Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love. 1 Corinthians 16:13
We all have those people in our lives with whom we’d rather just never interact. Maybe they’re manipulative, rude, demanding, or simply annoying. Whatever it is that makes them so, any contact with them is difficult and we’d rather avoid it. We can’t though. At one time or another, we all must choose how to respond to such people. It might be at work, next door, or at church, but challenging people will show up in our lives and we must decide if we’re going to allow them to change our thoughts and actions for the better or worse. Often, in interacting with those we perceive to be difficult, we become something we don’t want to be either.
I had one of those interactions recently as I was thinking about today’s passage. I went into the encounter initially with a bad attitude. I knew the attempts at manipulation that were inevitably coming, and I was already a little irritated. I stopped myself though and repeated Paul’s words in my head. Stand firm. Be strong. Let all that you do be done in love.
In such situations, I often err in one of two ways. First, in my attempts at being loving, I become a people-pleaser and simply give in to the demands or manipulations. This isn’t healthy as it encourages such behavior and I become a doormat. As a physician, it’s often my job to say no to unhealthy requests. Simply giving in isn’t helpful – and is often hurtful – even though I may perceive it as the loving, kind thing to do.
In response to this, I often err too far in the other direction. I put on my big boy pants, and stick to my boundaries. Frustrated and irritated though, I do it without love and so I become rude and angry. In standing firm, I overshoot and treat the other person poorly.
Truth needs love though and love requires truth. Truth without love is harsh and cruel. Love without truth is chaos. In today’s passage, Paul instructed us to strike a balance between the two, which is the appropriate response to any challenging interaction. He gave us permission to stand up and have boundaries. In doing so though, we must always temper our words and actions with love. Paul doesn’t promise that we’ll always win or outmaneuver the other person in doing this. His point rather, was that we must always act rightly ourselves, not allowing others to change us for the worse.