How to Love Difficult People

February 18, 2016

Last Sunday was a GREAT Sunday (in spite of the constant snow!). I loved having Jeff & Lynel with us (continue to pray for the sale of their house). I was encouraged by the response to the message. My Growth Group had a great discussion about love. And I finally found some time to watch a movie. 😉

But here we are in the middle of another week. If you are doing the Love Challenge, I hope it's impacting you. I have been challenged by it, as well as challenged by the discussion my Growth Group had Sunday. (I'm seeing once again I'm not nearly as loving as I want to be!) But challenges like this are good as they will help us grow into the people we want to be - to grow more into the image of Jesus.

But there is another challenge when it comes to love. Maybe you heard it in last Sunday's message. Our love isn't revealed in the easy moments when you're out on a date or when your kids do something cute. Your love is truly revealed in the difficult moments...

  • …when your spouse seems to ignore you.
  • …when the kids throw a temper tantrum.
  • …when the customer at work lays into you simply because you work at a company they can't stand.
  • …when some anonymous person cuts you off in traffic.

How do you love somebody that is being difficult? Here are three ways:

1. Be empathetic

When someone is being difficult, making it difficult to love them, the first thing you should ask yourself is, "Why are they acting this way? What is making them respond the way they are?" Perhaps something bad happened to them at work or at school. Maybe they are really tired. Perhaps they are mourning a loss. Seek to understand their situation. By doing so, you'll often be able to respond with patience and kindness, bearing their difficulty in the moment.

This idea is seen in the Incarnation. When Jesus, God the Son, took on flesh, he fully experienced the human condition. He understood hunger. He knew what it was to be tired. He experienced cold and heat. He saw the pain of this world. This helps us know that we don't worship some distant God who has no idea what it is like being human, but one who fully experienced our condition with us.

So be empathetic toward others. Try to understand their situation.

2. Take a long view

When your kid throws herself on the grocery store floor crying aloud like you just cut off her left ear lobe simply because you won't buy her the mega-sized package of gummy worms, remind yourself that one day she will probably be a mom with a two-year-old who will probably do the same, and the way you respond in this moment will affect the way she responds in her future moment.

Hebrews 12:2 reminds us that Jesus took the long view. He was able to endure the cross because he knew that on the other side of the pain and torture and hell lay the reconciliation of God's people.

So take the long view. Your love isn't just for the moment; it will have impact for years to come.

3. Love for Jesus

In Matthew 25, Jesus says that what we do for the "least of these," the outcasts, the poor, the difficult people, we ultimately do for Him.

Now, Jesus will never slam a door in your face. He won't cuss you out on the phone. And he won't send you a cruel Facebook message that will ruin your day. But when you love the person who does, when you show patience with them by responding with kindness, ultimately you are showing unconditional love because you love Jesus. Loving them truly isn't about them or because they deserve it. It is loving them simply because Jesus loved you, even while you were still a weak, sinful, enemy of the Holy God.

So let's continue to do the Love Challenge, even when faced with difficult people!

Erin Bird Lead Pastor - Riverwood Church

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Riverwood Church, Waverly Iowa

We are on a mission to help people love like Jesus loved and live like Jesus lived.

It doesn't matter to us if you:

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No matter where you are in your spiritual journey, we want to help you become who God has created you to be.

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