Resetting Others: Difficult People
Introduction: This morning we’re finishing off our Sermon Series, Relationship Reset. Today, we’re going to see how encountering Jesus empowers and calls us to life-giving relationships, even with those difficult people in our lives.
All of us have difficult people in our lives. They’re Sandpaper People because they always seem to rub us the wrong way. There’s the Struggler. This is the person who no matter how big your struggle is, their struggle is BIGGER. No matter how big your problem is, they’ll come back at you with a BIGGER problem that…woe…has fallen upon them. Then there is the Opposer. You could say the sky was blue and they come back sweetly telling you that you’re wrong the sky is not really blue. Then there’s the Criticizer/Shredder. It doesn’t matter what the topic or person you are discussing, the criticizer will find a reason to tear that person of decision or situation to pieces. And they will unequivocally tell you why the other person or decision or situation is an idiot or idiotic. Then there is the Disaster. This person’s life is the definition of dysfunction. Every conversation seems to come around to their life and today’s most recent disaster. And of course they want to drag you into their disaster.
The Bible leads us to encounter Jesus, not religion, and Jesus changes us. It calls us from avoiding difficult people to the radical stance of loving them. Today’s message is super simple to understand and when lived super powerful to transform. As we encounter the love of Jesus, that love calls us to love those difficult people in our lives. PRAY
In Matthew 18:21-22 we read, Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?” 22 Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.
Peter was probably thinking of a specific person when he asked Jesus, “How many times do I have to forgive a brother?” He may have even been thinking about one of those other disciples of Jesus. Maybe Peter was thinking about that James guy who others call, James the Greater. “Ever since Jesus called him and his brother ‘The Sons of Thunder’ it has been impossible to be around him.”
“Jesus, can I forgive this person 7 times and then…finally…be done with him?”
When I was serving as a missionary in Africa, there was this other missionary who was…we, how do I put it? He was a challenge to be around. Making it even worse, everyone felt this away about this person. There were times when I was so tired of this person, when he’d walk into a room, I’d think Oh brother. And I would look for a way of getting out of there. Not my best moment in life.
Jesus’ answer to Peter’s question about how to live with a difficult person was, “No, Peter, you can’t forgive them 7 time and then be done with them. You are to love them. Just as I have loved you, you are to love them.”
So, how does Jesus love us? That’s the most important question in life.
One way Jesus loves us is that as we encounter Him, He speaks truth into our lives. He speaks hard truths that we do not want to hear. He speaks truth into our lives that run counter to so much of what we hear on a daily basis. As we encounter Jesus, He says, because you have acted in ways against God’s way, you separated yourself from him. God’s standard is here and our very best behavior is here.
Now I know this part of our encounter with Jesus doesn’t leave us all warm and fuzzy. It offends me. “How dare you criticize me and tell me that there’s something wrong with me?”
As this truth is spoken into our lives…as Jesus’ words start to take a hold of us …we cannot help but see our need for his mercy and grace.
Jesus is not Jesus trying to put us down and tear us to shreds. This is Jesus loving you by letting you know the ultimate truth of life.
How does this apply to my relationship with difficult people? If I see you doing something to harm yourself or something that harms our relationship; if I love you I have to speak the truth into your life. If I see you doing something that inhibits your ability to flourish I have to say something to you. If I say nothing, I am forfeiting my right to say that I love you.
How else does Jesus love us? Jesus loves us not only by speaking truth into our lives, He loves with compassion. As we encounter Jesus, we also come face-to-face with his compassion. The Biblical meaning of compassion communicates the idea of getting low or humbling oneself to be nearer someone.
When I encounter a difficult person I can do one of two things. 1. Stand tall and above this person who has not met my expectations and standards (and they may very well be good expectations and standards) and from on high I can wag my finger at them. Or 2. I can get low, draw close, trying to understand them and letting them know that I care for them. This second option is compassion.
Romans 5:8 shows us God’s compassion toward us. God didn’t wait until we had our act all together. He loved us despite ourselves. Listen to God’s compassion, But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
As I truly encounter the person of Jesus, God pours His compassion and grace into me. Now filled with His compassion and grace, I’m called to share that compassion with others.
This is what it looks like. This jar can only pour into something else, that which has been poured into it. This jar can’t pour anything into this jar because it’s empty. Only after this jar has been poured into can it pour into another jar.
So what does it mean to be compassionate & merciful to the most difficult person around you?
Psalm 86:15 tells us something about Jesus. But you, Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness. Jesus is patient with us. Jesus came from the perfection of heaven into the brokenness and chaos of this world. Jesus was rejected by his own family, scorned by the powerful, belittled by the wise and betrayed by a friend. He had every right to be irritated with us, but in the end he still was able to say, Forgive them, for they do not know what they doing.
When I compare Jesus’ patience with myself, I guess I find Him speaking truth into me. I am not a patient person. It is all too easy for me to give up on that difficult person, to bail out on them, avoiding them. When I should go to them and say, “I care about you and want to have a relationship with you, but if that going to happen some things are going to have to change.” Setting boundaries in relationships is a healthy thing.
You may be thinking, but Pastor, you don’t know the Difficult person I have in my life. I can’t do it. It’s too hard. I’m not patient enough. I don’t have enough mercy in me for them. I do not have enough grace in me for this person. If that is anything like your thoughts, then you are exactly where God wants you. You are now seeing the brokenness in your own life. You see that left on your own, you can’t do it. Only by the mercy and grace of God can you love this person.
One of the beautiful things about being compassionate and patient with that difficult person in your life is that…God ends up doing much needed construction work in your life.