For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. – John 3:16-17
“I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.” – John 13:34
As someone devoted to building bridges of understanding across deep difference, to communicating well and strengthening relationships, I hear a lot about the “difficult people” in the lives of my friends, colleagues, and dialogue partners. Folks are looking for tips on how to “handle” or “deal with” these people. Without thinking too hard, you can probably think of two or three individuals like this in your life.
I can, too. I’ve been thinking recently about this one woman I know who:
- usually calls me only when she needs something
- is highly distracted and has trouble focusing when we are hanging out
- goes on and on about herself and her people, and rarely asks after those who are important to me if she doesn’t know them personally
- tends to argue or complain when I disagree with her, and rarely asks me any questions
She says loves me, but…you understand. It’s hard to believe her love is real when I consider how she behaves.
Actually, I’ve tricked you a bit. The woman I just described—very accurately—is me. The person who could honestly complain about me like that is Jesus. But the thing is, he doesn’t. I’m definitely one of Jesus’ “difficult people,” but he loves me so well and is so merciful that he never avoids me at parties, lets my calls go to voicemail, or rolls his eyes about me in the company of his cooler friends.
Nope. He never even clings to equality with God to make his life easier. Instead, he bends over backwards—bends, in fact, from heaven’s vast freedom into an earth-bound human embryo—just so that he can move closer to me and the whole race of difficult people from which I spring. That’s love.
Jesus, thank you for showing up
on our darkest nights,
when we feel the cold void yawn within us.
Thank you for leaning into our dreary mid-winter afternoons,
when the routine repetition of our lives leaves us both lethargic and anxious.
You never avoid or judge us.
You never look for an exit strategy.
In fact, you stand the closest,
listen the hardest,
linger the longest,
love the sincerest.
You seek us out,
wooing us with your consistent kindness,
your gracious patience,
your merciful forgiveness,
your unflagging interest in pointing our way to freedom.
May the outrageous tenderness you show us
shape us into better friends
to both you and your people.
May we listen the way we hope to be listened to.
May we embrace the way we hope to be embraced.
May we learn to lean into the pain of those who irritate,
upset, or bore us this Christmas,
loving them generously, creatively,
because you so lavishly love us.
Kristyn Komarnicki is Director of Dialogue & Convening at Christians for Social Action.