Have you heard of “Internet People”? I hadn’t either until recently. It’s a term used to describe people who spend way too much time online and troll comment threads just to stir up arguments.
Why? Well, we’d like to think it’s because they don’t have a life or just want to aggravate the rest of us. But could it be something deeper? I think so.
At Life.Church Online, we welcome people into our online church services every day who come looking for a fight. Some have been hurt by Christians in the past or still wrestle with anger toward God. Usually, that hostility is projected right onto our Host Team volunteers who welcome everyone into our services.
What’s amazing, though, is that we’ve found that treating angry people with kindness and love, no matter how aggressive they get, has miraculous power. It causes them to experience some beautiful confusion. They wonder, Why are these people being so nice to me when I’m doing everything I can to provoke them into a fight?
That’s the gravity of grace. When we look past someone’s negative outward behaviors—bullying, criticizing, mocking, etc.—and begin to wonder what might be happening in their hearts, we start seeing them the way God does. Our love can “cover over a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8).
You see, people who need the most love often ask for it in the most unloving ways.
Think about it. People don’t just hate others for no reason. It’s often because they’ve been so hurt and broken in the past that it’s just easier for them to become an aggressor toward someone else. They’re desperately crying out for love and acceptance in all the wrong ways.
I’ll give you a perfect example: Raja from India was a regular Life.Church Online guest who used to attend multiple services throughout the week and fight with our volunteers day after day.
Don’t miss how experiencing God’s love through our team saved his life:
“I was contemplating suicide—I was planning to jump off a building. I was so angry at God, I used to provoke and debate with the Life.Church Online volunteers. One day, one of them told me she knew that I was very alone. I started to develop a relationship with the volunteers, like they were my family. They taught me about Jesus and encouraged me through my problems. Even when I was in the darkest time of life, they would spend time with me. They were never too busy for me. When I felt that no one would talk to me, I could come to Life.Church Online and find someone who was ready to serve me. They were very patient and humble, and made me feel like family. I started believing in Jesus and wanted to serve Him as my Savior. And now, because of Jesus, I’m alive today and want to follow God wholeheartedly.”
How amazing is that? Nobody is ever too far from God’s love!
It’s important for us to recognize that difficult people aren’t in the way of who we’re reaching—they are who we’re reaching. They’re who God has called us to impact. After all, weren’t we all just as difficult before we knew Christ? And don’t we all go through things that make us seem a bit difficult even if we’ve been following Christ for years and years?
Here are 3 ways to respond to the difficult people in your life:
- Love people as Christ has loved you. Remember that we can’t change people, but we can introduce them to the one who can. (John 13:34)
- Forgive people as Christ has forgiven you. Remember that Jesus taught us to forgive “seventy times seven” times per day—in other words, fully and with limitless grace. (Matthew 18:21-22)
- Never give up on people, because Christ has never given up on you. Remember that walking through life with people is messy and takes patience. (2 Timothy 2:11-13)
I’m encouraged that Scripture is clear about the result of loving others through their pain.
Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Galatians 6:9 NIV
So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. … All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors … 2 Corinthians 5:16, 18-20 NIV
So, whether it’s with “Internet People,” the boss you don’t understand, or that family member whose calls you avoid, renew your perspective this week and don’t give up.
You’re an ambassador of Christ to a hurting world!