Summary: The Bible’s Answer to difficult people.
Dealing With Difficult People
Jesus reduced the ten commandments down to just two. We are love God with all of our heart, and our neighbor as ourselves. It isn’t so hard to love a God who is good, and values us so highly. However, when we begin to love others as we love ourselves it is not quite so easy. Some people are just plumb hard to love. They aren’t nearly as good as God, and they sure don’t value us high enough to die for us. It probably doesn’t take you very long to think of a person in your life who is difficult to love, but it may surprise you to know how much the Bible has to say about difficult relationships. Let’s look in on some difficult people in the Bible. If ever there was a family exhibiting difficult behavior, it is the family of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
(Read Genesis 16:1-10)
I IT IS MORE ACCURATE TO REFER TO DIFFICULT BEHAVIOR THAN DIFFICULT PEOPLE.
Which one of the three is this passage, would be the difficult one? A case could be made for all three of them. Abram, Sari, and Hagar all exhibited difficult behavior at some point in the passage, but it would not be fair to label them as difficult people. Labeling people as difficult too quickly may be inaccurate, and doesn’t allow people a chance to change. It may also cause us to write them off, and we may miss the opportunity to know a wonderful person.
King David would not be considered a difficult person by most people, but Uriah’s family would complain that he exhibited difficult behavior at least for a year. He stole Uriah’s wife Bathsheba, and had Uriah killed. This is why we refer to difficult behavior rather than difficult people most of the time.
II EVERYONE EXHIBITS DIFFICULT BEHAVIOR SOMETIME TO SOMEONE.
In this passage Sari was difficult to Hagar, and Hagar was difficult to Sari in return. Lot was Abram’s nephew who came with him to Canaan. However, when they grew too large and their herdsmen began to fight they had to separate. Abram generously offered Lot the first choice of land, and Lot selfishly chose the best for himself. Abram was kind enough to bring him along, and Lot in a selfish move was difficult to dear uncle Abram. Fill out the Jerk Checklist I handed out, and see if you may even be difficult sometime. You know we often see the other person as the difficult one. However, if you know a lot of difficult people you are probably a difficult person to get along with yourself.
III A DIFFICULT PERSON IS A MATTER OF PERCEPTION
(the way you see it)
I am sure Sari thought Hagar was the difficult one, and not herself. On the other hand I am Hagar thought Sari was the difficult one, and she was only the innocent victim. Two people can experience the same event, but they may experience it differently. "Ibis is because we view everything through the filter of our past experiences, and we chose the stories we tell ourselves about the facts of our lives.
In my family growing up I thought my sister was favored because she was the youngest, but she said she thought I was always favored by mom and dad. I guess our parents must have done a good job of being fair, because both of us thought the other was favored. You see we both experienced the same events, but we perceived them differently. This is why even Jesus could be viewed by some as a difficult person. He was perfect, but I’m sure the moneychangers in the temple he drove out thought he was very difficult.
I talked to a pastor friend of mine and his wife this week, and they illustrated this point very well in conversation. They were speaking about a person from their former church, and the wife thought this person was very difficult. However, my friend didn’t share his wife’s opinion of this person. They experienced essentially the same thing pastoring this church, but they perceived it differently. Therefore, you may think a person is difficult, but others may not share your perception. A little later in the message you will gain insight into why that may be so.
IV IT IS EASIER TO SEE DIFFICULT BEHAVIOR IN ANOTHER PERSON THAN IN YOURSELF
It was easy for Sari to see the difficult behavior exhibited by Hagar, but I doubt if she ever saw it in herself. Hagar, on the other hand, saw difficult behavior oozing out of Sari, but would not have seen her behavior as difficult. This is why in Matthew chapter seven and verse three Jesus can talk about a person seeing a speck in someone else’s eye, but failing to see a log in our own eye. In Luke chapter twelve and verse thirteen a man comes to Jesus and asks him to tell his brother to divide their father’s estate with him. The strange response of Jesus was to warn him of greed in himself. You see, this man could see how selfish and greedy his brother was being, but Jesus showed him that his request indicated there was also selfish greed in him. He could see it in his brother, but he could not see it in himself.