How Do We Love Difficult People?
But we, brethren, having been taken away from you for a short time in presence, not in heart, endeavored more eagerly to see your face with great desire....For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Is it not even you in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at His coming? For you are our glory and joy. —1 Thessalonians 2:17-20
One of the blessings and benefits of being part of a church body is being able to support and encourage each other during trials and tribulations.
Can other church members be annoying, discouraging, and hard to get along with? Do people do things that baffle you and make you question their faith? Do you find yourself asking, can just anyone be a Christian?
Sometimes, we get so fed up with everything, that we want to avoid people. They require way too much of us, so it’s easier to push them away.
I have judged people as difficult, overly sensitive, overly needy—you name it—and yet watched those same people help others in times of need in ways that put me to shame. Just when I think I have a right judge people, I am humbled to witness the way God works through their lives.
“This is one problem Jesus came into the world to redress,” Mike Mason wrote. “He let us crucify Him to show us how much we push everyone away, even the Son of God. As the dust settled on Calvary, some of us realized what we were missing. We realized how much we wanted love and how much He wanted us. And so we invited Him to come back and live in our hearts...and something wonderful happened. We began to wake up to how badly we’d been treating people and how much we missed each other. We began to want one another with a deep, pure love. And so the church was born.” 1
The apostle Paul was never ashamed of his love for fellow Christians. He spent years writing to correct their misguided ideas, exhorting them to higher standards, even expressing his frustration when they wouldn’t listen. But he loved them, and he urges us to do likewise: “Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves” (Romans 12:10).
Paul did not merely tolerate others. He genuinely loved others, quirks and all.
What did he call his brothers and sisters in the verse above? “Our hope...crown of rejoicing...our glory and joy.”
I pray that we can all love deeply enough to consider the people around us with such joy and affection.
- Mason, Mike, Practicing the Presence of People (Waterbrook Press, Colorado Springs, 1999), p. 50.