When Rodney King fielded questions about his legacy from the BBC, he responded, “Some people feel like I’m some kind of hero. Others hate me. They say I deserved it. Other people, I can hear them mocking me for when I called for an end to the destruction (the LA riots), like I’m a fool for believing in peace.”
One can only wonder how history might have changed...or not changed...if those six disciples of Jesus had decided to abandon their prayers, or if those who attended the prayer services had decided to eject the "strangers" who brought new ideas and activism, which put feet on those prayers. It seems both atheists and Christians can discount the ability of God to use our prayers to change the world.
Suppose United Methodists encounter Jesus on the road like the rich young ruler. Instead of eternal life, United Methodists ask our Lord “how can we grow the church?” “Implement the Great Commission,” Christ retorts. With ONE MIND United Methodists reply “Been there, done that.” Undaunted, Christ expects more. “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all humankind unto me.” Believing that, which worked in the 18th and 19th centuries no longer works in the so-called Post-Christian era, United Methodists grieve our membership loss as if it were a life sentence.
I learned that with some people, I can take a difficult situation and help facilitate a different outcome. I first became defensive, but when I had time to quiet my emotions, I was able to better see what had happened and communicate in an empathetic, fair manner. How we react to these situations influences if not determines the outcome of the situation. We will all deal with difficult people, or people in difficult situations. It is important to improve our abilities so we can handle these effectively.
Unfortunately, churches are not immune from the painful, uncomfortable, and difficult situations of life. In fact, sometimes it feels like the church attracts people who are difficult on many different levels. Often, those people end up in your office. Handling difficult people begins with having healthy personal boundaries. When dealing with difficult people, remember that it is always appropriate to refer them to a licensed professional counselor. It is not a failure on your part to refer them elsewhere. In fact, it is often the best mode of treatment for them.
It is inevitable that we will encounter difficult people; even in our Christian walk. However, it is empowering to know that in many situations, we have the ability to influence what happens next. Our perceptions of the encounter, our response or non-response, as well as the way in which we doggedly hold to healthy patterns of behavior and model Christian love, can change how the encounter moves forward. We should enter into prayer, asking God to help us see more clearly and work toward healthy outcomes. We should also remember that we are not alone. Help is available.
Unlike the difficult people we tend to see in the church, it can be hard for us (not necessarily so hard for those around us) to identify the difficult person within us. We can get defensive if others try to point it out to us which does nothing to keep that relationship healthy. Many of us in the helping professions (clergy, counselor, nurse, etc.) feel more comfortable putting other people's’ comfort and well-being before our own which creates or reinforces our existing inner difficult person.
The question Chris Harper Mercer put to his classmates in Oregon highlights the challenge of following Jesus. It’s costly. When his classmates identified themselves as Christians, Mercer replied, “Good, because you’re Christian, you’re going to see God in just about a second.” Mercer executed them on the spot. Sometimes the trouble with Jesus is identifying with him or doing what he asks. Doing so may cost us our very lives.
Psalm 124 fits with the purpose of your 170th Anniversary. En route to the temple, Israel is rejoicing and praising God. Some theologians believe they are returning from Babylon. God’s people may be remembering the capture and destruction of the temple by Nebuchadnezzar and his soldiers. By force, survivors are taken in chains to Babylon. They live, work and raise their children as slaves. Seventy years later, Cyrus captures Babylon. Once Cyrus discovers that Israel is captive, he frees and sends them home. Full of joy, laughter and thanksgiving, the former captives begin marching to Zion with a powerful truth of a gospel song on their lips. “If it had not been for the Lord on our side, tell where I would be? Where would I be?” As a church, you are celebrating God’s deliverance as well. “Through many dangers, toils and snares, the church has already come, its grace that has led you safe thus far, and grace will lead you home.” Blessed be the Lord!!!