How to Deal With Problem People
What Jesus Really Said
by Bob Highlands III
All people are not the same and all problem people are not the same. Jesus knew that and gave instructions on how to deal with different types of problem people. If you listen to some teachers they want you to think you are to respond to every person and every situation exactly the same. Yet in the 5th chapter of Matthew, Jesus showed us how to respond to several different types of problem people. Here is a quick overview to get you started on thinking and studying this matter.
LOOK INSIDE FIRST (Matthew 5.21-22)
Jesus was a master psychologist long before anyone knew anything about how the human mind works. He knew that people who murder others had to build up to that point and hate the person from the inside of themselves until they could not stand the person so much they struck out to hurt or even kill someone else. Jesus wanted the believer to avoid the bitterness that builds up on the inside until it has to spill out in anger or even violence. Jesus spoke against the unhealthy anger that builds up and has no purpose. Like a festering wound it only grows worse as it is ignored. Calling someone ‘RACA’ (An Aramaic term of utter contempt for the other person – today it has been replaced with any number of profanity laced adjectives.) is absolutely forbidden. This has two distinct outcomes. First, you are not filled with hate and bitterness and second, the other person is not showered with your hate and negative insults. This means instead of escalating the matter you are open to possible solutions.
YOUR BROTHER OR SISTER IN THE LORD (Matthew 5. 23-24)
This is about being at peace with your fellow believers. Jesus knew people get out of sorts with each other. He did not want that to tear them apart of to build up until it exploded. This is about interpersonal problems. I want to warn you not to try and apply this to every situation. This is about two people with personal differences. I hear this scripture applied to every disagreement and all types of situations it has nothing to do with. Settle personal matters in a Christian manner so you and your brother or sister does not find yourself outside of God’s will.
YOUR ADVERSARY (Matthew 5.25-26)
Sometimes you are just wrong and you need to make things right. Jesus warned the person who was wrong to settle matters before it came to be a public matter with a judge and consequences. There are times when you are in a disagreement and you are wrong. You better settle it and do what it takes to make things right or you will find yourself on the short end of the stick. In this case the problem person you have to deal with is you.
MEAN EVIL PEOPLE (Matthew 5.38-42)
Jesus wants us to be smarter than our enemies. The law was all about vengeance and trying to balance the scales so the other person hurt like you did. If you practice and eye for and eye and a tooth long enough you will end up blind and unable to chew. Instead Jesus wants us to make our enemies respect us and to know we will not be bullied and will not be anyone’s doormat.
TURN THE OTHER CHEEK: Jesus was not telling us to sign up to be the world’s punching bags. In fact he was saying exactly the opposite. In Arabic or middle eastern countries and culture the left hand is considered unclean and is not to be used to touch another person. This is for a very good reason. The left hand is used for personal hygiene and without the ability to clean it after each use it is contaminated and unclean. One of the worst offenses in public is to touch another person with your left hand. Know this Jesus is not telling the believer to ask to be beat up but, he is telling them to back the person into a corner. If you are slapped on the one cheek with the right hand turn the other cheek and challenge the person to strike you with his left hand. Either he will be forced to back down in defeat or he will strike you and will have lost for breaking public rules of ethics. Either way you win. By dong this you are showing you are smarter than your enemy.
GIVE UP YOUR CLOAK TOO: Jesus must have had a great since of humor. (note: people in the culture Jesus lived in had outer clothes and inner clothes much like we have clothes we wear over our underwear) His illustration here is about someone taking your underwear away from you and you just give them all you have on. Yes, Jesus’s illustration leaves the person standing there naked surrounded by other. Then the naked person points at the one who took the clothes and says it is their fault. The goal is to embarrass the other person into returning all your clothes and leaving you alone. You are to be smarter than your enemies. The great part is there are no missing teeth and you have forced your enemy to want to leave you alone.
GO THE SECOND MILE: The Roman government had a law that a Roman soldier could make anyone they would meet who was not a roman citizen to carry their pack for one mile. The soldier was not allowed to force the person to carry it the second mile, in fact the soldier would be in trouble and could be punished if caught having a person carry their pack any further than one mile. Jesus said at the end of the mile just keep on carrying the pack, don’t stop just keep going. The soldier would be in a real pickle. If you are stopped and he is caught he will be in trouble not you. Can’t you just see the soldier begging for the person to give up the pack and stop carrying it for them. This is about backing you enemy into a position that they don’t want to have to deal with you because it is too painful. Again, you are to be smarter than you enemy.
Jesus knew people would be mean and try and take advantage of His followers. He left us instructions about how to outsmart and back our enemies down. Jesus never wanted us to be punching bags or run around naked or become pack horses for our enemies. He does want us to be winners and to back our enemies down. He wants us to be smarter than our enemies and to use our heads to outsmart and defeat our them. Violence leads to blind people eating mush the rest of their lives. Being smarter than our enemies leads to victory and respect.
YOUR ENEMIES (Matthew 5.43-48)
Even as he taught us how to defeat our enemies he also taught we should find ways to win our enemies over to the love of God. We are to pray for them. This causes the forces of God to move upon our enemies and it keeps our souls clean for bitterness and pride. You cannot pray honestly and earnestly for someone and continue to hate them. This leads to our hearts being inline with God’s heart. “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” 2 Peter 3.9 Our prayers should be inline with God’s will. Even for our enemies.
LIVING IN THIS WORLD
Jesus knew how to deal with problem people. He was not saying don’t get angry, but you have to be in control and not allow your anger to become a weapon the enemy can use to destroy you from within. Read Matthew 25 where Jesus delivered a scathing indictment of the religious leaders of his day. Calling them hypocrites (religious actors or pretend believers) and a bunch of vipers (snakes whose bite is deadly). He cleared the temple flipping over tables and driving animals out with a rope whip on two separate occasions and he was as angry as anyone can get but, it was for the right purpose and even then he was in control.
Jesus outlined how to deal with problem people.
You are to settle personal matters so you and your brother or sister don’t get pulled away from Jesus and do damage to the church and the witness of Christ.
Sometimes you are just wrong and it is your responsibility to make things right or pay the price. Settle matters before you discover how wrong you really are.
You are to be smarter than your enemies, defeating them and making sure they don’t want to tangle with you again. This way you keep your teeth and eyesight while avoid becoming a doormat or punching bag.
You are to pray for your enemies so God can work in their lives and in yours as well. “The Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.” Luke 19.10 Even if they are your enemy they are a potential brother or sister in the Lord who can be delivered from eternal punishment and given eternal life. Matthew 25.46
In the end it comes down to look inside and get it right. Look outward and deal with problems before they become sins. Look upward and get help from God so you can be smarter than your enemies and remember to always be in prayer for guidance in knowing what to do and how to deal with problem people.
For further personal study consider:
How David responded when attacked by King Saul.
How Nehemiah responded when his enemies wanted him to stop work and set down and talk with them.
How Daniel responded when told he could no longer pray.
© 2016 Bob Highlands III
© 2017 Bob Highlands III