I think we can see this issue from two angles. What should a Christian do about the nasty, negative people in his life?
- Avoid trauma triggers, so as not to have a serious emotional reaction
- Love people as Christ loves them, unconditionally
Many years ago, I suffered harrassment. I won’t go into details, but when the phone rang, I would begin to shake. It didn’t matter who was calling, but just hearing the phone ring caused me to have a totally involuntary reaction. My husband answered the phone for a while. I avoided it altogether because of a series of traumatic experiences I’d had. I’m happy to say this is totally in the past.
Being in the ministry, one naturally comes across some evil people. A few of them are abusive in the extreme. Are we supposed to cultivate a palsy-walsy friendship relationship with them, when they’ve refused to listen to counsel, change, and are abusive? I don’t think so.
It seems to me that we can be civil with everyone, but we don’t have to place ourselves beside abusive people more than we absolutely need to be.
Jesus preached in synagogues—where the whole spectrum of Jewish people worshiped. Some received His words, and some merely considered them. Others outright opposed Him.
Sometimes, those who opposed sought Him out to trip Him up with words—always failing. He sometimes refused to answer their questions or answered with His own questions. At other times, He answered quite clearly and contradicted their false beliefs. We can learn a lot from Jesus about how to handle critics, conscious that we must rely on the Holy Spirit’s leading.
Jesus taught that He seeks and finds those who are lost. I am thankful for His example: seeking the lost and trying to bring them into the fold.
Those who oppose us as to the gospel are actually opposing the Lord, but we can persist in praying that the Holy Spirit will get through to them and they will be saved. We cannot expect those who don’t know the Lord to act like believers. When opportunities present themselves, we can point people to Christ.
As to believers who oppose us, who actively do us harm—and won’t resolve the problem after we have gone to them one-on-one and tried to win them (Matthew 18:15-17), there may come a time when we part ways. It will be seldom, thankfully, but it can happen. We should still be civil and kind, but we don’t need to be good friends with that person.
Separation always has the end goal of reconciliation and restoration. If that person realizes his sin and confesses and asks for forgiveness, it should be given. I think we can be cautious and watch to make sure that person is sincere, but we should be willing to help that person come back to the Lord, church, and back into fellowship with all.
What does the Bible say about these topics?
This is about the person who professes to be a born-again Christian: But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat. For what have I to do to judge them also that are without? do not ye judge them that are within? But them that are without God judgeth. Therefore put away from among yourselves that wicked person (1 Corinthians 5:11-13). Notice the distinction between those without and those within. God judges unbelievers, but we’re not to have close friendships with those who say they are Christians and live like unbelievers.
Another cause for separation is with people who say they are Christians but divide the church and teach false doctrine. Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them (Romans 16:17).
But, what about the people who are not in our churches, those around us who may rub us wrong? Jesus said, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you. For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? Do not even the publicans so? (Matthew 5:44, 46-47)
Love those sandpaper people. Be friendly. Reach them with kindness.
What do we expect of people who don’t know Christ? They don’t have the Holy Spirit in them and aren’t motivated to resist temptation. Unsaved people are carnal, of the world, thinking about pleasure rather than God. We can’t expect anything else.
How do we reach people? Love. For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself (Galatians 5:14).
Jesus loved sinners. But God commended his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8). That’s Christ-like love.