Responding to attacks
How do you deal with someone who is hellbent on attacking you? We’re not looking at every possible attack here — not the physical or verbal or emotional attacks. I’m talking about people who are hellbent on attacking you in discussions and arguments. The type of people who believe they and their positions are always right. They think they have a direct line to God and that everything they say and claim as true is true.
There’s a particular website and several contributors to that website that have made it their goal to destroy the ELCA — the denomination of which I and the church I serve are a part of. I am not naming it specifically here because I’m not interested in giving the site any added attention. They are really good at pulling things out of context, quoting extreme examples and focusing on making differences in theology into matters of eternal salvation. The folks who contribute to that website believe they are the defenders of “The Truth” and it is their job to save people from heretical teaching that the ELCA supposedly is offering.
There are many problems with this. I’m only covering this briefly because it is not the main point of this post.
First, the contributors of that website spend no time at all, on the website, building up the Body of Christ. Their entire focus is on tearing down fellow Christians in the name of “truth.”
Second, anyone who disagrees with them, and they would claim the clear teaching of Scripture, is hell bound. Contributors to that website support the notion of a seven-day creation and argue that anyone who doesn’t accept the biblical version of creation as the truth is rejecting the authority of the bible, therefore they are heretical. So much for being respectful and having disagreements without condemning people to hell — especially on matters that are not essential to the faith. Whether you agree with a seven-day creation narrative or not doesn’t determine your eternal salvation.
Third, the contributors to this website have made their version of truth and interpretation of Scripture and truth into an idol to be worshiped without question or expression of doubt.
Fourth, the contributors have mixed up their roles — believing it is their job to save people. Only Jesus offers salvation — no human can save anyone else. Our job is clearly stated by Jesus. Just two examples — Matthew 25:35 — “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me.” Also Matthew 28:19–20 — “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you.”
I don’t recall Jesus ever commanding his followers to go around and destroy the Body of Christ, fight with fellow Christians, and condemn people who disagreed with you. Of course Christian history is full of just this type of behavior. It’s part of what has caused war, violence, and death.
Enough about that though. How does one respond to attacks made by such people? You have a choice. You can respond in kind — attacking the attacks with your own attacks. You can get yourself dirty and muddy with anger, hatred, fear, and being right. You can lower yourself to the same level as those that attack. Believe me, it would feel good to impose karma on these folks.
But the problem with that is that as Christians we don’t believe in karma. We believe in grace. Grace is receiving something that you don’t deserve. Grace is not getting what you deserve. If we truly believe that God’s grace is life changing, then we are called to respond to attacks on us with grace — not to just be beaten up, but rather to overcome hatred with love. It’s not easy at all. Often it sucks. It feels so much better to call names, to belittle, to verbally attack.
If God’s grace is truly life changing, then we have an obligation to share that with others, especially those that attack us.
And secondly, Jesus gave instructions to the 72 when he sent them out — (Mark 6:11) “And if any place will not welcome you or listen to you, leave that place and shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them.” I think the same is true for individuals or groups of people who are not open to conversation, dialogue, and being respectful. In other words, it isn’t worth your time and it diminishes your character and distracts from the message of God’s love to engage with those who reject and attack the Good News that we are called to proclaim. There was a saying in sales that I learned long ago that I think applies — “Some will, some won’t, so what, who’s next?”
In Luke’s (10:10–12) version, Jesus gives the following instructions: “But whenever you enter a town and they do not receive you, go into its streets and say, ‘Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet we wipe off against you. Nevertheless know this, that the kingdom of God has come near.’ I tell you, it will be more bearable on that day for Sodom than for that town.” The middle part of that quote is most important. “Nevertheless know this, that the kingdom of God has come near.” How can the kingdom of God come near if we respond to attacks with anger, fear, and our own attacks?
What do you do when someone attacks you in this case — proclaim the Good News, offer grace, treat people with love (as difficult as that is to do), and wipe your feet from them and be done with them — they are in God’s hands. Move away from them and don’t engage in any conversation with them — it isn’t worth the frustration, anger, and emotional roller coaster. You’d just be wasting your energy anyway. You are better off investing your energy in proclaiming the Good News to people who are open to listening and having an actual conversation — people who are interested in building a relationship. A Greek word here might help — Koinonia. It means fellowship, community, partnership. These are the people we are called to spend time with — not people who act like brick walls that are going to fall on you and crush you.
As Mark Twain once said — “Never argue with an idiot. They will drag you down to their level and beat you with experience.” I think Jesus would have liked this statement. Better to wipe the dust from your keyboard from these type of people and move on with life. I guarantee that you have better things to do with your life than argue or fight with people who don’t have your best interest at heart. Thankfully God loves even these people, because it can be really difficult for the rest of us to love them. And sometimes it is best to remember that the best way to love some people is to not interact with them at all.
Originally published at laceduplutheran.com on April 11, 2018.