My guess is that everyone has someone in their life that is difficult to tolerate. It could be the relative who feels free to offer criticism and judgment. It could be the boss who never is satisfied with your work. It could be a member of the church who wants to be involved (and in charge) of just about everything. We cannot help but have toxic people in our lives.
While it is important to put up healthy boundaries, and limit your exposure to these toxic people, it is unlikely that you can avoid them entirely. What then are we to do? Jesus gives us some advice on this when he said:
“”But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.” (Luke 6:27–28, ESV)
We are to love them.
Notice that there are no qualifiers. No statement to love them if . . .
We are to love them and pray for them.
In the parallel passage in Matthew 5, we are told to pray for those who persecute us. The King James Version uses the words “despitefully use” instead of abuse. These are people who cannot be trusted to do well for us. These are people who cause harm.
The idea is that we are to pray for them and love them even though they are toxic and difficult.
The human response is to avoid or confront depending on your personality. Either response may be legitimate.
Jesus’ tells us that we should be “shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves.” From this I conclude that we need to be wise in how much we are exposed to these people. Also, since we are called to speak the truth in love, there may be times where it appropriate to confront the toxic person on his/her toxicity.
But our love and prayer must be overarching any response we have that confronts or avoids. We mus seek God in prayer for an appropriate response while interceding in prayer on behalf of the toxic person.
I’ve struggled to do this well. How about you?