See that no one pays back evil for evil,
but always try to do good to each other and to all people. - 1 Thessalonians 5:15
Some people just know how to get under your skin, am I right? They know exactly what buttons to push to upset or annoy you. Some can be spiteful and cruel. With so many differing personalities and sinful natures, it's easy in a fallen world for clashes to happen, conflict to arise, and we find ourselves in positions where we are quick to anger and react in haste.
We are all imperfect people who have faults, who will at times be “difficult” for others to be around and interact with. But the thing about having experiences with other imperfect people is that it provides us the opportunity to either practice being like Christ or to give into the flesh.
We can either show mercy and kindness, or we can get angry and hostile. We can either give grace and be patient, or we can be quick to speak, later regretting words we said without thinking. Jesus, having walked this earth, coming face to face with people who were difficult and those that hated Him, understands where we are coming from, but He also calls us to follow His example of how to treat them.
In Matthew 5:43-47 and Luke 6:27-36 Jesus' words on our enemies and those we don't get along with is the framework for how we should interact with them: loving our enemies, doing good towards them, showing kindness, praying for them, and being merciful.
The Gospel, God’s Truth, is backwards from mankind’s philosophy. We think that if there are difficult people who are unkind, hateful, judgmental, and angry towards us that it is acceptable, even justifiable, for us to behave the same way to them in return. But this is not what God asks of us.
1 Peter 3:9 specifically says, "Don’t repay evil for evil. Don’t retaliate with insults when people insult you. Instead, pay them back with a blessing." When He calls us to Himself through salvation, He asks us to take up our cross and follow Him (Luke 9:23), to follow His example. To be a Christian is to behave like Christ as His ambassadors in this world, and that includes treating people the way that He would.
There will always be difficult people, as we are all born with a sinful nature, but those specific chances to be an example of Christ to the world may not come around again. We don’t know who is watching and listening, how what we do will impact others secondhand, and not just the person or people we are interacting with at that moment.
We must be mindful of both ourselves and our surroundings, taking the opportunities we have with difficult people to be like Christ, letting His light shine through us.
1. What is my natural response towards people I don't get along with?
2. How can I be more intentional about being Christ-like when I am in situations with people who are difficult?
God, Thank You for displaying the perfect way we are to engage with one another. Thank You for Your patience as I learn and grow, providing me opportunities to become more like Your Son. Help me to take advantage of moments with people who are difficult for me to interact with and give me the strength to show them Your love, kindness, and forgiveness during those times. May how I engage with other people, Your beloved creation, be honoring to You, Amen.
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