The holidays awaken different feelings in different people. For some of us, the magic of Christmas comes with wonder and warm fuzzies. For others, not so much. But most people do have one thing in common, they will likely be spending time around someone (or multiple someones) who are awkward, difficult or frustrating for them. Is there a particular date on your holiday calendar that fills you with a sense of dread? As people striving to take up our cross and follow Jesus, how should we think about the time we spend with our extended families and social networks? Especially if you know that some of them can be selfish, antagonistic, or even mean?
Consider framing it through the lens of spiritual warfare. It is war against the flesh (Rom 13:14; Tts 3:2-3). But also warfare to win the battle to love (Mt 5:44). And it is warfare because—let’s be honest—doing this is not easy. It’s entirely possible that any attempt at love or kindness on your part will go unnoticed, unappreciated and unreciprocated. But that’s not why you strive to love those people. You do it because Christ loved you when you were His enemy (Rom 5:89). You do it because the Spirit is working in you to make you like Christ (Gal 5:22). You do it because the Word of God and the gospel point us to this pattern of life everywhere (Prov 25:21; Lk 6:27; Lk 23:34; Acts 7:60; Rom 12:14; 1 Thess 5:15; 1 Peter 3:9). You do it because the Son of God was born into the world to bring life and blessing to the nations, and to bring us into His very kingdom and glory (1 Thess 2:12).
As you think about particular people you will be interacting with in the coming days and weeks, people who have a keen ability to awaken sin in the deep levels of your heart…consider doing the following:
- Pray for them. This is Jesus’ command (Mt 5:44; Lk 6:28).
- Plan a way to do good to them (1 Thess 5:15). After all…it is more blessed to give than to receive (Acts 20:35).
- Refuse to speak negatively about them or criticize them, but instead speak in order to bless them (Prov 20:22; 1 Pet 3:9)
- Try to see them from the perspective of eternity (1 John 2:17). You have a finite amount of time to try and influence this person for the sake of Christ. Don’t squander it by walking in your flesh.
- Try to see yourself and your own actions and attitudes from an eternal perspective (1 Pet 4:2)
- Recognize that God is using this to sanctify and bless you (Rom 8:28).
- Resolve in your heart before you go into the situation that you will not be overcome by evil but will overcome evil with good (Rom 12:21).
I am praying for you this week and in the coming months brothers and sisters. That you would live like Christmas is true. That Christ has come, and this is good news for ALL people, including those who are hard to love.