Another excellent guest post from Linnea Spicer. A quick editorial note: some “difficult people” are toxic and while God, who is perfect love can deal with them well, you may need professional help in dealing with them. If you find yourself stuck in a relational pattern with someone, or in an abusive relationship, we highly encourage you to seek help through a counselor.
Q: How does God deal with difficult people?
What makes a person difficult? Contentious? Uncooperative? Self-driven? Argumentative? Regardless of the exact way a person is perceived as difficult, you will find many, many examples of difficult people throughout God’s story.
One of my favorite difficult bible characters is Jonah. God asks him to go to Ninevah and warn the very difficult, wicked Ninevites of God’s impending judgment. Not only did Jonah not cooperate, he shirked his responsibilities, he put others in danger and even after a very serious time-out which caused him to come to his senses and finally obey the Lord’s commands, he still pouted and resented the great mercy and love God extended to the wicked Ninevites upon their repentance. Yet his story and that of the Ninevites and their response to God’s mercy is mentioned in Matthew 12:38-41 as Christ prophesied about the time he would spend in “the heart of the earth for three days and three nights”.
Jesus has very clear commands to love the difficult ones. He calls them enemies. Consider his words here:
Luke 6:35 “Love your enemies! Do good to them. Lend to them without expecting to be repaid. Then your reward from heaven will be very great, and you will truly be acting as children of the Most High, for he is kind to those who are unthankful and wicked.
Matthew 5:43-48 “You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike. 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.
Jesus backed up his words with his actions. The night of the Passover dinner before he was arrested, he washed everyone’s feet, he broke the bread for all at the table and passed the wine to all. He even offered his cheek to the one who would betray him. Perhaps it was Jesus’ final attempt to offer his love to the most difficult one of all. We are to love as he taught us to love and as He loved us first, regardless of the choice of the recipient to receive or reject that love.