Jesus taught that how we handle difficult people contributes either toward our lives collapsing or remaining firm. If we have sung the childhood song about the wise man who built his house upon a rock, then we realize just how serious Jesus is in the Sermon on the Mount.
What might not immediately come to mind are the many types of troublesome people Jesus described in that lesson. Jesus runs through a familiar list of faces.
The last place we might expect to find difficult people is one of the first places Jesus mentions. Jesus portrays a scene where another follower of God has a grudge against us. He also reminds us about those who would threaten us with lawsuits as well as that individual who would use his or her position to coerce forced labor.
Jesus is not finished yet. He brings to mind that person who always seems to be begging and asking for something. Finally, his list of difficult people hits rock bottom with those who are actively seeking our harm. He simply calls them our enemies.
While the typical response to such individuals might be to dish back at them what they deserve, Jesus claimed another motivation must drive our lives if we are going to be God’s children.
In a world of difficult people, Jesus counseled the priority of reconciliation (Matthew 5:24). He also taught we need to abandon our rights (Matthew 5:40-41), not strike back (Matthew 5:39) and love even our worst enemy (Matthew 5:44).
Just when this seems too much to swallow, he reminds us God has already blazed the trail in loving those who are evil. God is asking us to follow where he has already trod.
When we gaze at God, we find the ability to respond with loving ways to hurtful people. And in gazing at our perfect God, we realize that we too have been difficult. The deeper we comprehend God’s love toward troublesome people, including ourselves, the more we are enabled to demonstrate this same love toward others.