How to Deal with Difficult People
Spurgeon ministered in London in the 1800s. One time he learned that a lady was planning to give him a tongue lashing. He said to himself, two can play that game! He was ready for her when she came to him. She lit into him like Jesse into a second helping at dinner! He replied, "Thank you, ma'am, yes it is a beautiful day." She raised her pitch and her volume and proceeded to repeat herself more forcefully...it made her first attempt look like a compliment. He said, "Yes my dear lady, perhaps it will rain, and perhaps it will not." As she walked away she was heard talking to herself saying, "He's stone deaf!"
It takes two to argue. This passage tells us how to deal w/ the difficult.
There are 3 primary relationships in life, and all 3 are dealt w/ here:
1. With God
v. 1 Total dedication and complete surrender are key.
2. With believers
vv. 4-5 We work in tandem with teamwork.
3. With unbelievers
vv. 14 and following...deal w/ our relationship w/ unbelievers in general and difficult folks in particular...so we can learn to be a positive witness to them so they can be saved.
Truly mature Christians practice these characteristics. In order to know for sure what is inside a rag, you squeeze it, and its contents come out. [water, milk, poison] You could stare at each rag and not know what is inside.
Most Christians look about the same, but if you really want to know what is in them...just squeeze! Apply pressure...push some buttons...and you'll find out what's inside. Like a volcano, we explode in fiery rage. Like a popped balloon, we go off with a bang...and vent our pressured contents, or storm out of the room, or worse.
These principles separate the men from the boys, the mature from the immature, those who walk in the Spirit from those in the flesh. [natural/supernatural]
This teaching is opposite of human nature/contrary to all you've been taught since you were born/practiced by a small minority of the saved. And this is why our witness/influence is minimal.
I wish I had the faith to believe that after preaching this, we would all change the way we behave. But it is so contrary to our nature, that I'll be happy if one or two change. Just make sure you are that one or two!
Truth is, we don't even practice these verses on one another, much less on unbelievers!
How do you deal with difficult people?
1. Treat them with kindness.
a. When they're mad. [v. 14]
Not 'if' you are persecuted, but 'when.' If you live Godly in Christ Jesus it is going to happen.
First of all, make sure those mad w/ you are so because of your position, and not your disposition. [attitude] [new speaker of house] A haughty, arrogant, holier than thou attitude is just asking for persecution.
How do we react though, when they are mad at us? The natural response is to return to them the same as they dish out. If you hit me, I hit you. One good turn deserves another. You be rude to me, and I one up you with a great slam of a comeback.
But God tells us here to do the opposite...to bless them in return. Bless comes from the Greek word for eulogy. [When you say good things about somebody at their funeral, even if it isn't an accurate overview!]
ill.--Robert E. Lee was asked his opinion of an opposing general who was his sworn enemy. He gave a glowing representation of the man, pointing out many truly great qualities he possessed. An aide took him aside and said, Don't you remember what that general said about you? Lee replied, "But they didn't ask his opinion of me, but my opinion of him!"
When the person who has mistreated you finds out that you speak well of them, it will do more to impact them for Christ than any gospel tract someone could hand to them. I've practiced this w/ believers who have left the church. It's my fault, you know, because I don't want us to get too many people around here. They expect that I'll dish out the dirty on them, usually because of what they have done to me, and when I don't, it has served us all very well in healing relationships and continuing to be friends on the same team, even if we are stationed at different bases.
ill.--Stephen in Acts 6 played a huge role in Saul's conversion. Saul saw him being stoned saying, "You'll all go to hell for this!" Is that what he said? "You'll get what's coming to you!" No! It was, "Lord, lay not this sin to their charge!" Saul saw Stephen bless his persecutors.
b. When they're glad. [v. 15a] Seems like an easy command to obey, right? Of course we rejoice when something good happens to a friend or family member, or fellow church member. But that's not the context...this passage is talking about an unbeliever who has been persecuting you!
It's hard enough to do this w/ a friend! Ever prayed for something and someone else received the answer to your prayer? Did the Lord get the address mixed up? You have to reach way down inside yourself to come back with a smile and say, "Gooooooooood! I'm so happy for you!"
Imagine that lost person at work who is so vile toward you--and they manipulate the system to make you look bad and they get the promotion you were up for. How you respond now is a test, and could determine whether they get saved or not, and your future as well. Imagine them receiving a card from you congratulating them sincerely. That will impact their soul more than any sermon I could preach to them! And whether it does or not, it will change who you are, and God will bless you abundantly for it.
Or, you can try being your own defender and God will let you...and then you'll see how you turn out.
You see, this is totally contrary to our human nature. We cannot obey this command in our own strength. We have no chance unless we are Spirit filled!
If you are filled w/ the Spirit, then it will come out when you are squeezed.
c. When they're sad. [v. 15b] Keeping this context, this is that same person at work who has been horrible to you. Now something bad happens to them. Rather than stepping back w/ a gleeful smile and saying, that's what they deserve...instead, you should weep with them, comfort them, support them. And in that moment when they are hurting and open, they will receive this love injection you offer.
ill.--a young couple married, and they were so happy, but he quickly changed, and became verbally abusive and emotionally shared no love with her. He became an alcoholic and it worsened still. This went on for 25 years. One day when he happened to be sober, he looked at their wedding photos on a wall...it seemed like the first time he had ever looked at them. As he gazed upon his bride's young face, he couldn't help but notice how happy she looked, with that sparkle in her eye. He turned and looked at her on that day, and though only in her 40s, her face was much different now...tired, and wrinkled, aged far beyond her years. It smote his heart as he realized, I've done that to her! I turned her from that into this. He confessed this to her and asked for her forgiveness, and turned his life around. Later on he would ask her, how in the world could you put up w/ me for all those years, and keep loving me anyway? She said, the only way I could was by constantly reminding myself that's exactly the way God loved me, while I was yet a sinner.
You'll never do anything more Christ-like than loving your enemies. And you'll never find anything more contrary to your human nature than blessing your enemies when they are mad, rejoicing with them when they are glad, and comforting them when they are sad.
It's the difference between mature Christians and immature ones...how we treat our enemies.
Leonardo da Vinci was preparing to paint "The Last Supper." Just before beginning he got into a terrible argument w/ a fellow painter...so bitter that he decided when he came to Judas Iscariot, he would make his face the face of this fellow painter...and he did! It was the first face he completed...and it was quite recognizable. Then he got ready to paint the face of Christ...and he couldn't do it...he was powerless...something held him back. He searched his heart, and realized it was his bitterness toward his fellow man. He went back and changed Judas' face, and then he was able to see the face of Christ!
We cannot paint the characteristics of Christ into our own life while painting the face of revenge upon our enemies!
[to be continued]
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