DIFFICULT PEOPLE MESS WITH US. We get fed up. Sometimes angry. Even clinically depressed if it goes on too long.
What’s a Christian to do?
As a general rule, I recommend ignoring the advice of well-meaning friends who try to impose their life experience onto your life experience. Which is pretty much what I’m doing to you right now; so feel free to ignore me if what I say doesn’t make sense.
It’s not that I’m opposed to the advice of a friend. It’s just that friends don’t always know what the heck they’re talking about.
It could be that the difficult person in your friend’s life is just a red pimple on their nose, while your difficult person is a poisonous viper on your neck.
I’ve found that the humans best equipped to advise me have been Christians who have had to wear the same viper I did.
Jesus is quoted as giving advice on that subject, too. But he seems to give mixed messages.
When Peter asked him how many times a good and godly person should forgive a viper who spits poison on you every time they open their godforsaken mouth, Jesus said, “Seventy times seven” (Matthew 18:22).
That would be good news for some of us because it’s only 490 times. And for those folks who can’t get away from their viper, it wouldn’t take long to hit that limit.
But many Bible experts say Jesus didn’t mean 490 times. He meant until the last loogie flies.
On the other hand, Jesus told his followers that when they come into a town of inhospitable people who treat them like dirt:
“Shake its dust from your feet as you leave to show that you have abandoned those people to their fate” (Luke 9:5).
Paul put it another way:
“Throw this man out and hand him over to Satan,” (1 Corinthians 5:5).
That sounds fun, reasonable, and good enough for the viper.
As Christians, we usually get the message that we’re supposed to forgive the vipers among us.
We’re condemned as hypocrites if we don’t…or if forgiveness takes longer than our critics think is reasonable.
We don’t often get the message that putting distance between us and the viper can be another healthy Christian response.
- It puts us in a safer place.
- It gives the viper one less target, which may produce a calming effect…wishful thinking, I know.
- It abandons them to the consequences of their actions, to reflection on the matter, and perhaps even to regret and repentance. More wishful thinking?
Paul said that throwing the man out of church who was sleeping with his own stepmother might make the gent come to his senses, “so that his spirit will be saved when the Lord Jesus returns” (1 Corinthians 5:5).
Forgive the person. Forget the person.
It sounds harsh to folks who don’t know what it’s like to deal with a snake in the shirt. But some snakes need their own space.
Jesus and Paul both sound as though they would recommend giving it to them.
I’ve mentioned this topic before. Forgive me for repeating myself. But as I talk with others, it sure seems as though plenty of people are dealing with snakes, on the one hand, and Christian critics on the other.
This is a shout out the them: Run!
For more about dealing with difficult people
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