The church is full of wonderful people who are gifted kingdom-workers and the harvest is dependent on those workers. But the church is still full of people and any system will have its negative components. If you think of the church in terms of a body then negative people can be either a virus or a bacteria. Viruses often are sifted out on their own terms and not much is required other than time and rest whereas bacteria can only be treated with direct medicine to weed the bacteria out.
Such could be said about negative people. Why are they negative? Sometimes it is their personality. They are just negative because they just do not know how to be positive. They are glass half-empty people. Sometimes it is because something happened to them from a member of the church and now they wish to hold the entire church accountable. Sometimes people have agendas and their utopia-like version of what the church should be is not what it is and they become disgruntled at the work of the church. Sometimes people do not mesh with other people. There are some people who I just do not like yet I will serve them as a brother or sister in Christ.
The blood of Christ is bigger than our nuanced idiosyncrasies.
So how do you handle people who are just so negative? I have some suggestions.
- Give them space. Sometimes people are just in a funk and (speaking from personal experience) they just do not want to talk to anybody. They need space to work things out themselves and perhaps humble themselves to let the Spirit of Christ dwell within.
- Love them (1 John 4:20). That scripture is piercing. Before we open our mouths and reveal the character of our heart we better make sure our valves are pumping the love of God.
- Serve them (1 Pet. 4:10). Find some way to serve them even when things seem most difficult. No need to lie to them but write them a note encouraging them letting them know you are genuinely praying for them.
- Help restore them (Gal. 6:1). Perhaps they are negative because there is a sin which they have not worked through. This sin has continued to ruin their relationships and that includes the church. Help them work through sin. But to do that you must…
- Listen to them (James 1:19). Say this aloud while you are reading….SLOW TO SPEAK…SWIFT TO HEAR. Insert two ears one mouth preacher joke here. It is serious though. Listen not only to what they are negative about but what you hear between the lines.
- Rebuke them (Matt. 18:15-17; 1 Tim. 5:20). Rebuke seems like such a harsh word but the Greek word (ἐπιτιμάω) carries the idea of discouraging someone from further wrong. Sometimes you do not answer a fool according to his folly but then there are times when you must answer a fool according to his folly (Prov. 26-4-5). Do this in love though with all the above suggestions I have given. Don’t stop there though…
- Forgive them (Eph. 4:32). We all need forgiveness and as much as we have received it we should hand it out as well. Freely you been forgiven freely you shall forgive.
We are supposed to live incarnationally which means our lives should, as best we can with the Spirit, embody Jesus (1 Cor. 11:1). Jesus was patient with negative people but also quick to point them out in their error. We must use our wisdom and the help of others when it comes to negative people.
Photo Credits: Sean MacEntee on CC