“Again I say, don’t get involved in foolish, ignorant arguments that only start fights. The Lord’s servants must not quarrel but must be kind to everyone. They must be able to teach effectively and be patient with difficult people. They should gently teach those who oppose the truth. Perhaps God will change those people’s hearts, and they will believe the truth. Then they will come to their senses and escape from the Devil’s trap. For they have been held captive by him to do whatever he wants.” 2 Timothy 2:23-26. NLT.
Whenever I am struggling to deal with difficult people or complicated social situations, I read this Scripture from 2 Timothy. It is a reminder for me to extend grace to those around me just as Christ shows me grace daily. I know I have been difficult to deal with at times! We all have!
How do you endure those who have obstinate personalities and march around society with unyielding attitudes and stare down their noses at others in continuous judgment? You know the type I am referring to. Some of these people are adamantly against God and blame the church for their hatred. Others are modern-day Pharisees who profess to know everything about God and seemingly have the Bible memorized and speak the most eloquent prayers.
But wait a minute. . . someone who is adamantly against God and someone who is seemingly for God cannot possibly have anything in common, right?
First, let me say before going any further that, if we are honest, many born-again Christians were one of these two persons prior to receiving God’s saving grace. A prime example from Scriptures is the apostle Paul who, prior to knowing Christ, was an executioner to Christians. His life mission was to tear down the Christian faith. It was not until Christ interrupted his march to the next city that he became a true believer. He saw Christ, literally, and that day, his life mission reversed. He spent the rest of his life teaching others about Christ and His gift of salvation to all.
So, what could these two persons possibly have in common?
Such folks are often quick to anger, stir up strife, harbor hatred and grudges in their hearts, speak foolishly with little to no self-control, and trouble and controversy seem to follow them everywhere. I am not referring to once-in-awhile slip-ups that all of us do from time to time. I am referring to those who exemplify these negative traits as their routine lifestyle. In other words, a bad tree does not produce good fruit.
In Galatians 5:19-21 NLT, it says, “When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, your lives will produce these evil results: sexual immorality, impure thoughts, eagerness for lustful pleasures, idolatry, participation in demonic activities, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, ambition, divisions, the feeling that everyone is wrong except those in your own little group, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other kinds of sin. . .”
And. . . “Everything is pure to those whose hearts are pure. But nothing is pure to those who are corrupt and unbelieving because their minds and consciences are defiled. Such people claim they know God, but they deny Him by the way they live. . .” Titus 1:15-16. NLT.
God’s word teaches us how to discern from those who are truly of Christ and those who are not.
“But when the Holy Spirit controls our lives, He will produce this kind of fruit in us: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Here there is no conflict with the law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to His cross and crucified them there. If we are living now by the Holy Spirit, let us follow the Holy Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives. Let us not become conceited, or irritate one another, or be jealous of one another.” Galatians 5:22-26. NLT.
And let me share one more Scripture while we are on this topic:
“You used to live just like the rest of the world, full of sin, obeying Satan, the mighty prince of the power of the air. He is the spirit at work in the hearts of those who refuse to obey God. All of us used to live that way, following the passions and desires of our evil nature.” Ephesians 2:2-3. NLT.
I share these Bible verses to say this: You were once lost but now found. When people sin against you or are difficult to encounter, remind yourself to be a light to those in darkness. You do not offer any light by being vengeful or unkind in return. Behaving as the world does will never pull someone from the blindness of the world and into the light of Christ.
How could it?
When they look at you, they won’t see Christ but the world. And when they see the world in you as you quote many Bible verses and make judgments, their misunderstanding of Christ becomes reinforced, their anger toward God becomes reinforced, and their desire to stay away from “church” and anything “religious” becomes reinforced.
Ironically, the same concept is true for those who behave as the Pharisees did. Those who believe they are saved in the eyes of God because they have been deceived by religious traditions and societal pressures. They have managed to read the Bible without fully understanding it. They don’t fully understand the need for salvation and often get stuck in the mindset of, “I’m a good person.” Thus, true repentance has yet to be achieved because they have not yet experienced a true understanding of God’s word and have not had a genuine acknowledgment of their sin depravity. They become enslaved to pride and obsessed with religion. The secular world often refers to these persons as “narcissists”.
These people must be dealt with in the same way as previously mentioned. Let your light shine by leading by example. They expect you to retaliate, to rage, to rant, to seek vengeance. They won’t expect you to show kindness, joy, grace, mercy, and self-control.
Persistence is key for learning new habits and new ways. When someone continually sees another react through these behaviors, it will intrigue them. Perhaps, in time, as stated in 2 Timothy, God will change their hearts.
Clearly, no one should voluntarily remain in situations where their lives are threatened. That’s not the scenario to which I am referring to. But we should work on the balance of showing difficult people grace while not allowing them to cause destruction in our own path.
Social media is one medium where the world has poured every ounce of division, anger, hatred, pride, slander, and more on whoever they see fit. People who lack self-control showcase their dirty laundry, slander, and unfiltered, sinful emotions for the world to see to demoralize and dehumanize the person or subject in which they hold angst toward. Some people are like loose cannons on social media and do not show one iota of humiliation, embarrassment, or remorse for their actions. Others do so through more passive-aggressive measures by sharing memes with targeted arguments or phrases that are intended for the eyes of the offender.
What good does that behavior bring? Nothing.
Many believe that social media is the problem. No. Sin is the problem.
Social media has brought the world closer together than it has ever been before. It brings many sins to the surface and places them on a pedestal for all the world to see. And as more of these evil behaviors are placed on worldly pedestals, the more they will be accepted. The focus on self has become exacerbated whereas the focus on God has grown dimmer. On social media, the door is wide open for anyone to tear down anyone they so choose.
The apostle Paul says in 2 Timothy 3:1-5, “You should also know this, Timothy, that in the last days there will be very difficult times. For people will love only themselves and their money. They will be boastful and proud, scoffing at God, disobedient to their parents, and ungrateful. They will consider nothing sacred. They will be unloving and unforgiving; they will slander others and have no self-control; they will be cruel and have no interest in what is good. They will betray their friends, be reckless, be puffed up with pride, and love pleasure rather than God. They will act as if they are religious, but they will reject the power that could make them godly. You must stay away from people like that.”
In other words, this has not taken God by surprise. After all, this is why mankind needed a Savior to begin with.
So, what do you do when difficult people place you in difficult situations?
Pray about it. Refer to the Bible. Seek godly counsel. Do not stumble to their level. Always show self-control, kindness, love, patience, and grace. You cannot control the actions and behaviors of others, but you can control YOUR actions and behaviors. Avoid participation in their bad behavior. Do your best to shield yourself from their attacks.
For example, if a loved one creates strife on Twitter, have no part in it. Speak to them in private about the situation. Do not retaliate by creating an angry tweet or a cringy passive-aggressive tweet. That only stirs more strife and fuels the fire. Should the person continue to behave badly in this form, disassociate from them altogether on social media. It doesn’t matter if they are a close friend, family member, co-worker or spouse. You do not have to participate in another person’s sin.
Steer clear of people who always seek vengeance on others and stir up controversy. And if you cannot physically steer clear of them, protect yourself by stepping away and confronting them privately. Should that not work, seek godly counsel. Most importantly, pray persistently about the situation and continue to lead by example. Show the other person grace without condoning the bad behavior.
You know the real problem: They are held captive by the chains of sin, enslaved to their vices, and blinded to their spiritual state. Perhaps through much prayer and them continually seeing Christ’s love and light through you, they will desire to seek God like ever before. Love really does go a long way. Love heals. Most importantly, God heals.
“All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It straightens us out and teaches us to do what is right.” 2 Timothy 3:16. NLT.
Don’t give up on your loved ones. God didn’t give up on you.