How are we supposed to respond when people are unpleasant or rude or hurt us? My first instinct is to get defensive and strike back. Sometimes, if I’m hurt badly, I react by shutting down and allowing the relationship to fade. No one likes to be treated poorly but there has to be a better way to respond to these situations. I’ve always heard things like “treat others like you’d like to be treated” or “turn the other cheek.” As mentioned, I don’t always respond in this manner so I wanted to dig into the Bible to see what it says.
“So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets”
– Matthew 7:12
This is where we see the “Golden Rule”, although that’s not what Jesus called it. In this same section of Matthew, Jesus references the narrow gate maybe because following the Golden Rule isn’t easy. This is a great rule and easy to say but what does it look like in action? I kept looking to see how Jesus applied this. Matthew 8 shows Jesus curing a leper, which is great because most people avoided lepers but the leper wasn’t rude to Jesus. I kept looking and saw numerous examples of Jesus treating people well but how did he respond to people who were rude or mean to Him? Did He really live this principle?
I kept looking through the book of Matthew to see where and how Jesus interacted with the Pharisees. I observed some interesting things:
- Jesus wasn’t a pushover but He wasn’t rude either. Jesus responded to the Pharisees logically, firmly but politely (most of the time).
- He avoided confrontation if possible but didn’t back down.
- He continued to obey God and follow His plan.
Matthew 12 shows the Pharisees questioning Jesus about what He and His disciples were doing on the Sabbath. Jesus responds calmly and references what David did on the Sabbath. He doesn’t blow up on them or yell at them. He explains and defends His actions in a reasonable manner. That’s how I like people to treat me when we disagree. I think that encounter shows the Golden Rule in action. Granted, Jesus would call them out on things but this wasn’t His normal communication with them.
Secondly, Jesus avoided confrontation if possible. “But the Pharisees went out and conspired against him, how to destroy him. Jesus, aware of this, withdrew from there.” – Matthew 12:14-15. Knowing there was a conflict, Jesus didn’t try to engage them, but He avoided them. He didn’t want the drama. If someone has a problem with me, I’d want him or her to avoid me if possible. If it wasn’t possible to avoid them, He did what He needed to do. I think avoiding confrontation is a good application of the Golden Rule.
Finally, despite the opposition, Jesus continued to obey God and follow God’s plans. People aren’t always pleasant to be around and you cannot control how a person is going to act but you can control how you respond. No matter what people say or do, we are called to respond according to how God commands us to. He calls us to treat people how we want to be treated, but that doesn’t mean we’re a doormat or overlook bad behavior. We are called to be polite but firm, to avoid confrontation but above all, we are called to carry out the plan God has for us.
How do you handle difficult people? Any scripture or advice you want to share? As always, I love hearing from y’all!