People are annoying.
You know the ones. Animal lovers who leave dog poo on the footpath. Drivers who insist on travelling under the speed limit but speeding at a passing lane. People without children who give new parents advice. The shopper with a full trolley of groceries in '10 items or less' checkout. An annoying person is the emotional equivalent of nails on a chalkboard—painfully frustrating.
Of all the exasperating types the 'know-it-all' annoys me most. I remember one encounter where Mr Know-it-all and I were talking about our lives. He shared about himself and I listened carefully, attentively agreeing in all the right places.
When the conversation turned to me I barely opened my mouth before Mr Know-it-all jumped in to tell me how to fix my life. He talked down to me as though I must be clueless about my own situation. He didn't listen and he didn't give me a chance to talk.
Frustration is a compounding feeling. Little annoyances build up and up. One thoughtless comment here... a smug look there... a rude gesture... until everything about the person is maddening! Even mundane actions can appear to be annoyingly smug behaviour.
How should we deal with annoying people? It's tempting to write people off—to act cold and hold a grudge.
What did Jesus do? Did he face annoying and irritating people?
The answer must be yes. Jesus is the creator of life, God come to earth as a human. He lived down in the grit of life with us, with people who choose to live life their own way. God—who knows everything—choosing to be with people who live like know-it-alls.
How grating it must have been for Jesus to be near to people justifying their disregard for God? How abrasive to see up close the foolish things people strive to have? How painful to watch as people hurt each other with arrogance and selfishness? For Jesus, being around people must have been like standing close to someone with terrible breath. Jesus didn't meet anyone who treated the God of the universe how they should.
Even Jesus' disciples behaved in annoying ways. Consider when Jesus told his disciples he was going to Jerusalem and he would be betrayed, killed and then raised back to life. His disciples didn't get it! One time Peter even pulled Jesus aside to lecture him and tell him he must be mistaken (read the whole story in Matthew chapter 16, verse 21–22).
Another time, after hearing Jesus talk about how he would die and be raised to life, the disciples started arguing about which one of them was the greatest and most worthy (see Luke chapter 9, verses 43–48).
How did Jesus respond?
People who proudly thought they should be praised by God—the religious leaders and law keepers—were among the few people Jesus forcibly rebuked for their behaviour.
Jesus said he came for sinners. He spent large portions of time with the outcasts of his society. Amongst all these terribly annoying people what did Jesus do? He responded with love and generosity.
Jesus taught "love your enemies" (Matthew chapter 5, verses 43–48) and this is how he lived: being patient with know-it-all sinners as he taught them about the kingdom of God.
Jesus didn't die for lovely people but for annoying sinners like you and me.
What does this mean for me?
Reflecting on Jesus' kindness and patience is a real eye opener. What great effort and sacrifice it took for God to become a man and live alongside irritating people like me!
It is hard to imagine giving up my life to save even the loveliest person I know. And yet Jesus chose to live and die for the unlovely, the annoying and the outcast.
It has challenged me to live differently too—to question my response to those who irritate and annoy me. When I am tempted to stack up annoyances and build a mental mountain of frustration I'm challenged to remember Jesus and pray for the grace to love people as God has loved me.
Andrew Sinclair is a proud Kiwi studying theology at Sydney Missionary and Bible College. He is married to Sophia and they have one child, a son named Guy.
Andrew Sinclair's previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/andrew-sinclair.html