When a certain man who is running for the office of President shows up on my TV, I groan – “Please go away. Not him, not again!” His self-absorption, mindless speeches, and lack of substance turn me off, in a big way. What causes us to dislike another person? Why do we take a position on some point and refuse to budge, no matter what the facts are? In a conversation with another person yesterday, I discovered that he thinks that candidate is admirable, that ‘he really tells the truth.’ It’s a cause for wonder, isn’t it, that two people can look at the same person, hear the same speeches, and reach such differing conclusions?
There is amazing diversity of opinion in our world. How people choose to ‘do life’ is shaped by those opinions. Sometimes it is a matter of little consequence. He likes blue, I like red. Sometimes it is a matter where deeply held convictions about what is ‘right and wrong’ are involved. When you encounter that kind of difference, what is your first impulse – to separate, to go to battle, or to attempt to understand? Honestly, when I have to deal with someone who frustrates every attempt at reasonable dialogue, who digs in and harps on his opinions, I am not always so patient. I feel the temptation to write off the relationship as irreconcilable and/or irreparable.
How about you?
Have you discarded a friendship over difference?
Ongoing conflict often escalates and even people with long-standing marriages go their separate ways over what the law terms, “irreconcilable differences.” Christians, who are to be characterized by love for one another above all things, frequently go their separate ways, while singing, “they’ll know we are Christians by our love.”
How does God want us to deal with the difficult people in life?
Read the wisdom of the Word – thoughtfully. “I beg you to lead a life worthy of your calling, for you have been called by God. Be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. Always keep yourselves united in the Holy Spirit, and bind yourselves together with peace. We are all one body, we have the same Spirit, and we have all been called to the same glorious future.” (Ephesians 4:1-4, NLT) Live with humility, gentleness, and patience! Those responses require the inner life of the Spirit, changing us from the inside out. If try to just ‘put up with’ that person that makes us think “just go away,’ eventually we will pushed beyond our limits and explode. But, if the One who is greater that Self is controlling us, we will bear with one another, listening, learning, loving.
If that sounds easy, think again. Living in harmony – be it in our home, our church, our family, and our neighborhood – demands spiritual transformation and an ongoing death to Self. We pray, but not to gain the upper hand; rather to be filled with the Spirit, gentle as Jesus. The paradox is that what we may think to be weakness really releases a great power in us. Meekness is not weakness; it is strength under control. This quote from Jim Elliott (a missionary who was murdered by those he was trying to reach with the Gospel) captivates me. “Lord give me firmness without hardness, steadfastness without dogmatism, and love without weakness.”
Here is the word from the Word. ” If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate. ” …
“Love never gives up. Love cares more for others than for self. Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Love doesn’t strut,
Doesn’t have a swelled head,
Doesn’t force itself on others,
Isn’t always “me first,”
Doesn’t fly off the handle,
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end. “ (1 Corinthians 13:1, 4-7, The Message)
The Paradoxical Commandments
Dr. Kent M. Keith
People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered.
Love them anyway.
If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives.
Do good anyway.
If you are successful, you will win false friends and true enemies.
The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow.
Do good anyway.
Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable.
Be honest and frank anyway.
The biggest men and women with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the smallest men and women with the smallest minds.
Think big anyway.
People favor underdogs but follow only top dogs.
Fight for a few underdogs anyway.
What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight.
People really need help but may attack you if you do help them.
Help people anyway.
Give the world the best you have and you’ll get kicked in the teeth.
Give the world the best you have anyway.