Do you ever have to interact with difficult people? Yeah, me too. Whether it’s challenging co-workers, family members, bosses, or friends, we all have relationships with difficult people. It’s inevitable and as Christians, we are called to love them. Does that seem impossible? If so, we’d like to share 5 truths to help you love difficult people.
Jesus’ life is filled with examples of how to love people who may seem hard to love. He dined with Zacchaeus the tax collector in his home, despite the grumbling of others in the town. He protected the adulterous woman from being stoned, pointing out everyone’s need to be saved from sin. Jesus taught the story of the Good Samaritan as an example to Jewish people at a time when Jews and Samaritans bitterly despised each other.
Jesus prioritized loving people who were difficult, rejected, or outcast. As followers of Jesus, we need to love them as well.
To be honest, sometimes loving difficult people is…well…difficult! In those moments, we must remember five truths:
Everyone is Created in the Image of God
So God created mankind in his own image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them. –Genesis 1:27
Every person we encounter — our barista, co-worker, boss, the guy who cut us off in traffic, the woman arguing about a 10¢ coupon in the checkout line (and the frustrated cashier) — are created in the image of God.
Each person has unique strengths, purpose, and potential that were placed in them by God Himself. He knew them in their mother’s womb. He’s numbered the hairs on their head.
If you’re a parent, at some point you’ve marveled at your child’s face, admired their gifts, and cherished their uniqueness. God has created each of us with that love and care.
When encountering a difficult person, remember they are created in the image of God. Ask God to help you see them through His eyes and with His plan and purpose for them.
Difficult People are Loved by God
Not only are we all created in God’s image, but we are loved by Him.
God knows us completely – every flaw, every sin, every fear – and loves us fully. He loves us without hesitation or condition.
In the same way, we need to love others as God loves us, without hesitation or condition. We are to love others – even difficult people, those we don’t agree with, and people who don’t seem to care.
But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. –Luke 6:35
As this verse says, we are to love (even our enemies!) without expecting anything in return.
This is impossible without asking God for help. Our humanness can’t love anyone as much as God. So, ask God to use you as a vessel for His love. Allow God to love others through you – not with your might, but with His love that can never run out.
Jesus Died for Hurting People
for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. –Romans 3:23-24
At one point, we were all hurting people who were in trouble. Without God’s grace and promise of forgiveness, we are all headed for a life of pain, guilt, and death. We’re all sinful people who cannot buy our forgiveness or earn our way to heaven. It is only through Jesus’ death on the cross that we are saved!
Once we recognize our own desperation for a savior, we are able to identify with those around us who are hurting and in need of rescue. We are all in need of Jesus coming to rescue us. Everyone we meet is someone Jesus died for.
Difficult People are Overburdened
Just about everyone you encounter throughout the day feels overburdened. Our lives are busy. We are increasingly distracted by technology and media. We’re under greater stress at work, with our finances, or in our parenting. All of these factors cause our relationships to grow more disconnected.
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. –Matthew 11:28
Jesus came to lift our burdens and give us peace. What if, when we encounter a difficult person, we asked ourselves, “How can I help lift this person’s burden?”
By lifting their burdens, even slightly, you are showing God’s love. You’re telling them that they are seen, they’re understood, and that their burdens matter to you and to God. Imagine how that could make a difference in their day!
Challenging People are Under-Encouraged
Picture-perfect images bombard us on Instagram and Pinterest. Today’s culture is increasingly divisive, and our relationships strain under the pressure. We consistently feel we aren’t measuring up.
Most people are under-encouraged.
Imagine you’re a difficult person. You complain, argue, and disconnect from others. How often are you encouraged?
What do you think would happen if that challenging person was not only seen but appreciated. Valued. Encouraged. Think of how it could soften their demeanor, lift their spirits, and add some hope in their life.
The next time you interact with a difficult person, find a way to encourage them and see what happens!
We are All Difficult People
The bottom line is, we are all difficult people. We all sin. We all have regrets in our relationships where we’ve hurt the other person.
I hate to break it to you, but you’re a difficult person.
The good news? You are a difficult person who is created in the image of God and loved exceedingly by Him. You’re a hurting person who Jesus died for. You are a challenging person who needs your burdens lifted by Jesus and could use some encouragement from those around you.
We’re more alike than different, and we have some similar needs. Maybe that’s why Jesus said, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
Spend some time today praying for the difficult people in your life. Ask God to help you see them through His eyes. Find ways to lift their burdens and encourage them, and watch what God can do through you.