians, when dealing with difficult people?
Do we offer them the other cheek in hope that they won’t slap it? Do we confront them with preaching in order to shed light on their offensive behavior?
We should look at Jesus’ dealings with difficult people. And let’s be honest, Jesus offended plenty of people Himself that eventually led to His crucifixion.
Operating With God
But we observe that Jesus, despite His gruesome ending, never lost His cool; He never retaliated with witty responses or spiteful rebuttals. He simply allowed God to impart wisdom through Him.
A great book called A Divine Conspiracy: Rediscovering Our Hidden Life in God by Dallas Willard best conveys Christ’s response, as well as how Christians should respond:
We never go “one on one”; all relationships are mediated through him [Christ]. I never simply think of what I am going to do with you, to you, or for you. I think of what we, Jesus and I, are going to do with you, to you, and for you. (Willard, 1997)
Jesus always operated with God the Father. He never sought justice on His own or attempted to preach without God’s promptings and direction.
Following Christ’s Example
But the Pharisees and Scribes that Jesus often offended sought retribution on their own. They wanted to disprove, hurt, punish, and silence Christ and they did so without seeking God’s counsel.
And this should have offended Christ! For those of such spiritual influence were supposed to be representatives for God.
Beyond this, Christ had plenty of opportunities to become offended from others: Judas betrayed Him, Peter denied Him, and the Romans shamed Him before and during His death.
So whether you have offended someone or have had the opportunity to harbor offense, we must first realize that we should never respond without God’s counsel. From that understanding, we can simply apply 4 Christlike ways to deal with difficult people.
Christ knew that Peter would deny Him three times. But Christ never cut Peter out of His group because of that knowledge and He never reprimanded him.
Jesus didn’t allowed His own sadness over being denied by someone so close to Him to turn into offense. Instead, He prayed that Peter would return to his faith again and to help others.
But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.” (Luke 22:32)
We need to start off all difficult situations with good, heartfelt prayer. Set aside time to ask for God’s help, so that we aren’t tempted to harbor offense and seek retribution.
Christ never avoided difficult people. He allowed Himself to be led by God and to speak on His behalf.
And He didn’t attempt to retaliate with silence, manipulate through pity, or cause strife in any way. He didn’t seek to escalate the situation, but simply went where God needed Him to be a representative.
Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. (2 Corinthians 5:20)
Some of us still need to learn that seeking vengeance isn’t Christ’s path for us. That avoidance and condemnation only circle us back to the same path that we began on, never allowing us to mature and grow as Christ’s followers.
God doesn’t administer miracles from unbelief. We might think that a difficult person will never change, as they have been that way for so long.
But Christ knew that God is capable of changing with only belief in His power. So allowing ourselves to remain hopeful in God’s power is essential to God providing change in that person’s life.
And they took offense at Him [refusing to believe in Him]. But Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown and in his own household.” And He did not do many miracles there [in Nazareth] because of their unbelief. (Matthew 13:57-58)
Believe that God doesn’t give up on someone just because they’ve been that way all their life. He has all the time in the world to change us, but we must first believe that He can.
Jesus did all these things because He loves us. He cares for those who betray Him and those that have caused Him to suffer greatly.
If He can provide such an example of unrestrained love, then who are we to deny our love to someone that offends our egos? Who are we to deny someone that gets offended by our actions and retaliates?
Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. (Romans 13:8)
By loving someone through the difficulties, we can understand it is a more powerful and productive tool for change than causing pain. Because vengeance causes pain, and pain pushes people further away from healing.
Dealing With Difficult People
Dealing with difficult people may seem helpless and hopeless. But Christ shows us that we should become even more proactive, displaying even more faith and trust in God.
So I hope that you will use Christ’s powerful example to pray, represent, believe, and love. Because every person is worth the effort to Christ, and we should feel the same no matter how difficult that person is!
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Post Question: Do you believe that God can change the difficult people in your life? Comment below!
Willard, D. (1997). The divine conspiracy: rediscovering our hidden life in God. New York, NY: Harper Collins.