Haters gonna hate (& God is gonna love)

by Kristin on August 28, 2012

in Belief, doubt & hope

Photo by RecycledStarDust

It never fails. If I suggest that anything good could possibly come out of a divorce—and especially if I suggest that God might have something to do with that redemptive turn—some Internet troll is sure to surface, spouting accusations, condemnation, and predictions about how I will surely always suffer as a result of this sin, which is apparently bigger than God.

Last week, it was my column over at RELEVANT that caught the attention of someone, whose user name is “Lovedandforgiven.” (I kid you not.) My post was about how redemption stories don’t always turn out the way we might predict, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t redemption stories. I referenced both my divorce and Vernon’s recent death (which I wrote about here) as examples. Here’s what Lovedandforgiven had to say:

Not everything is redeemed. Vernon was in sin and died from his sin. That’s not redemption. If there was no physical abuse or adultery, then there’s no redemption in your failed marriage. If one person forced the divorce, and the other person didn’t want to divorce, then the former is guilty of sin. If both agreed to divorce, you’re both in sin. Not redeemed. These stories you used aren’t a mysterious form of Gods redemption, they are examples of what happens when something isn’t redeemed. Read your bible.

When I first read the comment, I was stunned.

Then I chided myself for EVER being surprised about the words Christians are capable of uttering.

Then I got really pissed—especially in defense of Vernon, the lack of compassion, the idea that HOW he died mattered, and the ridiculousness of a Christian not getting that death doesn’t have the last word. In fact, it seems that Lovedandforgiven thinks he/she gets the last word, at least when it comes to which lives and stories get to be redeemed by God.

And the “Read your bible.” part? I had SO many things I wanted to say in response to that, starting with the fact that if Lovedandforgiven would read the Bible, he/she might notice that it’s jam-packed with stories about humans who are more broken than we can imagine, and a God whose love, grace and forgiveness are more powerful than we can imagine. (I touched on this a few months ago in the post God doesn’t use checklists.)

But I didn’t respond to Lovedandforgiven. I know the Internet is full of haters and trolls, and it’s best if I don’t give them the satisfaction of their comments even being worth my time.

Here I am, though, writing a whole post about it—a decision I definitely had a good internal debate over. Did I want to write about it just to gather my loyal troops around me and elicit your sympathy and outrage? I have to admit, some of that impulse is probably at play. But the personal surface wounds inflicted by this instance are really so small. I am sure of God’s love for me, and of the redemption he is working out in my life. After all, I am living it—I’m the product of it! I see and feel it every day.

What I really worry about are all the people out there who aren’t so sure of God’s love for them, or his ability to redeem any mess we make. I worry about the people who believe they’re beyond hope, who see Christians as judgmental perfectionists, and who imagine God as an angry and punishing father. I’m reaching out to the people who think “I will never step foot in a church again, because churches are full of people who seem to revel in the pain of others’ sins, and celebrate when people get what they deserve.”

I’m writing this post for them. I’m writing to counter the loud voices of people like Lovedandforgiven, who don’t seem to understand that the entire message of the Gospel revolves around God NOT giving us what we deserve. I’m writing because this message of love has to be louder than messages of condemnation.

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  • http://thehomespunlife.com Sisterlisa

    I’m glad I saw you on Twitter and came to read this. I’m right with you on this. God IS redemption.. no one gets what they deserve… His mercies are new every day!

  • http://www.robertafking.com Roberta King

    I am as astonished as you are about the judgment opinion and final word that the ironic “loveandforgiveness” displayed in his/her post. I find that picking and choosing in faith is dangerous (and I’ll admit I’m guilty sometimes) and pointing out what we think are faults in another person’s beliefs is something we ought to walk away from. It was smart of you to not engage in defending yourself and your position, it makes you a more credible writer.

  • http://jenniferluitwieler.com Jen

    Every time I think about my first read through of the comments, first I get all flummoxed, smacking my lips in disbelief and speechlessness. Then I settle down and remember, you are a smart woman. You understand grace and compassion. And your lack of a response was exactly the right thing.

  • Kathy

    I absolutely LOVED the story about Vernon’s Chair!!!!!!

    I’m shocked at that crazy response!!!

  • http://www.learntoembracethestruggle.com/ Alison

    Amen, Kristen. Still in shock at Loveandforgiveness (LOL! Talk about not living up to a name!) The beauty of grace is that it encompasses both love and forgiveness. May we never forget that!

  • http://katieleigh.wordpress.com Katie @ cakes, tea and dreams

    Those condemning voices need a counter-voice. Thanks, friend, for standing up for love and grace and redemption.

  • http://www.revangiem-n.com Angie Mabry-Nauta

    Ugh! Troll & hater indeed! :( Grace for that person, and thanksgiving for you, Kristen!

  • http://www.inamirrordimly.com ed cyzewski

    I go on the defensive so quickly! I admire your restraint here.

    I think part of the issue is reading the Bible as more of a blueprint than as a series of portraits. If the Bible was a once and for all rule book with strict standards that are beyond redemption, then there’s no hope for us. If God can redeem us in the midst of our mess, then there’s hope. My friend Derek wrote recently about the story of Judah. He slept with his daughter in law, and yet he gets included in the lineage of Jesus! If that isn’t redemption, what is?

  • http://studentsofjesus.com Ray Hollenbach

    Jesus reminded us that the measure we use toward others will in some way be used toward us. I’m so disappointed because L&F clearly misrepresents the Loving Father, his Grace-filled Son, and the Comforting Spirit of Holiness. But here’s my temptation: in my worst moment I want Lovedandforgiven to have that measure held up against him. I want the Lord of Glory to say, “I will judge you by your own words, you wicked servant! You knew, did you, that I am a hard man, taking out what I did not put in, and reaping what I did not sow?” I want to cheer when the comeuppance comes, and that makes me more like L&F than I’m willing to admit. Instead, I need to tremble for the like of him–and me.

    Meanwhile–I’m sorry that we are so predictable, and that the church–especially the Evangelical church has treated you so badly. Peace to you, Kristin.

  • http://www.leighkramer.com HopefulLeigh

    Amen, Kristin! I’m standing with you. I hope my life speaks to God’s unconditional love.

  • Nanci

    Our God is a God who redeems. Love your writing, and am shocked at the response to Vernon’s Chair. That person may be a victim of spiritual abuse, let’s pray for him/her!

  • http://www.allthingsbeautifulblog.com Alyssa

    At the end of the day, I just feel sorry for that person who commented. Their callous lack of compassion, empathy, and knowledge of the truth of God’s love deserves our sincere pity. Good for you for taking the high road and not responding directly to them, it probably wouldn’t have accomplished anything. Let’s hope this person’s views are in the minority.

  • http://www.InspiredHarbor.com Joe Jestus

    If nothing good could come from things that hurt, we would never have invented the word HOPE. Thankfully Papa loves to get down on His knees in the middle of our hurts and wash our feet with His love.

    Thank you for representing that LOVE in your words and actions, keep it up.
    The world needs more of it!

  • http://annetteskarin.net Annette Skarin

    I’m beginning to blog my own story and your honesty has boosted my courage. Jesus set the bar which none of us can ever reach on our own. I went through a divorce many years ago. A friend admitted she had condemned me until she went through one herself. So easy to cast “superior stones” (these are my words) or shoot “bible bullets” when we need to be offering people a hand of grace. The same hand extended to us, that reached down into all our muck and jagged places. My own story is about pain covered by grace (my memoir). Thanks for being real.

  • http://www.halfwaytonormal.com Kristin T.

    Sisterlisa, I’m glad you saw this on Twitter, too—it’s always good to meet a sister in truth!

    Roberta King, I wonder what it is that makes us, as humans, so susceptible to that kind of nit-picking and judging. Clearly it’s always been an issue—even the Bible talks about seeing the specks in others’ eyes and missing the logs in our own.

    Jen, trust me—I whipped off about a dozen snappy responses in my head! Thankfully I’ve learned a thing or two (pretty recently, in fact) about *not* engaging. Sometimes, for me, that’s all the grace I can muster—silence! Good thing God is capable of so very much more.

    Kathy, I’m glad I’m not the only one who was shocked! In a strange way, that gives me a bit more hope for this crazy world.

    Alison, you bring up a great point—love without forgiveness and forgiveness without love don’t amount to much. They don’t really work on their own, do they?

    Katie, thank you. Sometimes I feel really convicted that our love needs to be much louder than it is.

  • http://tammyhelfrich.com Tammy Helfrich

    Great post. Our God loves us no matter where we are or what we do. Spreading that message is what’s most important. Love God and Love people. Period! I pray that the people you describe below see this, and that we can all be better examples of showing His love to them.

    “What I really worry about are all the people out there who aren’t so sure of God’s love for them, or his ability to redeem any mess we make. I worry about the people who believe they’re beyond hope, who see Christians as judgmental perfectionists, and who imagine God as an angry and punishing father. I’m reaching out to the people who think “I will never step foot in a church again, because churches are full of people who seem to revel in the pain of others’ sins, and celebrate when people get what they deserve.”

    Thank you for being brave with your story!

  • http://www.sundayschoolrebel.typepad.com Sam

    Yes, yes, and yes. Today I actually waded into a discussion about Hurricane Isaac being a judgement on New Orleans. I wish I would have had your words, about how powerful redemption is, to counter all the fear-mongering ridiculousness.

  • http://drgtjustwondering.blogspot.com Diana Trautwein

    The wisest possible response to that graceless comment was exactly the one you gave it: NONE. As I recall, you had several of us wading in to respond obliquely – and that’s probably the only way to go with such sad and narrow thinking. Sigh. Yes – you are evidence of God’s redeeming power at work. Aren’t we all??

  • Debbie Grace

    Yes.

    and thank you.

    I was *so* touched by Vernon’s story and the dignity that your church treated him with. It helped to heal some painful memories of my own (and, yes, judgement about, too) towards a person when she was most struggling in her alcoholism.

  • http://www.halfwaytonormal.com Kristin T.

    Angie, thank you for the reminder of grace. We do need to support and encourage one another in that, because it sure doesn’t always come naturally!

    ed, I don’t know how much admiration you should point my way—as I mentioned to Jen, I thought of at least a dozen retorts I desperately wanted to shoot off! My husband has been a great teacher when it comes to restraint, though. It was important for me to learn that it wasn’t about being completely silenced, but about communicating in more effective ways. (And yes—Judah’s story is a great redemption story!)

    Ray, I share this temptation: “I want to cheer when the comeuppance comes, and that makes me more like L&F than I’m willing to admit.” It’s humbling to realize, isn’t it? Thank you for your honesty, kindness and compassion.

    HopefulLeigh, just the fact that you use “hopeful” as part of your Internet presence says a lot about the kind of person you are and the God you follow.

    Nanci, thank you so much for your encouragement and graciousness!

    Alyssa, I like to think this is a rare understanding of God, but sometimes I really worry that it isn’t! This isn’t the first time I have received a comment like that in response to a blog post, and I have heard dozens of stories from others who have had similar experiences (many of whom have stopped going to church as a result). And these instances are mostly around divorce, which is hardly the most controversial societal issue out there! I really think that these types of responses and attitudes (like that of Lovedandforgiven) are hugely responsible for the shrinking American church, and it makes me angry. (Sorry—I didn’t mean to get all worked up! Thanks for your comment. :)

    Joe, what you said about HOPE is exactly right! We can’t know exactly what God will or won’t do, but we can have hope because he is able to counter any mess with his love.

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  • http://www.halfwaytonormal.com Kristin T.

    Annette, this is so true: “So easy to cast ‘superior stones’ (these are my words) or shoot ‘bible bullets’ when we need to be offering people a hand of grace.” Grace is much harder—and so is being real with your own story. But those harder things are the ones that will make the world better.

    Tammy, the people I describe at the end of my post motivate so much of what I do. It took me awhile to get this, but I finally realized that I care so much about them because I was one of those people—I wasn’t as sure of God’s love for me as I was sure of Christians’ judgement of me. I’m grateful for people like you who desire to share the true message of God’s love.

    Sam, those discussions and viewpoints always seem to take us by surprise, don’t they? I’m starting to truly get how wonderful it is to be able to rest in God’s truths, in the midst of so much craziness.

    Diana, I was really grateful for the people who responded to Lovedandforgiven over at RELEVANT. It made it easier for me to NOT respond, because I knew that the “not redeemed” message wasn’t left standing without some smart, loving replies to counter it. You are absolutely right—we are all evidence of God’s redeeming power at work.

    Debbie Grace, it’s wonderful to know that my story, and Vernon’s, could play into your story. That seems like more evidence that we’re all a part of a much bigger story, doesn’t it? Thank you for your honest words.

  • http://themoderngal.com The Modern Gal

    It amazes me how some Christians seem to read a totally different Bible than the one I’ve got. While I realize there are plenty of different translations, the messages are the same.

    I think you did right by not feeding the troll. The best we can do is say a little prayer for people like that, that they may be filled with God’s love.