What does God say about dealing with toxic people?
Today’s article topic was suggested by one of our readers dealing with a toxic person.
“When someone is rude and toxic, it isn’t about you, it is a reflection of their inner state.” (from Pinterest) Toxic people demonstrate the lack of a relationship with God and His way.
The Bible is a beautiful tapestry, with many threads woven through it, one of those threads being God's desire for us to avoid defilement.
Merriam-Webster defines “toxic” as: “containing or being poisonous material, especially when capable of causing death or serious debilitation.” Applying our spiritual nature to this definition gives us the reality that toxic people are capable of causing death, or severe debilitation, to both their souls and ours. God tells us not to follow the path these people take, for it leads to defilement, Heb 12:14-15, “Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord: Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled;” Merriam-Webster defines “defilement” as: “an act of great disrespect shown to God or to sacred ideas, people, or things.” So, defilement leads us away from God because we decide to disrespect Him and His way. We cannot love Him when we are disrespecting Him.
God has a three-step process to help us navigate the valley of death toxic people travel through. I must confess I am a recovering toxic person. However, I am less toxic each year, as I grow closer to Jesus. My testimony is we can survive the toxic valley of death if we are willing to listen to God.
In dealing with toxic people, the first step is to examine our hearts to see if anything we are doing is contributing to their toxicity. We can pray for them and for help in correcting our own toxic behaviors, Matt 5:44, “But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;” and Jam 5:16, “Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” We are to do even more than just pray for them, we are to forgive them for any harm they have caused, Mk 11:25, “And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any: that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.” This is how we soften our hearts, giving the toxic person every chance of seeing the love and compassion Jesus showed all of us on the cross, Lk 23:34, "Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. And they parted his raiment, and cast lots.”
I watched a documentary last night on the Russian occupation of Romania, at the end of World War II. A pastor, imprisoned for fourteen years, was beaten every time they caught him praying. One time the guard asked him what he had left to pray for, given that he was severely beaten and had lost everything. The blooded pastor looked up and responded, "I am praying for you." God demonstrates our praying for others is important to Him, by the way, Jesus prayed while on the cross and how God rewarded Job's prayers, Job 42:10, “And the Lord turned the captivity of Job, when he prayed for his friends: also the Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before.”
Secondly, we ask our toxic friend if we are doing something that is causing them pain. Then, we can gently respond by apologizing and asking for their forgiveness if it is appropriate. After this, we will be able to discuss how toxic behaviors affect other people; and share with them what God says about the correct way for us to treat each other, Gal 5:14, “For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” Everything we do and everything they do should be seasoned by this verse. God wants us to help those who are lost, but He never calls us to enable them in their defiance of His Will, Jn 15:10, “If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father's commandments, and abide in his love.” Jesus kept God's commandments and taught the Apostles to do the same. However, they did rebuke brothers and sisters when they sinned, as God does His children, Rev 3:19, "As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent." They defended the helpless by lovingly speaking the truth and forgiving those who repented, Lk 17:3, “Take heed to yourselves: If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him.” When Jesus told those He had forgiven to “Go and sin no more,” He was cautioning them against returning to their old sinful life, Jn 8:11, “She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee; go, and sin no more.” This is the very nature of repentance; it is a genuine desire to make every effort possible to refrain from repeating sinful behavior.
His love leads us through sanctification, helping us become the person He created us to be. This happens when we finally choose to return the love He so freely offers, 1 Jn 4:19, “We love him, because he first loved us.” and we will return His love when we fully understand He loves us unconditionally, Rom 5:8, “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” and Rom 8:38-39, “For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” God loves us even when we are sinners, and God will always love us; we are the ones who need to learn to love Him. It is our love for Him that gives us the strength to persevere through the sanctification process, and ultimately, leads us to accept His grace and gives us the courage to follow His Will in this life. And, here is the dividing line, which will determine who will be in heaven. God wants to live with those who want to live with Him. If we do not wish to follow His Will in this life, He will not subject us to an eternity of it, Matt 12:50, " For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother." We cannot blame anyone else for the choices we make, Gal 6:7, "Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap."
Jesus’ forgiveness comes with an expectation of true repentance, and anything short of repentance illustrates the battle going on in the sinners’ mind, 2 Tim 2:24-26, “And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth; And that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will.” We can understand the behavior God calls us toward when we finally understand His love for us. When we ignore His calling, our behavior will lead us away from Him, Prov 14:12, "There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death." Ignoring His calling leads us to oppose ourselves, for behavior that leads us away from God will eventually lead to death. The behavior God loves is called the fruit of the Spirit, Gal 5:22-23, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.” and Lk 8:17, “For nothing is secret, that shall not be made manifest; neither any thing hid, that shall not be known and come abroad.” Nothing is more important than helping toxic people understand the need for a relationship with Jesus! A relationship with Jesus means we will spend eternity with Him. He is giving us a choice.
And, thirdly, if our toxic friend is not yet ready to reason with God, it is time to walk away, Matt 10:12-14, “And when ye come into an house, salute it. And if the house be worthy, let your peace come upon it: but if it be not worthy, let your peace return to you. And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear your words, when ye depart out of that house or city, shake off the dust of your feet.” God will have judged we have done our part in His process and it is time for us to move on; it is not for us to judge these people, only to call them to reason with God, Matt 7:1-2, “Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?” Our part might have been to soften their hearts, so they might listen to the next person God sends their way.
We are part of God’s process of giving toxic people every opportunity to reason with Him and to choose to either accept or reject His offer of salvation, Ps 34:18, “The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit.” Merriam-Webster defines “contrite” as: “feeling or showing sorrow and remorse for a sin or shortcoming.” It is our genuine remorse and the resulting repentance that allows us to feel the Lord’s presence. This is how we are saved, and toxic people need to be given every opportunity to understand this.
When we part company with a toxic person, it must be done peacefully, Rom 12:18, “If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.” Just as we cannot be friends with angry people, we should not become angry during our parting, Prov 22:24-25, “Make no friendship with an angry man; and with a furious man thou shalt not go: Lest thou learn his ways, and get a snare to thy soul.” God gave us an example to follow when He directed Abram to separate from Lot, Gen 13:8-9, “And Abram said unto Lot, Let there be no strife, I pray thee, between me and thee, and between my herdmen and thy herdmen; for we be brethren. Is not the whole land before thee? separate thyself, I pray thee, from me: if thou wilt take the left hand, then I will go to the right; or if thou depart to the right hand, then I will go to the left.” Notice how Abram chose to follow God’s calling to separate from Lot, gently and lovingly.
Toxic people have not yet learned the truth of God and His loving nature. We can help them if we demonstrate it.
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