Some personalities can clash. It just happens. I truly believe that God places people in our life to teach us lessons. Some of my very best friends were placed into my life by God. When I met each of them, there was an instant bond. We just clicked. Yet, there are other people that God places in my life that I just don’t quite mesh with. These people are not bad people, but they just seem to rub me the wrong way. I can’t always put my finger on why, but I just get this instinctual feeling that they don’t quite like my personality (and truly I feel the same).
It isn’t that our spiritual beliefs clash, in fact there are people in my own church that I just have a hard time dealing with. I often think of Peter and Paul. They were two very different individuals who had very similar ministries, yet they went about their ministries in very different ways. Peter spent a lot of time with the Jews, while Paul ministered to the Gentiles. I am sure they didn’t always see eye to eye on things. We don’t hear of them together very often, but yet they both do so much good for Christ, separately. When they come together though, they seem to have difficulty tolerating each other. Check out these scriptures…
Galations 2:11-14 But when Peter came to Antioch, I had to oppose him to his face, for what he did was very wrong. 12 When he first arrived, he ate with the Gentile Christians, who were not circumcised. But afterward, when some friends of James came, Peter wouldn’t eat with the Gentiles anymore. He was afraid of criticism from these people who insisted on the necessity of circumcision. 13 As a result, other Jewish Christians followed Peter’s hypocrisy, and even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy.14 When I saw that they were not following the truth of the gospel message, I said to Peter in front of all the others, “Since you, a Jew by birth, have discarded the Jewish laws and are living like a Gentile, why are you now trying to make these Gentiles follow the Jewish traditions?
Now we all know that God was in charge of these two. He made the decision to have them both lead His ministry. I am pretty sure he didn’t make a mistake – because God doesn’t make mistakes. So why did he appoint two people in charge that were so different?
He did it because God needed their qualities and personalities. They were natural leaders. They appealed to two very different groups for good reason. Their backgrounds made them perfect for their ministries. He chose them on purpose. In addition, they had to learn tolerance in order to succeed. They had to see that each one had success spreading God’s message because of the unique characteristics that God had given each of them. God places difficult people together for a reason.
So what is God’s point in placing these difficult people in my own life? My guess is to teach me tolerance. Tolerance by definition means the ability or willingness to tolerate something, in particular the existence of opinions or behavior that one does not necessarily agree with. Tolerance requires strength from God especially when you are placed within the presence of this person for any length of time. Tolerance requires me to see what God loves about this person. Tolerance requires me to step outside of my comfort zone and open my eyes to what God needs me to see.
Maybe God needed Paul to say those difficult things to Peter. Maybe God needed Paul to see that Peter even through his faults was a good and effective leader. Maybe God just needed to remind them both that they need to practice tolerance. I am not sure what God’s lesson was for the two of them, but I can guarantee you there was a lesson to be learned.
As you deal with those difficult people in your life, think about what lessons God is trying to teach you. We don’t just bump into those people on accident – there is a purpose. Pray for God to reveal to you what that purpose is and use it to become closer to God.
2 Timothy 2:24 A servant of the Lord must not quarrel but must be kind to everyone, be able to teach, and be patient with difficult people.
1 Thessalonians 5:14 Brothers and sisters, we urge you to warn those who are lazy. Encourage those who are timid. Take tender care of those who are weak. Be patient with everyone.