Avoiding nasty people: is it Christ-like?

I think we can see this issue from two angles. What should a Christian do about the nasty, negative people in his life?

  1. Avoid trauma triggers, so as not to have a serious emotional reaction
  2. 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.

Do we or do we not … want to obey?

The Bible speaks plainly. In the Old Testament, God proclaims countless times: if you obey me, I will bless you. If you do not, you will suffer the consequences.

It’s that simple.

In the New Testament, Jesus says, If ye love me, keep my commandments (John 14:15).

We who are born again Christians, churchgoing, and Bible believers say that we love the Lord. We say we believe the Bible from cover to cover.

And that’s good.

Why don’t we obey?

My husband and I have counseled people, showing them in black and white from the Bible what God wants them to do in a specific situation, not adding our words to it. But they won’t.

If we love God, our desire should be to please Him.

The Bible tells us what God wants us to know. If we obey His Word, we have His blessing. If we choose to disobey, we reap the consequences.

I’m talking about clearly stated principles.

Let’s pretend—and I know my readers aren’t like this pretend story—that you are cognizant that the Bible says, Thou shalt not steal. It’s one of the Ten Commandments, and you’ve known them all your life. No problem.

One of your friends asks you to help her rob a bank. Your part will be fairly easy. You’ll hold a gun on the guard at the door, and she will go to the bank teller and make demands. You will split the money afterwards.

Now, apart from security cameras and all the logistical problems involved in this totally made-up scenario, you decide that this a great way to get quick money. You holster your Glock 19 and head for the bank with your friend. Of course, you get caught, and both of you serve jail time for attempted robbery. This is what happens when you disobey God’s rules.

The Bible instructs us about practical living: family relationships and roles, purity, entertainment, dress, helping the poor, how to act in church, and all kinds of other subjects.

Yet, we constantly choose to ignore or disobey.

Or we choose ignorance.

I don’t think Christians willingly choose ignorance, but sometimes we honestly don’t know what the Bible says.

Maybe we need to find out.

We need to find out so that we can obey. I love how Psalm 119 develops this concept. In closing, let me share the heart of the psalmist with you. We’re not sure who actually wrote this particular Psalm, but it doesn’t matter. What’s important is his desire to know what God wants so that he can obey. (These are not all the verses on this topic, only about half of them.)

From Psalm 119:

  • Blessed are they that keep his testimonies, and that seek him with the whole heart (verse 2).
  • O that my ways were directed to keep thy statutes! (verse 5)
  • Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to thy word (9).
  • I will run the way of thy commandments, when thou shalt enlarge my heart (32).
  • Give me understanding, and I shall keep thy law; yea, I shall observe it with my whole heart (34).
  • So shall I keep thy law continually for ever and ever (44).
  • I made haste, and delayed not to keep thy commandments (60).
  • Give me understanding, that I may learn thy commandments (73b).
  • Quicken me after thy lovingkindness; so shall I keep the testimony of thy mouth (88).
  • I have sworn, and I will perform it, that I will keep thy righteous judgments (106).
  • I have inclined mine heart to perform thy statutes alway, even unto the end (112).
  • Depart from me, ye evildoers: for I will keep the commandments of my God (115).
  • I am thy servant; give me understanding, that I may know thy testimonies (125).
  • Therefore I love thy commandments above gold; yea, above fine gold (127).
  • My soul hath kept thy testimonies; and I love them exceedingly (167).

Give me understanding, and I shall keep thy law.

My life, your life: whatever happened to our life?

In marriage, it is extremely easy to find both partners going in different directions, floating apart, and doing their own independent things. I call it my life, your life.

Whatever happened to our life?

It can happen subtly. Both partners work. Both are physically in different places throughout the day, and before you know it, one is living his life and the other lives hers. She works, shuttles children here and there. They grab fast food on the run, and to compensate for no one being at home, he works longer hours.

Before you know it, you have two totally separate lives. You’re married, but you have little in common. Not meal times, not time together, not the activities you once enjoyed. You are living my life, your life.

If you can identify with this—and many can—I might be able to help you recover the life together you secretly crave. Here are seven suggestions:

  1. Schedule a half hour with your spouse. During that planning session, decide together on one time each week—preferably at least a three-hour period—that the whole family does something special together. It can be a picnic, a hike, a bike ride, playing board games, or whatever you all enjoy together. If you have little ones, maybe just going to a kiddie park will do. Each week, this time is family time.
  2. At the end of the day, when you are both tired and only want your pillows, share your days to each other. This doesn’t have to be a long process, just sharing.
  3. Drop something. Do less. Some ideas: children’s activities, your after-hours sports dates (bowling, etc.), anything that doesn’t have to be done.
  4. Plan family meals. Ideally, families should eat together—everyone at the table—at least once a day. This may take some juggling, but it can be done. I suggest supper, but breakfast can work, too.
  5. Communicate throughout the day. A friendly text goes a long way towards keeping you on the same page—and feeling like a couple. Communicate freely when you’re together, too.
  6. Put up boundaries to protect your marriage. I’ve written on this subject before. You can access it here. It’s important to protect your relationship, especially so when both partners work full time.
  7. Plan get-aways for just the two of you. Use your time off to strengthen your marriage. My husband and I like to get-away for 24-36 hours. It helps us enjoy different scenery, and it doesn’t break the bank or take us away from our responsibilities for a long time.

Many Christian marriages are breaking up, and a lot of people have no clue what happened. It has nothing to do with their love, marrying a jerk, or anything like that. It’s only that they began to float away from each other. One makes his life and the other lives hers.

It’s interesting that the word for love—the only time it’s used in the Bible for wives loving husbands*—is the word for friendship love (as opposed to God’s love or physical love). Our husband is to be our friend. We need to think about how to make him our friend and keep him our friend. As with any friendship, this part of marriage comes with the investment of time, energy, and communication.

Please share any tip you might have for keeping your marriage “our marriage.” Feel free to comment with your tried-and-true suggestions for success.

* Titus 2:4

Women of the Bible 10: Who am I?

I am a sceptic and always have been. If I can’t prove it, I don’t believe it.

So, I hear about a king, north of here. (I live in Yemen.) They say he is the greatest on earth. He has the most powerful army, the best-dressed courtiers, and is the richest, wisest…. They say he’s the greatest ever.

How can anyone be all that?

The reports keep coming. His throne room is like no other. His houses … they drink from gold vessels….

In order to disprove the rumors and satisfy my curiosity, I prepare to go and meet this great so-and-so. It’s an official visit, since I am queen.

I take spices, gold, and precious stones. After all, what do you give to someone who has everything?

As I’ve heard he is wise, I take with me a list of hard questions, to test him. What does this king know and believe?

After many long hot days, we arrive with our caravan of camels and find him welcoming and amicable. I feel that I can talk with him about anything. I’m almost embarrassed, as I realize I have told him all that is in my heart.

I ask my questions—my long list—and he answers every single one. To my satisfaction. With wisdom. I’m in awe.

His house, the gourmet food, the manner of the servants and their attendance to details, his ministers, the sparkling robes on everyone, his cupbearers, and the reverence with which he procedes to the house of his God leave me speechless—a rarity for me.

When I find my tongue, I say to him: It was a true report that I heard in mine own land of thy acts and of thy wisdom. Howbeit I believed not the words, until I came, and mine eyes had seen it: and, behold, the half was not told me: thy wisdom and prosperity exceedeth the fame which I heard. Happy are thy men, happy are these thy servants, which stand continually before thee, and that hear thy wisdom. Blessed be the LORD thy God, which delighted in thee, to set thee on the throne of Israel: because the LORD loved Israel for ever, therefore made he thee king, to do judgment and justice.

I give the king 120 talents of gold, many pounds of spices, including frankincense from my country, and precious stones. In fact, I heard he had never received so many spices ever before as he did from me.

What the king do, then? He asked me what I wanted. I could choose anything. Believe me, I took advantage of his generosity. I chose silk, gold-studded robes for me and my household, some golden chalices, and a large box of silver. He wasn’t satisfied. He gave me more as a present. I am overwhelmed.

When my servants and I turn towards home, I am a different person. I have put my faith in the God of Israel. I am a believer in two senses: I now believe what I was told—and they hadn’t described even the half of what I saw with my own eyes. And, more importantly, I found the most powerful, awesome God.

Who am I?

Who is the great king?

For extra credit, how far did I travel from Sana’a, Yemen to the king’s palace in Jerusalem?

“My son” Proverbs 3’s caring advice

Addressing someone as son, daughter, or child shows affection and caring. This passage reminds me of the Apostle John, who often used the words little children to express his love and concern for the people to whom he wrote.

In Proverbs 3, there are two parts.

The first is addressed, my son. It’s a wonderful list of instructions from the Father:

  • Don’t forget my law—a good place to start.
  • Keep my commandments.
  • Don’t let mercy and truth get away from you.
  • Trust in the Lord with all your heart.
  • Don’t depend on your own understanding.
  • Look to God in everything you do.
  • Don’t think you’re wise.
  • Respect the Lord.
  • Reject evil.
  • Tithe.
  • Don’t resist when God brings you back into line. His correction is a sign that He loves you like a Father.

Then, there’s a list of blessings for the son (or daughter) who listens:

  • For length of days, and long life, and peace, shall they add to thee (verse 2).
  • So shalt thou find favour and good understanding in the sight of God and man (verse 4).
  • He shall direct thy paths (6). 
  • It shall be health to thy navel, and marrow to thy bones (8).
  • So shall thy barns be filled with plenty, and thy presses shall burst out with new wine (10).

The second section of Proverbs 3 is about finding wisdom and the characteristics of wisdom. I love the way it begins: Happy is the man that findeth wisdom, and the man that getteth understanding (13).

Wisdom’s value is better than the merchandise of silver, and the gain thereof than fine gold. She is more precious than rubies: and all the things thou canst desire are not to be compared unto her (14-15).

What are the benefits of wisdom?

  • Length of days
  • Riches and honour
  • pleasantness
  • peace
  • a source of life

Verse 19 begins talking about the Lord:

  • The LORD by wisdom hath founded the earth;
  • by understanding hath he established the heavens.
  • By his knowledge the depths are broken up, and the clouds drop down the dew.

Then, the Proverb swings back to advice for the son:

  • My son, let not them depart from thine eyes:
  • keep sound wisdom and discretion.
  • Be not afraid of sudden fear,
  • Don’t be afraid of the desolation of the wicked.
  • Withhold not good from them to whom it is due, when it is in the power of thine hand to do it.
  • Devise not evil against thy neighbour.
  • Strive not with a man without cause, if he have done thee no harm.
  • Envy thou not the oppressor.

Again, there’s a list of blessings for obedience:

  • So shall they be life unto thy soul, and grace to thy neck.
  • Then shalt thou walk in thy way safely, and thy foot shall not stumble.
  • When thou liest down, thou shalt not be afraid: yea, thou shalt lie down, and thy sleep shall be sweet.
  • For the Lord shall be thy confidence.

Many times in the book of Proverbs, God contrasts good and bad. At the end of Chapter 3, we have three comparisons of this type.

  1. The curse of the LORD is in the house of the wicked: but he blesseth the habitation of the just (33).
  2. Surely he scorneth the scorners: but he giveth grace unto the lowly (34).
  3. The wise shall inherit glory: but shame shall be the promotion of fools (35).

What do I get out of Proverbs 3? One thing I noticed this time through this chapter was the Father-son relationship and caring advice, obviously a parallel with God and His children.

How many times do we give good advice to our own children and tell them the blessings of obedience and consequences of disobeying? I’m not sure I was good at the first part—advising them of the blessings in store if they obeyed. I often only warned them of the consequences of disobedience. But, God is the perfect Parent, and He wisely lists the joys of obedience as motivation for His children.

Two of my favorite verses—and life guiding verses—are in this passage: Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths (5-6). These help me with priorities. They ground me. As a woman, I am too prone to try to figure things out, fix, and lean to mine own understanding. I love that that last phrase, direct thy paths, actually means to “make my way straight” or “straighten my way.” When things aren’t clear, when we don’t get it, He does—and He will straighten it all out if we trust in Him. It’s like releasing the reins and letting the horse take us home—only much, much better.

Have you enjoyed this affectionate chapter? Which lesson speaks to you? Please feel free to share.