When we think about individuals who try our patience, are irritating, difficult, and generally taxing to be around, we don’t usually associate them with spiritual blessing. It is especially hard to deal with when those individuals are from within the Church, because we want to believe that all Christians will get along and love each other all of the time. In theory, we really should, considering we are commanded to love one another. But, we are all sinners and thus susceptible to rubbing someone the wrong way from time to time.
Like it or not, the folks that get us in a fix are a blessing in disguise and are ordained to be in our lives by God for a reason. And that reason is what we are going to examine today.
First, let’s establish some Biblical facts for our framework:
- God is sovereign over everything. He ordains our times and places (Acts 17:26).
- God promises believers that He will work every one of their circumstances for their good (Romans 8:28).
- God’s plan is for all believers to be conformed to the image of His Son (Romans 8:29).
- God has promised that the good work (sanctification/growing in Christ-likeness) He begins in a believer will be completed (Philippians 1:6) because God always does what He says He will do (Numbers 23:19).
With that framework in place, let us now turn to some Biblical instruction for the conduct and attributes of believers:
- To sum up, all of you be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit; not returning evil for evil or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead; for you were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing. (1 Peter 3:8-9)
- But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23)
- Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. (Ephesians 4:1-3)
- Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you. (Ephesians 4:32)
If every person you interact with, especially within your church, is someone who is easy to love, easy to be around, like-minded, and generally just has a lot in common with you, then how will you ever have the chance to practice: gentleness, patience, tolerance, kindness, harmoniousness, returning insult with blessing, and love? It is easy to love those who love us (Luke 6:32), but Jesus said in the beatitudes to love those who are not lovely, who do not love us.
Difficult people are opportunities for us to obey the scriptural commands for Christian living. They are opportunities for us to grow in our sanctification, to become more like Christ. God appoints/ordains that there be difficult people in our lives for our good, “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another” (Proverbs 27:17). Those irritating, trying, offensive people that we do not prefer to be around are in our lives by design. So, go to that fellowship time, that small group, that Bible study and embrace the lessons that God has planned for you through difficult people. Thank Him for the opportunities to grow in sanctification and to practice Christian love. After all, aren’t we all difficult, quirky, obnoxious people at some point? And yet Jesus is kind, gentle, long-suffering, patient, gracious, understanding, forgiving, and loving toward us.
Soli Deo Gloria!