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Rude people & the grace imperative

I've got a public job. I put myself out there as a three-dimensional human being with problems just like you in this blog and in the ministries I lead. If I hurt, I try to show it so that people can relate. They've seen too many leaders who look too good to be true. They're tired o…
By Seth Barnes
By Seth Barnes
I've got a public job. I put myself out there as a three-dimensional human being with problems just like you in this blog and in the ministries I lead. If I hurt, I try to show it so that people can relate. They've seen too many leaders who look too good to be true. They're tired of poser Christians. They know the mess they are inside and the hypocrisy they see in the church exhausts them.
The downside of this is that I'm an easy target for everybody out there with an axe to grind. And what I find is that it's a good test of the reality of my faith. Because if I fire back at them without grace, it shows my faith is hollow. Grace is the difference maker, it's what has distinguished Jesus-followers from other faiths down through the centuries.
Since returning from Ukraine last week, I've felt as though my spiritual cupboard was bare. I was quiet at the dinner table. When I would go on a run, grace-less thoughts would swim through my head. And when I encountered a lack of grace in others, it was a mirror for my own emptiness.
Thus, when I received an anonymous email from someone who described themselves as a "hater-hater," it was a test of the reality of my faith. It said: "Hey Seth, How can I make money off of this God thing. You seem to be doing pretty well. Is it like MLM? Also, do you have to be a far right extremist?"
Most people would say, "He's baiting you, just ignore him."
But, I responded, inviting him to come out from behind the curtain of anonymity that email affords. I saw a person who has perhaps never experienced true grace and deserves better.
He replied, "Props for figuring out that stupid people are an even better source of revenue than advertising. If newspapers and dot com businesses understood that, they wouldn't be supplanted now by rip-off-artists like yourself. Still, how much would you charge me for a list of your idiots?"
And I responded: "I don't blame you for wanting to attack people – very likely people who claim to represent Jesus have hurt you and why would I be any different? If you do want to take a risk, I promise I will treat you with respect and will try to offer you any help I can."
That was the last I heard from him. In the midst of my own struggles, along came the temptation to treat another person as something less than the object of God's love – to dispatch the grace imperative and lob email word-bombs in the direction of someone who was out to diminish me. It's a temptation that we all face in a graceless world that has never seen the reality of Jesus in a tangible way.
The everyday test of the reality of your faith is how you respond to people who have no grace in their lives. How are you doing with that?

Comments (9)

  • Awesome, great response! Keep that God-heart toward people! At least you planted a seed, who knows, it may grow in that anonymous person.

    I try to deal with rude people through empathy and compassion too, and no, it’s not always easy!!

    God bless you!

  • I usually tell myself not to take it personal and I try to act with grace and try to respond with empathy and compassion like Christ. But when my tank is empty or I have been serving lots and am tired, then I find I struggle with responding with love and grace. People with an axe to grind toward the medical profession frequently say rude and hurful things specifically attacking doctors, when they know my husband is a physician. I understand responding with grace, but also am trying to figure out how to speak the truth in love when people have a lack of self-control and overstep healthy boundaries? I just need to remember that in my sinfulness, I need others to give me loads of grace when I mess up and say rude and hurtful things.

  • Bizarrely, I find it easier to show grace and patience to those without faith than to those with. I reason they don’t know compassion and mercy in their lives and will struggle to give it. But the hurt that comes from other Christians I find the hardest because, like me, they know better.

    I go back to the mirror again and again and remind myself it’s only he who has never sinned who can cast the stones. That I’ve been guilty of so much, maybe even the same thing I’m getting from them. That humbles me and takes me back to grace.

  • How am I doing with that? I’ve failed…and responded poorly to those in my own family who have had no grace in their life…but HIS grace is sufficient for me and HIS mercies are new every morning,,,so I ask God for continued opportunities to impart grace and HIS love never fails!

  • Hi Seth,

    It was good to chat yesterdayas always. You raise an important issue here and one that is personal and very close to home. I’ve made mistakes in handling the dilemmas associated with unresolved conflict as you know. And I have also felt the searing pain of the Amish practice of “shunning”ostensibly to keep the sinful leavening effect of a perceived putrid life from tainting a community of “wholeness”. Lately the ethic of “kindness” keeps swirling around my realities. Jesus waskind.. The virtues of kindness, meekness and humility are ones kept in a closet only for special occasions where their absence would be so noted a person wouldn’t want to feel the shame of leaving them behind. And yet they should be first in line not laggards.

    Some individuals judge themselves based on their “intntions” and others based on their “actions”. And sadly, those who pontificate about “grace” are often the ones most stingy in dispensing it”. I’m just committed these days to walking a path that seems to have the recognized footprints of the One who it’s all about anyway. One of our greatest foibles is living a life driven by feelings and a desire for happiness. Jesus never promised “happy” but did promise “joy”. Happiness is based on “happendings” which are as whimsical as the weather.

    I’m wandering. Sorry. You touched a nerve. Love you friend….

  • Pastor Howard Finnicum

    Hello brother, You responded well by the Spirit and treated this person the way the Lord would have. I am glad to see your site and to read of the work you are doing about fatherhood. I am president of a new non-profit called Fathers for the Fatherless. I am working here in the US and in Central America, and Haiti with the needs of the family. We focus on saving the family through training fathers to turn their hearts to their children and to love their wives as Christ loved the church.The church is going to need to address two big issues if it’s going to turn the families around. First the subject of divorce and remarriage among believers and the second is that we men are going to have to love our heavenly father the way his Son love him, for he always did the things that pleased his father. We are going to have to commit our lives to this kind of relationship with him.Then we can lead our children in the light as we are in the light.I pastor a church in Roanoke VA, and our motto is”Godly children our number one priority”. I hope I didn’t hijack the thread too much. God bless brother. Pastor H

  • Sam and Ethel Landry

    Hi Seth,

    Think about you and the staff often! Just want to say we know AIM is by far one of the best mission organization world wide. I (Ethel) pray for Cathy and her prayer requests. She e-mailed this site to me. It is absolutely a blessing to see GOD at work in her life. Also, the many others. Prayfully~Ethel and Sam

  • As it is written, “a soft answer turns away wrath”. I suspect you’ll eventually hear back from your anonymous critic. g

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Seth Barnes

I'm motivated to join God in his global reclamation project. He's on the move, setting his sons and daughters free from their places of captivity. And he's partnering with those of us who have been freed to go and free others.

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