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The Biblical way to deal with difficult people

Copyright 2017 by Bob Rogers.

Your child is wronged by another child, and when you try to talk to her parents, they tell you off. A friend gets angry with you and refuses to talk to you. A fellow worker never shows you respect, always going over your head. How do you deal with difficult people? My grandfather loved to answer this dilemma with Romans 12:18, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”

This verse recognizes two important facts about dealing with difficult people: 1) we should live at peace with people, and 2) it’s not always possible. In fact, Romans 12 gives us four ways to deal with difficult people when peace is possible, and four ways to deal with them when peace is not possible.

When peace is possible

Romans 12:14-16 gives us some practical ways to live at peace with difficult people.

1. Be a blessing (v. 14)

Paul says, “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.” This statement, like several others here, refer back to Jesus’ word in the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus told us, “Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44).

Paul must have remembered his own past with this statement, for many years before, Paul was the young Pharisee named Saul who held the coats of those who stoned to death the first Christian martyr, Stephen. Acts 7:60 records that as he died, Stephen said, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.”

2. Be empathetic (v. 15)

In verse 15 he adds, “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.” This is more than sympathy; it is empathy. It is identifying with those who hurt.  This is a critical response to a difficult person, because when we can identify with them and understand why they act the way they do, then we will be much better at relating to them.

3. Be agreeable (v. 16a)

Verse 16 begins, “Live in harmony with one another.” Literally, the Greek means to “have the same mind toward one another.” We can disagree in substance and still be agreeable in spirit.

4. Be humble (v. 16b)

Sometimes the reason that the other person is so difficult to deal with us because the problem is within ourselves! Thus Paul reminds us, “Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.” As Proverbs 3:7 says, “Do not be wise in your own eyes.”

When peace is impossible

Paul said in verse 18 to live at peace “if it is possible” and if “it depends on you.” He was recognizing that there are times when it is impossible for us to bring about peace in our own power. So what do you do when there is no peace? What do you do when it’s out of your hands?

1. Do not seek personal revenge (v. 17a, 19a)

Although I have listed this under the category of “when peace is impossible,” it probably fits under both categories. This is a principle that goes both ways.

Verse 17 says, “Do not repay anyone evil for evil…” Verse 19 says, “Do not take revenge, my friends…” Jesus also taught the same thing in the Sermon on the Mount. He said, “If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also…If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles” (Matthew 5:39, 41). Jesus was not talking about social injustice; He was making reference to personal insults. As Proverbs 12:16 says, it is wise to ignore an insult.

2. Do what is right (v. 17b)

We do not need to let the meanness of another person drag us down to their level. Thus verse 17 continues, “Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody.” We must decide that even when the other person refuses to do what is right, that we will do what is right. Even when we cannot keep the peace, we can keep our integrity.

3. Let God avenge (v. 19b)

Verse 19 begins by saying, “Do not take revenge” but the verse goes on to say, “leave room for God’s wrath.” That is, we do not take revenge for personal insults and injuries, but we do make room for God to work his vengeance, particularly against social injustice.

When the Hebrews fled across the Red Sea and Pharaoh chased them, God allowed the Egyptians to drown in the sea, and Exodus 15 records the song of rejoicing that Moses sang at their defeat. Proverbs 11:10 says that “when the wicked perish, there are shouts of joy.” While it is a virtue to overlook a personal insult, it is not a virtue to overlook a social injustice. The former is gracious; the latter is gross negligence.

4. Overcome evil with good (v. 20-21)

Paul says, “’If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.’ [A quotation of Proverbs 25:21-22.] Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

We can read Romans 12:20-21 on two levels: On a personal level, “kill him with kindness.” If your enemy is hungry, feed him. Let his evil be in such contrast to your goodness, that evil will be conquered by good. You may change his heart. On a social level, God will bring about the vengeance, often by using the judicial system, law enforcement and the military to bring about justice. In this way, you are leaving room for God’s wrath.

To sum up, how do you deal with difficult people? If possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with them. If possible, be a blessing, be empathetic, be agreeable, be humble. Respond to their personal insults with personal kindness. And if none of those things are possible, you may just need to walk away and let God deal with them.

How does God want you to deal with your difficult person?

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5 reasons to pray for President Trump (even if you didn’t vote for him)

trumpprayer

Article copyright 2017 by Bob Rogers

You and I should pray for President Trump, whether we voted for him or not. Here’s five reasons why:

1. Scripture commands it. Scripture commands us to pray for our leaders. The apostle Paul said, “I urge that petitions, prayers, intercessions and thanksgivings be made for everyone, for kings and for all those who are in authority…” (1 Timothy 2:1-2, HCSB).

2. The Old Testament prophets modeled it. The Old Testament prophets modeled this kind of praying for us. Isaiah said that the Lord “wondered that there was no intercessor” (Isaiah 49:16), Jeremiah wept over the nation, and Ezekiel called for someone to “stand in the gap” (Ezekiel 22:30) on behalf of the nation.

3. The early Christians modeled it. The apostle Peter wrote, “Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the Emperor” (1 Peter 2:17, HCSB). If first century Christians could pray for a Roman emperor who threw them to the lions, cannot we pray for an elected president with whom we may disagree?

4. When the president does well, we all do well. The prophet Jeremiah wrote a letter to Jewish exiles in Babylon, encouraging them to pray for the king and city that had taken them into exile. He gave them a word from the Lord: “Seek the welfare of the city I have deported you to. Pray to the Lord on its behalf, for when it has prosperity, you will prosper” (Jeremiah 29:7, HCSB). The words “welfare” and “prosper” translate the rich Hebrew word shalom, which means peace and prosperity.

5. God calls us to live in peace, not division. Notice that when Paul urged us to pray for political leaders, he also gave us a reason: “… so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity” (1 Timothy 2:2b). During the presidency of Barack Obama, African-American pastor Tony Evans pointed out, “What many conservative Christians fail to realize … is that when our first black president, Barack Obama, is dishonored through caricatures, name-calling, or disrespectful talk by white Americans, it merely creates a greater chasm between the races.” (Tony Evans, Oneness Embraced, p. 52). Rev. Evans was exactly right– and the same principle that applied to Obama then applies to Trump now. Evans illustrates what the apostle Paul was talking about– angry words instead of words of prayer for President Trump create chaotic lives, not tranquil lives. One preacher pointed that that if we would pray for the president instead of complain about the president, maybe he would do better.

So I am praying for President Trump, just as I prayed for President Obama and those before them. Will you join me?

If you are wondering what to pray, here are the words prayed by Bishop Wayne T. Jackson at the inauguration of President Trump: https://bobrogers.me/2017/01/20/bishop-jacksons-inauguration-prayer-for-president-trump/

Here are some good thoughts on praying at the inauguration, from the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association: https://billygraham.org/story/inauguration-prayers-billy-graham-franklin-graham/?utm_source=BGEA+facebook&utm_medium=post&utm_campaign=FB+General+Post&utm_content=BGEA+FB+Page&SOURCE=BY150FGEN

The wonder of the Christ child

BethlehemStable

Article copyright 2016 by Bob Rogers

Barbara Robinson writes in her book, The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, about a Sunday School Christmas pageant. One child heard from Isaiah 9:6 that the Christ child’s name would be “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Wide-eyed, she responded, “He’d never get out of the first grade if he had to write all that.”
Perhaps we need to return to this familiar prophetic title with the same wonder of a child. We will see:

As Wonderful Counselor, Christ takes away our gloom.
As Mighty God, Christ takes away our doom.
As Everlasting Father, Christ adopts us all.
As Prince of Peace, Christ takes down the wall.

In the verses before Isaiah 9:6, we see how meaningful this really is…

I. Wonderful Counselor takes away our gloom

Isaiah 9:1 says “the gloom of the distressed will not be like that of the former times.” In this world, we often live in gloom and sorrow, but Christ takes it away. Our Wonderful Counselor listens with compassion, helps us see matters in a new light, confronts us with the truth, and guides us in the right way.

II. Mighty God takes away our doom

Isaiah 9:2 says, “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.” Because of our sin, we are living in the land of death, headed to a sinner’s hell. But the Christ child is more than a sweet baby; He is God in flesh, and able to save us from our sins by His sacrifice on the cross. He came to earth, so that we may go to heaven.

III. Everlasting Father adopts us all

Isaiah 9:4 speaks of the oppression and burdens of the people, who have no one to protect them. But God is a good Father, and His Son Jesus has come to adopt us all. When I say, “adopts us all,” I don’t mean to imply universal salvation; I’m speaking poetically of all who trust the blood of Christ, and then are adopted into God’s family, as if we were blood brothers and sisters. “I will not leave you as orphans,” Jesus promised in John 14:18.

IV. Prince of Peace takes down the wall

Isaiah 9:5 speaks of the blood of war, from which Christ came to bring peace. He takes down the wall of sin (Isaiah 59:2), so that nothing separates us from God (Romans 8:38-39). He takes down the wall that separates us from our brothers and sisters in Christ: “For He is our peace, who made both groups one and tore down the dividing wall of hostility” (Ephesians 2:14).

When missionary Don Richardson was trying to explain the gospel to a remote tribe, they could not understand the incarnation of God in flesh or the atonement of Christ upon the cross. But then he learned that when tribes wanted to make peace, they would exchange children to grow up in the other tribe. That was it! He explained that Jesus is our “Peace Child,” the Son of God, born as a Son of Man to make peace through His flesh.
Isaiah prophesied of the Messiah’s birth long ago. As you celebrate His birth, you can also be born again by faith (John 3:3). Have you?

The preacher who had too much fried chicken

  As Thanksgiving comes and goes, most of us will feast on turkey, ham and many other wonderful foods. But you can get too much of a good thing– even fried chicken.
Fried chicken is so popular at church meals in the South, that some people call it “gospel bird.” But Dan Spencer from Thomasville, Georgia, tells about a preacher who had too much gospel bird. I don’t know if this story is true or not, but it makes a good point.
This particular minister was preaching a week-long series of revival sermons. Each day, he was invited to eat at the home of a different member of the congregation. And every day, they served the same thing– fried chicken. Most preachers like fried chicken, but not this man, which only made matters worse. Finally, he came to the last meal of the week, and when he sat down to eat, he looked and saw in front of him the same dish: fried chicken. The lady of the house asked the visiting preacher to ask God’s blessing on the meal, and this is what he prayed:
“Lord, I have it hot
and I’ve had it cold
I’ve had it young
and I’ve had it old
I’ve had it tender
and I’ve had it tough.
And thank you, Lord,
I’ve had enough!”
Sometimes we feel like that in life. Sometimes we just get to the point that we’ve had enough. We wonder if we can take any more of the troubles that life dishes out to us, such as financial problems, health problems and family problems. Sometimes we feel overwhelmed, even if it’s a good thing, we can get overloaded with work
and busyness.
Thanksgiving is a wonderful time for us to stop and remember that in Jesus Christ, we can find peace when we’ve had enough. As Christ said, “I have told you these things so that in Me you may have peace. You will have suffering in this world. Be courageous! I have conquered the world” (John 16:33, HCSB).
So pass the chicken. I think I can take one more bite.

How to Deal with Difficult People

Copyright 2012 by Bob Rogers

Your child is wronged by another child, and when you try to talk to her parents, they tell you off.
A fellow church member gets angry with you and refuses to talk to you.
A friend always interrupts you, and you want to be friends but you always get frustrated with the conversation.
A fellow worker never shows you respect, always going over your head.
How do you deal with difficult people?

Whenever there was a disagreement in church business meetings or family squabbles, my Grandfather Rogers loved to quote Romans 12:18, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”

This verse is the pivotal verse in the passage, Romans 12:14-21. It recognizes two important facts about dealing with difficult people: 1) we should live at peace with people, and 2) it’s not always possible. In fact, the passage leading up to verse 18 talk about when it is possible, and then with verse 18, the subject switches to what to do when it is not possible to live at peace with others. So let’s look at it this way.

I. When peace is possible

Most of the time, we can live at peace with others. Whenever it is possible, we should. But how? Verses 14-16 gives us some practical ways to live at peace with difficult people.

A. Be a blessing (v. 14)

We’ve all heard of family members who refuse to speak to one another for years. How sad! Most of the time, peace is possible between two people, if you are willing to make the first move toward reconciliation. So choose to be a blessing.

Paul says, “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.” This statement, like several others here, refer back to Jesus’ word in the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus told us, “Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44).

Paul must have remembered his own past with this statement, for many years before, Paul was the young Pharisee named Saul who held the coats of those who stoned to death the first Christian martyr, Stephen. Acts 7:60 records that as he died, Stephen said, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” Perhaps it was the impact of Stephen’s refusal to curse his persecutors that caused Saul to be so troubled in spirit and respond to the call of God on the road to Damascus, as is recorded two chapters later, in Acts 9.

B. Be empathetic (v. 15)

In verse 15 he adds, “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.” This is more than sympathy; it is empathy. It is identifying with those who hurt. It’s like the little 8-year-old boy who went over to see an elderly man next door whose wife had just died. When he came back, the boy’s mother asked, “What did you say?” The boy said, “Oh, nothing, we just sat on the porch and I helped him cry.” This is an extremely important response to a difficult person, because when we can identify with them and understand why they act the way they do, then we will be much better at relating to them.

C. Be agreeable (v. 16a)

Verse 16 begins, “Live in harmony with one another.” Literally, the Greek means to “have the same mind toward one another.” We can disagree in substance and still be agreeable in spirit.

D. Be humble (v. 16b)

Sometimes the reason that the other person is so difficult to deal with us because the problem is within ourselves! Thus Paul reminds us, “Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position (this can be translated, ‘be willing to do menial work.’) Do not be conceited.” As Proverbs 3:7 says, “Do not be wise in your own eyes.”

You never know how if you would just be kind to people in low position, how you may benefit from your kindness one day.

II. When peace is impossible

Paul said in verse 18 to live at peace “if it is possible” and if “it depends on you.” He was recognizing that there are times when it is impossible for us to bring about peace in our own power. So what do you do when there is no peace? What do you do when it’s out of your hands?

A. Do not seek personal revenge (v. 17a, 19a)

Although I have listed this under the category of “when peace is impossible,” it probably fits under both categories. This is a principle that goes both ways.

Verse 17 says, “Do not repay anyone evil for evil…” Verse 19 says, “Do not take revenge, my friends…” Jesus also taught the same thing in the Sermon on the Mount. He said, “If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also…If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles” (Matthew 5:39, 41). Jesus was not talking about social injustice; He was making reference to personal insults. This sounds strange to Americans who are used to demanding our rights, but the Christian is to be willing to give up his or her rights for the greater good of bringing peace.

However, even if peace is impossible, it is still the right response to the evil person. As Proverbs 12:16 says, it is wise to ignore an insult.

B. Do what is right (v. 17b)

You see, we do not need to let the meanness of another person drag us down to their level. Thus verse 17 continues, “Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody.” It would be very easy respond to the ugly text message with an ugly reply. It would be easy when a person blesses you out in front of others, to let them have it with a few choice words of your own. It would be easy when the competition cheats to get ahead, for you to cut corners and cheat, as well. We must decide that even when the other person refuses to do what is right, that we will do what is right. Even when we cannot keep the peace, we can keep our integrity.

C. Let God avenge (v. 19b)

What about a terrorist like Osama bin Laden? Is it wrong to seek revenge against somebody like that?

Verse 19 begins by saying, “Do not take revenge” but the verse goes on to say, “leave room for God’s wrath.” That is, we do not take revenge for personal insults and injuries, but we do make room for God to work his vengeance, particularly against social injustice like a terrorist.

There was a great German pastor in World War II named Dietrich Bonhoeffer who opposed Hitler. Bonhoeffer even participated in a plot to assassinate Hitler, and he was a Christian pastor! Why would he do that? Bonhoeffer did it because he knew that it would stop a greater evil. In the Old Testament, Moses was sent to Pharaoh and told to demand justice for the Hebrew slaves. God even sent a “death angel” as a final plague upon the Egyptians to set the people free. When the Hebrews fled across the Red Sea and Pharaoh chased them, God allowed the Egyptians to drown in the sea, and Exodus 15 records the song of rejoicing that Moses sang at their defeat.

How do we reconcile this with Jesus’ words in the Sermon on the Mount about turning the other cheek and loving our enemies? We need to make a distinction between personal offenses and social justice. Proverbs 24:17 says, “Do not gloat when your enemy falls.” Yet Proverbs 11:10 says that “when the wicked perish, there are shouts of joy.” Both of these statements are in the same book of the Bible, and both are true. While it is a virtue to overlook a personal insult, it is not a virtue to overlook a social injustice. The former is gracious; the latter is gross negligence.

D. Overcome evil with good (v. 20-21)

Finally, we deal with the most difficult of people, the evil person, by overcoming evil with good. The statement in verse 20 has an application both ways, like verse 17, to personal insults and difficult people with whom we might reconcile, but it also applies to the more difficult and devilish people and situations from which we can expect no reconciliation.

Paul quotes Proverbs 25:21-22, saying, “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”

This can be interpreted two different ways. The popular way to understand it, is to mean “Kill them with kindness” and thus shame them into repentance. It reminds me of the church sign that said, “Love your enemies—it messes with their heads.” It is true many times that we overcome evil by refusing to respond with evil. By showing kindness, we can often change a heart.

Most Christians are familiar with this statement, “heap burning coals on their head,” and we’ve come to use it in the sense of shaming them by killing them with kindness. But there is a second way to understand this—a way that applies to times when it is not possible to find peace. In ancient times, Egyptians had a ritual of punishment for those who repented, where they had to walk on fiery hot coals, and in scripture, fire and hot coals were often used of punishment. Psalm 140:10 says, “Let burning coals fall upon them; may they be thrown into the fire.” How is this overcoming evil with good? Well, in the next chapter of Romans, chapter 13, Paul talks about how God has placed the government over us for our good. He says in Romans 13:4 that the government is God’s servant for God, the avenger that brings wrath on the one who does wrong. President Barack Obama and former president George W. Bush are opposites in their political views, but one thing they both agree on was the government action is removing the terrorist, Osama bin Laden. They both said that while they took no personal pleasure in the death of Osama bin Laden, nevertheless, “Justice was done.”

Thus we could read verses 20-21 this way: On a personal level, respond to evil with kindness. If your enemy is hungry, feed him. Let his evil thus be so obvious and so exposed, in such contrast to your goodness, that evil will be conquered by good. God will bring about the vengeance, often by using the government law enforcement and military to bring about justice. In this way, you will heap burning coals of punishment on his head, but leaving room for God’s wrath. We need to be like the preacher who said, “I’m not going to get even. I’m going to tell God on you!” (Charles R. Swindoll, The Tale of the Tardy Oxcart, p. 495.)

How do you deal with difficult people? If possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with them. If possible, be a blessing, be empathetic, be agreeable, be humble. And if none of those things are possible, you may just need to walk away and “tell God on them.”

How does God want you to deal with your difficult person?