Letter to My Frenemies . . .

“If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you.”

Several years ago, I was given the opportunity by a dear friend and sister-in-Christ to write a faith column in her newspaper. I so enjoyed this and it became a weekly entry which challenged me to come up with something fresh each week. Receiving complimentary remarks and support from several readers, whether on the street, through cards and letters, or through email, I chalked it up to the blessing of living in the Bible Belt.

I loved sharing what God had done in me and through me in story form. I was excited about my faith, and even more excited about the object of my faith--Jesus--and desired to share Him with others.   

However, for anyone who has ever shared their faith outside of their comfort zone, you quickly discover that not everyone is as excited about your faith as you are, even in the Bible Belt.

One morning as I began my day, I sat down at my computer and checked my email. I noticed an email from a new sender I did not recognize. I humbly admit my first thought was that this was another thank you letter for the column. (I realize now that was a bit presumptuous)

I opened the email and began reading. The letter went something like this:

“I have been reading your weekly column, “It’s a Wonderful Life” . . .   

(Excitement building in my heart...)

. . . about the personal stories from your childhood, and it makes me want to puke. You are a joke and have no business writing a Christian column. I know the truth about you, your family, and your kids, and I don’t know why you think you are qualified to write stories like this. Who do you think you are?”

(Excitement crashed) 

She (and I have always suspected the attacker was female, because, let's face it girls, men just aren't that mean) went on to elaborate why I should be disqualified. A couple accusations were true; the rest were not. Nevertheless, every ounce of air left my lungs and I felt my heart hang up in my throat, nearly choking me.

I’ve received a similar attack on Facebook. Perhaps you have too.

The Gospel message, which is the Good News, is not always good news to every listener on whom it falls.

To some, it is nourishment for the hungry soul, as welcomed as the open arms of unconditional love. To others, it grates on their hardened soul, creating a discomfort that feels as harsh as the sound of fingernails on a chalkboard. (2 Cor. 2:16)  It is glaringly alarming to the one whose destiny is destruction, their god is their insatiable appetite, glorifying a wanton lifestyle. Their mind is on earthly things, not heavenly. Phil. 3:19

Sadly, I’ve had more verbal assaults by those who claim to be Christian than by those who claim "there is no God", likely due to a lack of spiritual understanding from never having grown past their salvation experience. But it also can appear that perhaps there never was a true foundation of faith, but only a hollow "feel better about myself" philosophy, more about family tradition or the basic "good person" principles of this world rather than a relationship with God through Jesus Christ. (Col. 2:8)  I've been there too. But, I will leave that to God.

The fact is there was indeed a time in my life when I would not have been qualified to write anything about my relationship with the Lord. I knew ABOUT Him, but did not know Him personally. And my self-centered and chaotic life reflected that fact. Not proud of that, but the Lord had His hand on me even then.

And if this woman intended to inflict pain, she did. To be honest, she also succeeded in inflicting doubt, but not for long.

It hurt. I cried. I pouted. Then I got over it and began writing again. Truth is, it was good for me to receive opposition that I may learn to direct my heart and my prayers accordingly. The "enemy" was not the individual. God's word shows us our true enemy.

"For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood (human) enemies, but against the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places."  (Eph. 6:12)

Aside from Jesus, we are the devil’s greatest enemy. And he assigns his minions to do his bidding in silencing us, to make us feel unqualified, subtly suggesting that our sin was far too great for God to ever use us, often secretly operating through individuals' sinful nature when choosing to live according to the flesh. (Romans 8:6)

No sin is ever too great that God cannot use you. He causes all things to work together for good to those who love God and are called according to His purpose.  (Romans 8:28) In fact, your weakness may very well become the very platform on which the Lord will begin to build your ministry. Who better than you to help another struggling through familiar territory?

"That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong" (2 Cor. 12:10).

So what qualifies me?

Certainly not a perfect church attendance, nor a perfect prayer life. Not a sinless life or a theologian’s knowledge of scripture. My daily devotions aren’t always “daily”, and sometimes my mind goes places I’m too embarrassed to tell you. I sometimes knowingly place my wants before someone's needs, and have often forfeited the blessing of taking the time to be a blessing.

I am not perfect, but I serve the Perfect One, Redeemer, the Risen King, Son of my loving Father, and it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in [His Son Jesus], and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself . . . And although I was at one time separated from God, doing my own thing, and engaged in sinful ways, yet He has now reconciled me in His fleshly body through death, in order to present me before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach” (Col. 1:19-22), and that qualifies me to share in the inheritance of all those who have gone before me. (Col. 1:12)  

The shed blood of Jesus Christ is what qualifies me . . . and qualifies you. 

Jesus paid a costly price for our salvation. His disciples paid a costly price refusing to deny Jesus. We too will likely pay a costly price. Whether just a scathing email or Facebook post, or the time comes when it will become more dangerous; we will be hated. We will be offended, mistreated, ridiculed and scorned. It happened to Jesus; it happened to His disciples; it will happen to us.

It will hurt. You may cry. You may pout. But, get over it and consider it the greatest compliment you can ever receive. They see Christ in you. (Col. 1:27)

If we endure, we will also reign with Him. If we disown Him, He will also disown us. 2 Tim. 2:12

A friend once told me that "forgiveness is giving up the right to hurt you for hurting me", and if I were to write a letter today to the person who sent me that hateful email several years ago, as well as my Facebook attackers, it would say something like this: 
"I never did learn of your identity. I don't have to know. God does, and I have asked from the beginning that He bless you for cursing me. Though you verbally abused me openly on Facebook, I have prayed for you. Crazy, I know, but I have. It was hard at first, but then God took over and it became easy. I admit, your words inflicted a great deal of emotional pain when I first read them, and I almost believed them. But I also understood that your words were more about you than they were about me or my family. They reflected the deep-seated pain and emptiness of a heart that is rooted in the sorrow and bitterness of past hurts and abandonment the enemy has used to hold you hostage all these years. How do I know? I've been there too. So I also know you are desperate to know the kind of love that will at last occupy that emptiness, soothe the pain, and protect and adore the precious child you are. Who knows but that we might actually enjoy the company of one another, as we sit over coffee and talk for hours about what a glorious, loving, compassionate, and amazing God we serve. Call out to Him now and I'll put the coffee on. 
Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy, to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen."

God bless you,