Life is filled with difficult, challenging people. In America today vitriol and hatred are epidemic. Some say the country is facing a new Cold War- among ourselves. We as Christians are called to be different. The Christian life is not hard- it is impossible apart from God’s supernatural strength.
Once a person is born again, we are called to live differently. Our God demonstrates His love to every person. Jesus commands us to love our enemies. We are to imitate our heavenly Father. Jesus said, “For He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and the unjust” (Matthew 5:43).
The sun is described as “His sun.” It shines on every person. Imagine if a yard in your neighborhood received no rain. Every other lawn was lush and green except for one. One was brown and dry and dead. We might say, “Oh, God doesn’t love that person.” No! God demonstrates His love to every person and as His children we must do the same.
In Romans chapter 12 verses 14 to 21 God gives us five great principles for dealing with difficult people. These verses provide a road map for our lives. As Jesus demonstrated love to others, we must do the same.
The first principle is to seek to be a source of blessing. Verse 14 reads, “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them.” The word persecute means “to chase, to pursue.” It is to pursue a person with hostile intent.
Jesus faced great persecution. Even on the cross Jesus did not curse His persecutors. He prayed, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). Four Roman soldiers were assigned to the crucifixion detail. Jesus prayed for their forgiveness. The opposite of cursing is blessing.
The second principle is to learn to empathize. Verse 15 says, “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.” Empathy is the ability to walk in another person’s moccasins. It is to see life from their perspective. It is easier to weep with our enemies when they are weeping. However, even when they rejoice we are to rejoice with them.
Mountain Village is a village in western Alaska. In villages people often love to sing. One church has a large, well organized choir. Whenever someone in the community dies, their choir sings to the family. This is a great example of empathy!
A third principle is to maintain a good reputation. Verses 16 to 18 command, “Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as depends on you, live peaceably with all.”
As Christians we have peace with God. This peace should produce peace with others. Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called sons of God” (Matthew 5:9). The greatest priority is to be right with God. God has forgiven every one of us for many, many sins. I must forgive others who sin against me.
Peace is not always possible. We cannot compromise the truth. However, we must maintain a good reputation even when facing difficult people.
The fourth principle is to not avenge ourselves. Verse 19 says, “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ saith the Lord.”
This does not mean that we do not call the troopers. It doesn’t mean that we never pursue our legal options. It does mean that vengeance is ultimately in God’s hands. Charles Spurgeon said, “I leave my reputation where I leave my soul- in the hands of God.” The wheels of God’s justice turn very slowly but they grind exceedingly fine. God is able to administer justice much better than you or me. He is a God of justice.
The fifth principle is to emulate God’s grace. Verse 20 says, “To the contrary, if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.”
Grace is God’s unmerited favor to those who deserve the opposite. Romans 5:8 says, “But God proved His love for us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Showing love to someone who deserves the opposite is supernatural.
In ancient Egypt if a person wanted to show extreme remorse they carried a pan of burning coals on their head. The coals represented extreme guilt and shame. When you lovingly help your enemies, it brings shame to them for their hate and animosity.
A woman in our church recently experienced tremendous pain for an entire weekend because of a failed medical procedure. The doctor was unavailable until Monday morning. She forgave the doctor, demonstrated God’s grace and brought tears to the doctor’s eyes.
It is easy to teach the Bible. It is hard to apply the Bible! Let’s don’t be people who simply know the Bible. Let’s be people who apply God’s Word. Deal with difficult people God’s way!
Ethan Hansen is a pastor at Faith Bible Fellowship in Big Lake.