More on the Command to Love One Another (revised)
Loving Difficult People
Ezekiel 3:16-21 (NIV)
16 At the end of seven days the word of the LORD came to me:
17 "Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel; so hear the word I speak and give them warning from me.
18 When I say to a wicked man, 'You will surely die,' and you do not warn him or speak out to dissuade him from his evil ways in order to save his life, that wicked man will die for his sin, and I will hold you accountable for his blood.
19 But if you do warn the wicked man and he does not turn from his wickedness or from his evil ways, he will die for his sin; but you will have saved yourself.
20 "Again, when a righteous man turns from his righteousness and does evil, and I put a stumbling block before him, he will die. Since you did not warn him, he will die for his sin. The righteous things he did will not be remembered, and I will hold you accountable for his blood.
21 But if you do warn the righteous man not to sin and he does not sin, he will surely live because he took warning, and you will have saved yourself."
There seems to be strong reason for going the extra mile when it comes to loving others. As men and women of God we find ourselves in the same position as the prophet Ezekiel; given responsibility for those in our midst. After all we are charged through the great commission with bringing the "Word of God"... the "Good News." In light of this we can’t ignore the task of dealing with difficult people. It becomes necessary to find ways to overcome our likes and dislikes.
When we love others without judgment, it brings our own best qualities to the forefront. If we love others, and seek to see the good – even in difficult people, we will benefit tremendously and gain peace of mind. It is one of the great paradoxes – by loving unselfishly and unconditionally we are the ones to benefit.
Some Practical Advice And Methods for Approaching Difficult Persons
1 . Love Does Not Mean Accepting Bad Behavior
Showing support and offering direction toward the correction of destructive behavior is not an endorsement of that behavior. The love is expressed in the concern for the need of the individual and not necessarily the stated demand or request. You wouldn't give in to a child throwing a temper tantrum. Instead you provide instruction and discipline as necessary; again giving what's needed. Remember to love the sinner while hating the sin.
Galatians 6:1 (NIV)
Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted.
2. Empathy - Putting Yourself In Their Shoes
One of the pitfalls of our sinful nature is in holding the notion that we are sometimes above others. The systems of this world have conditioned our understanding to view the circumstances of a person as the person themselves. People become losers or winners, instead of our admitting that they are in a winning or loosing position. When you think about it we are all sinners from birth; no better and no worse. With a little empathy and compassion we might remember that we could very easily be in their shoes. Loving becomes less difficult when you understand that if not for the grace of God we're all receiving the same payment for our sin. Everyone needs help with their problems... not condemnation.
Galatians 6:2 (NIV)
Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.
3. Don’t Expect To Change Them - You Can’t Do That
Think of all the relationships that have resulted in hatred because they were entered into under the idea that one could change the others point of view or behavior. Nobody can change anybody else. At best we can barely change ourselves and then only with the help and through the power of the Holy Spirit. Free will is a God given right. Who is so misguided to think that it is within their power to control the will of another.
Galatians 6:3 (NIV)
If anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself.
No matter what strategy or technique we put into play we must remember that we are accountable in the sight of God. I wouldn’t recommend for anyone to take a light view of that position or the seriousness of it. It didn’t work with Cain and it won’t work with us. (Genesis 4:9)
"We Are Our Brothers Keeper"
Look again at the passages found in Matt. 5:21-22; they should make it clear that this instruction is still in effect. The lesson was taught by Jesus Himself.
Matthew 5:21-22 (NIV)
21 "You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, 'Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.'
22 But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, 'Raca,' is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, 'You fool!' will be in danger of the fire of hell.
Footnote: Raca - An Aramaic term of contempt
Contempt is an action that withholds love and it is itself harmful. Holding contempt in our minds for others does harm even when it’s just avoiding a chance to help them because their difficult. It is the same as doing physical harm to them in the sight of God. Let us do all in our power to honor Our Heavenly Father by "Loving One Another"... even those who are difficult among us. I close with this reminder of scripture from Paul's letter, also from Galatians...
Galatians 6:10 (NIV)
Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.