From then on Jesus began to tell his disciples plainly that it was necessary for him to go to Jerusalem, and that he would suffer many terrible things at the hands of the elders, the leading priests, and the teachers of religious law. He would be killed, but on the third day he would be raised from the dead.
But Peter took him aside and began to reprimand him for saying such things. “Heaven forbid, Lord,” he said. “This will never happen to you!”
Jesus turned to Peter and said, “Get away from me, Satan! You are a dangerous trap to me. You are seeing things merely from a human point of view, not from God’s.” Matthew 16:21-23
These words have been ringing through my ears in the last week.
“Get behind me, Satan.”
The words run through my brain over and over as I reflect on a recent experience. Toxic people trying to distract me from my calling. Individuals who think they know how to live my life better than I do. People who think they know what God has for me even when they’ve never met me.
The truth is toxic people are all around us. I’ve been in toxic work environments. I’ve had a toxic marriage. I’ve had toxic friends. I’ve had toxic readers.
And sometimes we have to stop and say to these toxic people, “Get behind me, Satan.”
As I have removed a number of toxic people and situations from my life in the last few months, I feel a tremendous sense of relief…of strength…of power…of courage. Mostly, I feel the Father tell me I’ve done well, I’ve made the decision to remain steadfast in my calling. I’ve made the decision to see things from God’s point of view.
It’s never easy to handle toxic people, but it is necessary. Even Jesus chose to put one of his nearest and dearest friends in the category of toxic, and he did what was necessary to handle the situation. He didn’t end his friendship with Peter, but he did very clearly call him out on his limited perspective.
What can we learn from Jesus about dealing with toxic people in our lives?
Jesus was close enough to His Father to know His will. It’s easy for us to look at Jesus, the perfect son of God, and know that he was doing his Father’s will. We know how often he got away to a solitary place to pray. We know He was constantly connected to the Father and was confident in what God had called him to do and be.
What an amazing example he gave us! However, none of us is Jesus. We are humans. We do make mistakes in our walks with God. BUT… only we are truly able to discern God’s will for our lives. We know His will by walking with him, by spending time with him. We know his will by following Jesus’s example of getting away to a solitary place to pray. We know his will by abiding in Him daily.
If we are going to deal with toxic people in our lives, we must be steadfast in our relationship with our Heavenly Father so we know His calling on our lives.
Jesus was focused on His calling. Jesus knew exactly what His Father was asking of him. He knew the path He had to walk, and He refused to take his eyes off that calling. He was steadfast, focused. He was passionate and determined to follow His Father no matter the cost.
Peter thought he knew what God wanted from Jesus, and he tried to change Jesus’s mind. He didn’t want to see his friend suffer, die. He had a vision of what Jesus would do, of how Jesus would be the Savior of his people.
But his vision wasn’t the same as that of the Father. He was looking only from a human perspective. Jesus, however, knew exactly where he was going, why he was doing it. He knew the calling on his life and refused to be distracted, deterred from the path he was walking.
He was steadfast in his calling, with a single-minded devotion to the will of His Father.
And we must be the same. When we are walking close to God so we know His will, we will have a determination, a focus, on that calling—and we cannot allow toxic people to distract us from following Him.
Jesus dealt strongly with toxic people. “Get behind me, Satan,” he said to one of his nearest and dearest friends. Jesus didn’t allow people to distract him. He didn’t allow them to get into his mind or under his skin. He called it like it was.
Have you ever had a toxic person? That person who makes snide comments? The one who is always negative? The one who thinks he/she knows more about your life than you do? The one who thinks he/she knows what God is calling you to better than you do?
It’s time to deal with them. Don’t sweep it under the rug. Don’t let it eat at you. Do whatever is necessary to remove the toxicity from your life. Life is too short to waste it worrying about those people who will never be satisfied, the ones who can only see from a human point of view.
Who is your toxic person? A boss? A family member? A friend? A spouse? Is it someone you need to completely remove from your life? Or, like Jesus, is it someone who is normally on your side but is just going the wrong way for now?
How do we deal with toxic people? I think it all depends on the situation. Jesus called Peter out, made sure he knew how wrong he was. But… Jesus didn’t cut Peter out of his life. I think Peter had enough of a relationship with God that he was able to see the error of his ways when Jesus spoke truth to him. Eventually, Peter’s eyes were opened and he became the rock upon which the church was built.
Not everyone will see the error of their ways. Some people have to be cut completely out. Blocked. Removed completely from our lives. Maybe one day they will repent and we can restore them. Maybe not. Only you will be able to determine if and when you can allow someone back into your life. We can most definitely pray for those toxic people to see the error of their ways, for God to bring truth to light.
Sadly, we will encounter many toxic people in this life. We have to be discerning enough to recognize toxic people and bold enough to deal with them—whatever the cost.
Lord Jesus, you know the toxicity in my life and in the lives of those near to me. I pray you would help us to walk so closely to you that we are completely convinced of your calling on our lives. Help us to remain focused on you in spite of those people trying to distract us. Give us wisdom to recognize the toxic people and the boldness to deal with them swiftly. Protect our hearts as we strive to follow you more closely, more intimately, every single day. In Jesus’ name we pray, amen.