A toenail doesn’t have to be friends with an eyeball

Who is that person in your life that you just don’t understand? Is it a family member or a coworker? I know people who just bug the fire out of me, and I really want nothing more than to shake them or throw something at them or pop off and tell them what I really think of them.

Of course, when it comes right down to it, I’m not nearly bold enough to do any of that. So I resort to creating characters like them in novels and making them look dumb. Yes, passive aggressive. I know. I’m working on it.

But do you ever wonder why you have to put up with it? The Bible is so full of examples of Jesus’ patience and goodness toward stupid people, and it frustrates me. Because I don’t want to be nice to stupid people. I want to be angry at them.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAToday’s verses are 2 Timothy 2:23-26.

Again I say, don’t get involved in foolish, ignorant arguments that only start fights. A servant of the Lord must not quarrel but must be kind to everyone, be able to teach, and be patient with difficult people. Gently instruct those who oppose the truth. Perhaps God will change those people’s hearts, and they will learn the truth. Then they will come to their senses and escape from the devil’s trap. For they have been held captive by him to do whatever he wants.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned growing up in the church, it’s that not all Christ-followers agree. When I was younger, that bothered me, because I thought everybody had to agree. We all have to believe the same thing, don’t we?

Well, I hate to burst your bubble, friends, but you’ll never see a time when everyone in a church–or any gathering of people–believes the same thing. Sure, you can agree on the basics. You can find common ground on the important things. But everyone sees life differently or has lived a different kind of life.

Those differences are valuable if you harness them, but if you let them drive a wedge between people, they can tear everything you’ve built down.

As you follow Christ, you’re going to encounter other Christ-followers who come from different cultures and different traditions and different perspectives. If they truly follow Christ, you can have a deep relationship with them because you have something in common with each other, but that doesn’t mean you’re going to agree on every subject. And that’s okay.

A Christ-follower from Africa is going to have a very different view of life and living than a Christ-follower from Canada. That doesn’t mean one is wrong and the other is right. What matters is that both people believe in Jesus for their salvation. But for some reason people love to point out things that are different, and once they see something that’s different, if it threatens them, they’re likely to decide it’s bad.

But if the Bible doesn’t say it’s wrong, who are we? If God doesn’t have a problem with it, why do we?

Our differences make us stronger. It all comes back to the Body of Christ. We all have different jobs, different loves, different passions, different talents, and we all come together in the name of Christ to serve Him. But if you’re the hands of the Body, don’t be telling the lips what to say, and vice versa. If you’re the feet, you don’t know how the eyes work. If you’re the ears, you’ve got a different job than the nose.

Because we’re different, we complement each other. Because we’re different, we are stronger together than we are alone. But because we’re different, it’s hard to remember that sometimes. Being different is difficult. We don’t communicate the same way. We don’t see life the same way. And if we aren’t careful, all we’ll start to see is the differences, and before long, we’ll convince ourselves that we’re too different to work together.

What would happen if your body parts decided they were too different to work together anymore? Yup. You’d fall apart. And the same thing will happen with the Church.

So give each other a break. Yes, we’re different, and that’s the point. You’re going to run into members of the Body that drive you crazy. And you’re not going to understand them, and they’re not going to understand you. Imagine a toenail trying to comprehend an eyeball. One is hard. The other is soft. One protects, and the other is protected. They have absolutely nothing in common, except that they are both in the Body.

Maybe that’s all you have in common with that person in your life that you don’t understand. And if that’s the case, that’s fine. A toenail doesn’t have to be best friends with an eyeball, but they do need to recognize that they each do an important job–and they have to do it their own way.

If you focus on what makes you different, you’ll be frustrated and angry because how are you supposed to get along with someone you don’t understand? But if you focus on the things you have in common, understanding each other won’t really matter. Instead, you’ll enjoy getting to see the other person’s point of view.

Yeah, they might learn something from you, but you might learn something from them too. We’re different for a reason. And that reason isn’t to destroy each other. It’s to learn from each other.

Tiger at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Dealing with difficult people isn’t about you

Difficult people are everywhere. I’m sure you know a couple. Maybe more than a couple. You probably deal with them in the store, on the road, at school. You might even live with one, and you most likely work with one. Heck, you might even be one.

If you are one … Jesus loves you. Grow up.

For everybody else, keep reading.

Living, dealing, working with difficult people is just something we all have to figure out, because you can’t escape difficult people. If you quit your job because people there are difficult, guess what? Your next job will have difficult people too. If you move out of your house because your family is difficult, guess what? That’s right. You’ll live in an apartment complex or with roommates who are difficult.

So if difficult people are a constant in this universe, the only recourse we have is to learn how to deal with them.

Today’s verses are 2 Timothy 2:23-26.

Tiger at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Tiger at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Again I say, don’t get involved in foolish, ignorant arguments that only start fights. A servant of the Lord must not quarrel but must be kind to everyone, be able to teach, and be patient with difficult people. Gently instruct those who oppose the truth. Perhaps God will change those people’s hearts, and they will learn the truth. Then they will come to their senses and escape from the devil’s trap. For they have been held captive by him to do whatever he wants.

There are lots of books and advice on how to manage difficult people, and I’m honestly not sure if there’s one sure answer. But one thing I can tell you that I’ve learned is that if you give a difficult person a cookie, he’s going to want a glass of milk.

Sometimes I think Christ-followers think that being kind to people means that we need to give others everything they ask for. And that’s not kindness, especially if what you’re giving them is bad for them. Like a diabetic. Is it kind to give a diabetic a candy bar? No! I mean, they may want it, but giving it to them will ultimately hurt them. And that’s not kindness. That’s enabling.

Just because someone comes up and asks you for something doesn’t mean you have to give it to them. And it’s not disrespectful or rude to ask some basic questions about what they want. Why do they want it? How soon do they need it? Who else will be affected by their request? Now, granted, you can ask those questions in a disrespectful or rude tone of voice, and that will change the meaning all the way around. But anyone who gets upset at you for asking basic informative questions like that has bigger issues than what you can fix.

This is the most important lesson I’ve learned in dealing with difficult people: It’s not about me.

If a difficult person gets upset at me because of something I’ve done or something I won’t do, it’s not about me. It’s about them. If I have a legitimate reason for refusing to do something and can kindly and gently back up my reasoning and they still get upset, the problem is on their end. Not mine.

Now that doesn’t give you the right to be mean. That doesn’t give you the right to call names or gossip or hurt people, even if they hurt you. You can gently tell someone no. You can kindly refuse to do something, especially if you have a reason for it. And if that person still gets upset with you, you will have the peace of mind knowing that you behaved in a way that would bring honor to God.

Difficult people thrive on drama, and if you refuse to be dragged into their drama, they don’t have anything to feed on. That’s true in any situation, whether you live or work with them. Don’t get upset at them. Don’t yell at them. Don’t call them names or be passive aggressive and try to get them in trouble. Just be honest with them. If they’re off target, tell them gently.

You be the person you’re supposed to be. You do what God says is right. And God will honor that.

And, besides, you never know what God will do in someone else’s heart. You never have a reason to be cruel or mean to someone else. So even though it’s tempting to call names and gossip, don’t.

Stay out of the drama. Speak the truth with love. Gently stand firm for what’s right.