Tag Archives: difficult people

How to love deceivers and other difficult people – 2nd John, Part 5

13 Sep
Photo by Tim Marshall on Unsplash

In the previous post, John warned the Christians in the church about deceivers in their midst. But who was he talking about? Open a Bible or read online in 2nd John verses 10-11 to see how John describes them. Some scholars believe that he is talking about itinerant teachers who believed false doctrine.  There were many traveling preachers in that day.  It could be that John is only prohibiting people from investing in the work of those who were heretics, but John would have been okay with Christians in the church conversing with the false teachers and trying to win them over to faithfulness.  It is hard to know how much John covers through the words “do not take him into your house and welcome him.” 

What we see for certain is a healthy caution, a guardedness, a yellow alert of sorts.  In his epistle in 1 John 4:1, he talks about this as well when he says “test the spirits”.  Testing the spirits means that we ask the question of them: are they teaching true doctrine about Jesus?  Just like the false traveling preachers, we have people in our day and age who have all kinds of views about God.  While we have a caution and do the work of “testing the spirits,” we don’t have to overreact in fear. Instead we choose to love them. Loving them doesn’t mean buying in to what they are teaching. In fact loving them means we treat them how God would want us treat them, and if their teaching is false, that means seeking to help them see the truth.

John then concludes his letter in verses 12-13 with some greetings, mentioning that he looks forward to visiting with them.

So what have seen in this letter called 2nd John?  John teaches the principle of walking in love, which we is not by feelings or emotions, but by obeying God no matter how it affects you. 

God calls us to obey him out of love.  He doesn’t want force us to obey him like a drill sergeant does.  Instead he wants us to choose to love him.  Risky of God, isn’t it?  And yet wonderful because he wants us to have real relationship with him! 

Christians, therefore, consider how they are walking in love.

It could be a spouse that gives their life to many years of caring for a debilitated spouse. 

Or a couple that is dating and one partner develops cancer and rather than break-up, the other partner sticks with them, gets engaged and married, even knowing they might only have months or a couple years together married. 

It is a movement from selfishness to selflessness that is very similar to dating.  Dating starts with “what do I like,” “what is attractive to me” and moves to “how will I give care to the other?”  This same attitude can and should happen among people in a church family. Christians should be that loving community with one another.

I’m convinced that this is what Christians need to focus on in our post-Christian world.  We need to be known as the most loving people around, first and foremost to each other.

That means getting to know new people.  Investing quality time in them.

It means looking for people every single Sunday morning in a church’s gathering who might seem disconnected or new and reaching out to them. 

It means pushing past your own insecurities or weaknesses and connecting with people.

It means sharing your resources with those in need. 

It means a willingness to be inconvenienced for them. 

And it is rooted in Jesus, who is the embodiment of love.  Start there, with Jesus, whose Spirit lives in you, who loves you, and get to know his love, and then show your love for him by obeying his commands, one of which is to love those around you, even those who are difficult to love.

Walk in love.

How to welcome those who are difficult for you – Philemon 8-25, Part 5

30 Aug
Photo by Taylor Simpson on Unsplash

Who is difficult for you? Think about it. Who are the people you really struggle with? Does it seem like it would be awful to welcome them into your life? How should you treat them?

If Paul’s message to Philemon is our guide, then what we do will be self-sacrificial, it will be radical, it will cross the societal lines, and it will overturn conventional ideas.  It will be white people, giving up their power, privilege and position for people of color who have been marginalized.  It will be a purposeful embrace of the other who is no longer an outsider, but now in Christ a brother or a sister. 

As we conclude our series on Philemon, consider, then, what Jesus did.  Paul clearly describes how Jesus is an example for us of the very thing Paul is asking Philemon to do:

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross!

Philippians 2:3-8

Other translations say that Jesus “emptied himself”.  He gave up his rights, privilege, position and power so that he could reach us.  That meant he had to become one of us.  Think about that.  The one in the position of power and privilege “emptied himself,” as the hymn says, “of all but love, and bled for us.”  To save us, he became one us and died for us. 

In another place, Paul said that this concept was his modus operandi as well:

“Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews.” And just a few verses later he says, “To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some.”

1 Corinthians 9:19-20, 22

Jesus, therefore, is asking you and me the exact same thing that Paul was asking Philemon. 

What will you and I do about this?  We are the Philemons of our day.  The time has come for us to welcome the Onesimuses around us as dear brothers.  It might not mean they come to our church. Maybe it will.  But what will it mean?  Ask God to show you.  Ask God to give you his eyes, to see people and situations as he sees them, to act in love to all, because in his eyes all are equal. 

So we would do well to ask ourselves, who do we struggle with?  Who do we look down on?  Who do we think we are better than?  There are so many ways Paul’s letter to Philemon can apply. 

It could be people of a different ethnicity.  And it could be people of a different gender.  Perhaps you struggle with people who are of a different generation.  How about those of a different socioeconomic status?  Maybe people who speak a different language.  What about the immigrants, the asylum seekers, the refugees?  It could be those struggling with homelessness, divorce, bad choices, or a financial struggle.

Who will you stand beside and welcome?  Who will you embrace as a dear brother or sister?

Let’s conclude hearing Paul’s words again, starting:

“[Treat Onesimus] no longer as a slave, but better than a slave, as a dear brother. He is very dear to me but even dearer to you, both as a man and as a brother in the Lord. So if you consider me a partner, welcome him as you would welcome me. If he has done you any wrong or owes you anything, charge it to me. I, Paul, am writing this with my own hand. I will pay it back—not to mention that you owe me your very self. I do wish, brother, that I may have some benefit from you in the Lord; refresh my heart in Christ.”

Philemon 16-20