How to Deal with Extremely Difficult People

You have probably heard MANY answers and responses to this question and concern. I know I have!

But it has only been since I have learned more about Who Jesus Christ is, and who humanity is in him, that I am finally starting to KNOW what the answer to this question REALLY is. And here it is:

JUDGE extremely difficult people!!!

Or, as Jesus said, “Do not judge by appearances but judge with right Judgment!” (John 7:24) I can almost hear the religious brakes squealing as I write!  It seems the ONLY parts of scripture about judgment that stick in our minds are the ones that say things like “judge not that you be not judged” (Matt 7:1). We almost totally neglect the other part that says, “for with what judgment you judge, you shall be judged!” OR, if we do include that section, and other sections of scripture on judgment, it is almost always totally negative and not reconciled with a proper view of Who Jesus is!

The point of this post is NOT to go into all the finer points of that passage of verses, other than to say that what Jesus is saying is absolutely true and has probably been experienced by most of us – in the negative!

I’ll never forget the day my wife pointed out how she was sure that Jesus was REALLY saying something like, “If you judge people in a certain way, with certain rules, and then you inevitably break those rules yourself, people will judge you the same way you judged them! If you judge people in and with grace, then people will judge you in and with grace!” I wholeheartedly agreed with her!

In other words, if you proclaim the Gospel as “not breaking any of God’s holy laws”, and then you inevitably break one of them (make that almost all of them – repeatedly!!), then people you have proclaimed this Gospel to will judge you as a lawbreaker and condemn you. If, on the other hand, you proclaim the Gospel as “the Adoption of Humanity and Creation into the Life of the Triune God, in Jesus (Eph. 1:3-11), regardless of our rule-breaking or rule-keeping”, people will judge you according to that. They may call you out, properly, as doing something you shouldn’t have done, but they will also still judge you as adopted, or according to the standard (gospel) you promoted! It’s sinful human nature!

BUT, knowing Who Jesus is in his Person helps us sort out the subject of judgment properly AND how to deal with difficult people.

Because Jesus is God, and God is our ultimate Judge, AND, Jesus, in our humanity with us, has judged our sin as conquered and overcome in His human life (Col. 2:13-15), death, burial, resurrection and ascension, humanity (you and I) have been judged in Jesus as cleansed of sin and adopted! The Judge has ascended with all of humanity to the right hand of God as the Second Adam, where we are seated with him and blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places!!

Whoa!! I NEVER get tired of hearing that! In fact, “judge me, judge me, judge me” according to that Truth in Jesus ALL THE TIME!!

Please!! And, of course, because Jesus is permanently human for and with us, He DOES judge every one of us this way, ALL THE TIME!! (Heb. 13:8) And within that truth lies the ability to deal with extremely difficult people, and the ONLY hope for becoming extremely lovable and loving people!

Karl Barth, one of the great, if not greatest, theologians of the 20th Century put his answer to “How to Deal with Extremely Difficult People” in this kind of heavy, Christ-centered way:

On the basis of the eternal will of God we have to think of every human being, even the oddest, most villainous or miserable, as one to whom Jesus Christ is Brother and God is Father; and we have to deal with him on this assumption. If the other person knows that already, then we have to strengthen him in that knowledge. If he does not know it yet, or no longer knows it, our business is to transmit this knowledge to him. On the basis of the knowledge of the humanity of God no other attitude to any kind of fellow man is possible. It is identical with the practical acknowledgement of his human rights and his human dignity. To deny it to him would be for us to renounce having Jesus Christ as Brother and God as Father. – The Humanity of God, p. 53. Atlanta: John Knox Press, 1982.

In my more simple way of putting it, Karl Barth is saying that when we see Who Jesus is, and Embrace Him seriously for Who He really is, we take seriously that Jesus lives in everyone!

This is to our advantage in EVERY CONCEIVABLE WAY with a difficult person. We can KNOW, up front, that they are only so difficult, not all difficult! We can appeal to the Jesus that indwells them. If they know about this Jesus in them or have forgotten it, we can “ring their bell” and be a helpful reminder to them of who they REALLY are. This is one way you could call them out in the Gospel: “Why are you being so extremely difficult _____________ ? That’s not who you really are and we both know it! Jesus Christ lives in you!! BE that!!”

If they do not know who they are, then you are compelled to tell them who they are! We can KNOW IT WILL HAVE SOME GODLY EFFECT, because Jesus Christ DOES live in them! Call them out more like this: “_____________ , I know the real you, and you are NOT this EXTREMELY difficult person in Jesus Christ, Who lives in you!! Good Gravy! The sooner you begin embracing that fact, the sooner you will stop creating misery for yourself and others! Now change your mind and believe the Good News before I have to restrain you in love so you don’t hurt anyone else, including yourself, until you can see Jesus more clearly!!”

But it has only been since coming to know Who Jesus Christ is more clearly, and who humanity is in him, that I am finally starting to KNOW how to REALLY deal with EXTREMELY difficult people, and here it is:

Judge them!

~ Timothy Brassell

6 comments so far

  1. John Geerlings on

    A good thought provoking post.
    I think that just loving people with the love of Father, Son and Holy Spirit will bring them to a crises point, it worked for me! The love of God always promotes healing and judging them with love (the person of Jesus) cannot BUT be fruitful. jg

  2. Jacqueline on

    hey i agree with your blog. i have been wanting advice about judging and dealing with difficult people, basically you just got to love them no matter how difficult they are. so i glad i read it. keep preaching

  3. tjbrassell on

    Hey John and Jackie! Thanks for your responses! We’re all saying the same thing, and because of what we’re saying, not only are we participating in the very thoughts of Jesus, but we can only continue participating in judging and loving others according to who they really are in Him with the help and moment-by-moment grace of Jesus! Help us all even now Lord Jesus! 🙂 Peace and Love!

  4. Rick Stillwell on

    Bro, For much of my life I saw people that did not think like me ( spiritually) as pagan. I passed judgment on them and branded them so. As i have discovered who I am in Christ and who everyone else is in Christ then I no longer brand anyone as pagan (to use Paul’s Words). I see everyone truly as my brother. That is beautiful judgment.
    Merry Christmas to you and family

  5. tjbrassell on

    Amen, Rick! Its great to hear about your experience and personal share in His love! Much Love and Merry Christmas to you and family!

  6. Carrol on

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    I’m not even using WIFI, just 3G .. Anyhow, great site!


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