Dealing With Difficult People.

Have you ever had someone difficult in your life? I mean that person that constantly rubs you the wrong way? Annoys you? Irritates you?

The truth is … all of us have someone like that in our lives.  Chances are if you do not have that person in your life – you are that person in someone else’s life. But the Bible has a lot to say about dealing with difficult people.

Jesus. He had his share of difficult people. Not only did he deal with political leaders and religious leaders who were constantly out to get him … but he also had to deal with his disciples – who made some very poor decisions.

Jesus is preaching the “Sermon on the Mount” – it is the longest recorded sermon of Jesus. It starts in the beginning of Matthew 5 and concludes at the end of Matthew 7.

Most of this sermon is about handling relationships.  Jesus teaches on subjects ranging from taking care of the poor to handling persecution to managing your anger with people.  He goes on to talk about marriage and divorce.  Jesus even speaks on revenge. He discusses our responsibility to take care of the less fortunate. He also tells us that we cannot judge other people’s motives.

But right in the middle of this sermon he says, “If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much. If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that. But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:46-48).  What Jesus is saying is that no matter where you go in life or what you do there will always be people around you that annoy you.  But you are to be perfect.  In other words … deal with difficult people the right way.

And that is hard to do. I know it may be hard to believe but Mary and I have had our share of difficult people in our lives.  Here is a valuable lesson that we have learned when dealing with negative or difficult people – “Always respond in the opposite spirit.”  If they come angry … you stay happy.  If they come attacking … you remain steady.  If they are condescending … you find the good.  If someone lies about you … don’t lie back.

Jesus sees a tax collector receiving taxes. His name was Matthew. He simply says, “Follow me and be my disciple” (Matthew 9:9).  Matthew invites Jesus over to his house.  But he brought all of his friends … “many tax collectors and other disreputable sinners.”  The Pharisees see this and launch out an attack campaign, “Why does your teacher eat with such scum?” Or better translated, “detestable people.”

Here Jesus is doing a good thing. Trying to change the heart of bad people … and someone does not like it … difficult people will always see the bad in every good.  They will see the problem in every solution.

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