Sometimes God Brings an Unlikeable Person into Our Life as Sandpaper

December 2, 2013 at 12:08 PM

Ah the joys of having our edges sanded off...

Ah the joys of having our edges sanded off…

by Fred DeRuvo

In my last article, I spoke about the need to praise God for those people whom He brings/allows into our life that we find very difficult (at best) to appreciate or like. Praise should always be our reaction to that.

There are people you want to walk away from very quickly because you cannot see anything really good in them or they’ve done something to you which makes it very hard to like or even love them. They live for themselves and they have no difficulty lying about others (including you) to make their life easier. They did it to Jesus. They do it to us. It is difficult not to take umbrage.

We must always remember that they are still valuable to God. Whether we think they have value or not has no bearing on anything. Jesus died for them too. There is a purpose for them coming into your life.

These people make up three categories:

  1. non-Christians
  2. professing Christians
  3. authentic Christians

I’m not convinced that Christians have the right to tell non-Christians how to live. Trying to get a non-Christian to change his/her lifestyle is like trying to teach a baby to walk before their legs can carry their own weight. It just doesn’t work and creates more frustration for them than anything else. They need to become a Christian in order to have the ability to see that things in their life need changing.

Regarding the last two – professing and authentic Christians – it is important for them to realize that if they are going to claim to be true followers of Jesus (because they have – or say they have – experienced the new birth of John 3), that claim places them under the authority of the visible Church, whether they like it or not. This means that they can be rebuked in love. Leaders in the church to which they attend have an obligation to point out failures in these professing (as well as authentic) Christians because it can lead to problems within that local church body if ignored.

In my previous article, I spoke of people who come into our life that we wind up disliking. These people are not there by accident. God has placed them there for two reasons:

  1. to sand off our own sharp edges that do not glorify God, and
  2. to use us to mold them into Christ’s image as well

When I spoke last time of praising God for those people we don’t like, I didn’t mean we become doormats for them, letting them do anything they want to do or say to harm us. We actually can defend ourselves because these are other believers (real or perceived).

God may have chosen to use us to help them see what God expects from them. The problem here is that if we dislike someone, it is easy to go into verbal assault mode and simply tear them a new one because of the way they are living. God does not want that at all. We must always strive to be gentle as doves and as wise as serpents. We must always speak the truth in love.

This does not mean we are never angry with another person. Paul said that we should be angry and sin not (Ephesians 4:26). We can look at the numerous times that Jesus was angry, yet it is clear that He did not sin at all. Whether He was going toe to toe with the Pharisees, Sadducees, or religious leaders, or whether He was chasing the money changers out of the Temple area (overturning tables in the process) for turning God’s house into a den of thieves, Jesus was clearly angry. However, His words and actions that followed were free from sin.

It is difficult for us to blend those two – anger and not sinning – because we don’t think we can do it. For myself, I want to tread very lightly and move ahead very slowly here as I try to explain this because I don’t want to give any unscriptural advice.

If all I do is praise God for the recalcitrant people He has put in my life, then I think I may well be missing something. Yes, clearly, I should praise Him first and foremost. God has these people in my life because there is something He wants to do within me. He wants to change aspects of my character or personality so that it is more like Jesus’ personality and character.

The harder thing to grasp is that God may also want to do something for or within that other person through me, using me as a catalyst. Here’s where I can blow it big time if I’m not careful.

Let me give you an example from my Bible college days. A friend and I were having an issue that went on for a few days. I saw him at lunch during that time with another Christian brother and the anger started bubbling up within me. I promptly got up from my seat and went over to that table. I sat down at the empty chair, interrupted their conversation and vented. I then left. So there! I told him. {Snort!}

That evening, I heard a knock on my door. It was the other Christian brother, not the one I had an issue with who was there. He quoted Matthew 18:15 – “If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother.” He stated that he had a problem with how I handled the situation at lunch and wanted to come directly to me to discuss it.

For some reason, I was overjoyed! I thanked him for coming to me and I apologized for the way I had acted earlier that day. I could see he was appreciative of my receptivity and after a few moments of chit chat, he left. The next day, I made things right with the brother I had an issue with and I don’t even remember what the problem was frankly.

This is an example of how to lovingly rebuke someone. Will everyone always react the way I did? No, and I’m still surprised at the way I responded. My point is that God had something to say to me. God also had something to say to the brother who came to my door. God worked in both of us.

We will run across Pharisees and other religious types as well as authentic Christians and non-Christians throughout our life. Chances are good that professing Christians will not receive a gentle rebuke humbly. They will reject it. Isn’t this what the Pharisees did routinely when Jesus pointed out the truth to them? The truth was always objectionable for them to hear.

People are in our life to enrich it. Sometimes God uses them as sandpaper (think the friends of Job). Other times, they are simply unaware that their actions or words are hurtful.

In any case, I still believe that our first response to them should be of praise. We need to thank God that He put those people in our life because He is doing something. As we praise Him for that, I also believe that the way in which we respond to these folks (as well as the strength needed to do that) will become clear.

Entry filed under: Religious - Christian - Theology, salvation.

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