Biblically, toxicity must be removed, one way or the other, from your congregation, either through resolution and reconciliation or by confrontation and exclusion. It is not easy, nor is it any fun, but it will be necessary at times. (Remember, just because someone disagrees with you, or has a different opinion, does not mean they are toxic.) The ingredient necessary for dealing with difficult people is meekness. Jesus said in Matt. 5:5, “Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth.” Although it is not the leadership style of the world, Jesus told us not to seek dominion over others but to be willing to serve others.
Meekness is defined as “humbly patient or quiet in nature, as under provocation from others; overly submissive or compliant; tame.” People of that day, and most likely today as well, define meekness as weakness, but Jesus didn’t. He said the meek were the ones who would inherit the earth. When dealing with difficult people you must remain humble and meek but what exactly does that mean? All scripture is God-breathed by the Holy Spirit, and He purposely picked specific words to convey what He meant in a passage.
The word meek, given to us here, gives us three descriptive pictures of what Biblical meekness is:
• The first picture is of a wild horse that has been broken. It is a picture of power under control. A horse that has not been broken will not allow you to ride them and displays power and energy that is out of control.
• The next description of how the word meek was of used was a soothing medicine. It is the idea of being angry but not sinning. Being meek means that we strive to remove the pain out of the situation. We defuse, not escalate the problem. That is difficult because some people make the solution more painful, not less.
• Meekness is also a picture of a gentle breeze on a hot summer day. It is refreshing wind instead of being a tsunami or hurricane whose winds destroy and devastate everything in their path. Remaining meek while enduring angry gale force winds is not easy and requires the Holy Spirit’s comfort, guidance and wisdom. That is what the Lord offers to us in Matt. 11:28-29, “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek (same word) and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest for your souls.” When you are meek, you are like Jesus.
Meekness does not mean you are a doormat, weak and spineless. It also does not mean you are arrogant, overbearing and domineering. One person described it as being “appropriately assertive.” Titus 1:9 says, “Holding to the faithful message as taught, so that he will be able both to encourage with sound teaching and to refute those who contradict it.” The word “encourage” means to exhort, urge and beseech. It describes an advocate who pleads the cause of the accused. The word “sound” in this verse is defined as hygienic, and pictures being healthy and wholesome. You must be concerned about the spiritual well-being of others.
Before you begin to think that meekness is weakness, notice the word “refute” in this passage which means to speak against. You are commanded to speak against any teaching or behavior that contradicts healthy, life-protecting, life-preserving doctrine. Every pastor, leader and child of God is obligated by God to give other believers an understanding of the truth that will create the discernment necessary to protect them from false doctrine, heresy and damaging teachings. Refusing to compromise biblical convictions, while also refusing to compromise biblical love. Ephesians 4:15 still says, “Speak the truth in love.”
The extremes are truthless love or loveless truth, and the meek will seek to be appropriately assertive. Do not expect your correcting them to always be well received. It will often be seen as unloving, judgmental, divisive, unkind and archaic, but you must stand on truth. People pleasers will always try to keep others happy, almost at any cost, going along with them no matter what. People lovers are those who love you enough to not tell you what you want to hear and affirm your decision, but to tell you what you need to hear. Titus 2:1 says it well, “But you must say the things that are consistent with sound teaching.”
Church discipline may become necessary, and you should follow the outline of Matt. 18:15-20, but make sure you have exhausted all opportunities to restore them first. Confront them with a specific plan of what needs to be done to correct their attitude and/or behavior. Proverbs 6 says there are six things God hates, and seven are detestable to Him. One of those is the one who sows discord among the brethren. Create a value in your congregation by stating this, “We talk to one another, not about one another.” Teach your people not to listen to the “discord” being sowed but for them to point them to the person they need to be talking with.
The goal is restoration and reconciliation, not sweeping it under the rug or ignoring it and just hoping it will go away. This may sound contradictive, but be patiently proactive. Seek to have a sit-down conversation with them to see what the problem is and how it might be resolved. Transparency produces accountability and accepting unacceptable behavior should never become acceptable. The goal is not confrontation but rather a plan to a more biblical and spiritually healthy relationship. Remember that word meek? Galatians 6:1 refers to it again and says, “You who are spiritual should restore such a person with a gentle spirit.”