Loving Your Family When They’re Being Difficult

Do you have someone in your family that makes it really difficult for anyone to love them? I’m sure you’re already thinking of someone—that one person who seems to lash out when others try to help, or who tends to repay kindness with hurtful words or actions. They seem unlovable.

Most of us have a difficult family member. Sometimes they’re hard to love because they are constantly turning your well-intentioned good deeds into something else, or because they’re pushing against you. Sometimes they’re difficult to love because they’ve hurt you so deeply.

Beloved, there is a way to love your family even when they’re being difficult.

Imagine Jesus loving AND forgiving the crowds that were shouting “CRUCIFY HIM!” Imagine Jesus dying on the cross for the sins of those people who had just pierced His hands and feet with nails! He did! It is through the cross of Jesus that we too can find the freedom to love others when they’re being difficult, or when it’s difficult for us to love them.

Here’s one of the most famous biblical passages on love:

“Love never gives up. Love cares more for others than for self. Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have. Love doesn’t strut, doesn’t have a swelled head, doesn’t force itself on others, isn’t always ME FIRST, doesn’t fly off the handle, doesn’t keep score of the sins of others, doesn’t revel when others grovel, takes pleasure in the flowering of truth, puts up with anything, trusts God always, always looks for the best, never looks back, but keeps going to the end.” (1 Cor 13:4-7 MSG)

This passage is more than just beautiful words we usually read at weddings. Let me give you a little context.

The apostle Paul was writing this to the church in Corinth, a church deeply divided by politics, theology, spiritual gifts, and social class. They were constantly fighting, and were more worried about who was better or more spiritual than about loving one another.

Does that sound like your family?

Paul was trying to teach the Christians in Corinth how to love one another. This was probably something they thought they already knew. What they didn’t understand was that God calls us to look on each other and love one another through Jesus. He knows that we can’t love each other in our own strength.

Why? Because He knows your difficult family member, He knows your hard to love family member, He knows your hurtful family member and He knows you too.

God isn’t asking you to love your difficult family member with your own strength, your own heart, or your own understanding—because you can’t. He’s asking you to love them in Christ.

So how do we do that?

In Paul’s second letter to the church in Corinth, Paul gives us a clue:

“For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised. From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” (2 Cor 5:14-17 ESV)

Let’s break down what Paul is saying into how to love your family when they’re being difficult.


Look at them through the lens of Christ


If they are a believer, Paul encourages us to look at them in Christ, meaning as a fellow brother or sister, understanding that God is still working on them.

They may not be acting like a new creation, but changing the way you are looking at them, will help you keep your heart in a loving place.

If they aren’t believers, we remember that Jesus still died for them. He loves them too. Ask God to give you HIS eyes for this person.


Let the love of Christ control you


What did Paul mean when he said that?

I think Paul meant that we need to allow the same love that filled Christ while He was here on earth fill us as well. That same love which created the whole world, and then died for it.

The Bible teaches that when we are filled with the Holy Spirit, when we are in Christ, when we are walking in the Spirit, we will begin to show the fruits of the Spirit in our life. You can read about those in Galatians 5. The last fruit of the Spirit mentioned there is self-control.

When we allow God’s love to control us, we will naturally begin to produce self-control in our lives, which will help us show the love of Christ to our difficult family members.


Love them because God loves them and Jesus died for them


Notice Paul didn’t say, “We love you guys because you’re so lovable!!” Remember, this was his second letter to the church in Corinth—a church that was constantly fighting and NOT very lovable. In fact, one of the things they were arguing about was whether or not they should listen to Paul—the one who had first shared Christ with them!

Paul didn’t use their difficult, hurtful behavior as an excuse to not love them. He wasn’t loving them because they were lovable, or because he felt obligated to. He was loving them because God loved them, and because Jesus had died for them.

Beloved, when we learn to love our difficult family members like this, we are opened up to be used by God in the lives of our difficult family members. We also free ourselves up from being wounded by hurtful behaviors.

What often happens when our family members wound us is that we close up, become bitter, or push away. These are natural human reactions to pain. But when we allow God’s love to fill us, and when we love our difficult family members with God’s love, something changes in us. It’s not that they can’t hurt us anymore, it’s that it’s not personal anymore. They’re not rejecting you, they’re rejecting Christ in you.

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Published on July 25, 2018.

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