An Important Insight from President Obama

A few weeks ago someone posted a vicious comment on this blog which personally attacked a friend of mine who is engaged in serving the Lord. It wasn’t approved, of course. The person who posted the comment claims to be a Christian. I responded to them privately with an opening question:

“How long have you known [my friend’s name] personally, how well do you know him, when was the last time you spent time in his presence, and what did he say when you shared these things with him face-to-face over coffee?”

Of course, this person didn’t know my friend personally. He only interacted with him a few times online.

I then went on to defend my friend.

The words of Martin Luther King, Jr. are very dear to me: “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”

When Bill O’Reilly interviewed President Obama earlier this year, he asked him this question: “Does it disturb you that so many people hate you?”

Obama answered: “You know, the truth is that the people—and I’m sure previous presidents would say the same thing, whether it was Bush or Clinton or Reagan or anybody  . . .  the people who dislike you don’t know you.”

“But they hate you,” O’Reilly probed.

“The folks who hate you, they don’t know you. What they hate is whatever fun-house mirror image of you that’s out there, and they don’t know you,” Obama said. “And so, you don’t take it personally.”

Whether you support Mr. Obama or not, his words contain searing insight. And they are worthy to be remembered.

Here are some related thoughts to keep in mind. This is especially for those of you who have put your hand to the plow of God’s work . . . or you plan to someday:

  • People write things on the Internet that they would never dare say to any human being in person.
  • If you love and serve God, some people are going to hate you . . . no matter what you say or do. Sometimes it will be because of jealousy. Sometimes it will be for some other fleshly reason. Accept it, and don’t try to please everyone. Be faithful to your Lord. His opinion is what matters most. If you are walking with Jesus Christ, those who know you well will love and support you. Accept all opposition as coming from the hand of God. Satan may mean it for bad, but God means it for good. Romans 8:28 is still valid.
  • Historically, Christians have suffered the edge of the sword at the hands of their fellow Christians far more than by the hands of non-Christians.
  • Remember the words of Aristotle: “There is only one way to avoid criticism: Do nothing, say nothing, and be nothing.”
  • When someone thinks the worst of you and judges the motives of your heart, they are virtually always reading what’s in their own hearts back into yours. They are unwittingly exposing what’s inside of them (Matthew 7:1-5). (The person who wrote the vicious comment about my friend was imputing evil motives to his heart. Whenever a person does this, they are playing God. We have not so learned Jesus Christ. “Love thinks no evil,” Paul said, but always believes the best of others. “Unto the pure all things are pure, but unto the defiled, nothing is pure.”)
  • Most of all, keep in mind the words of your Lord: “Beware when all men speak well of you” . . . “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you and persecute you.”

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Comments

  1. Ben Wyatt says

    Frank, thank you for this post and for all your others as well. As someone who has been shunned after walking away from the institutional church this helps me. I found out that your true friends seek you out when they see you struggling and not just when you are a part of their cliche. You have really helped me over these last couple years and do much more within the last six months.

  2. Sean Michael Kelly says

    There’s a psychological phenomenon with a quaint little name called the “Fundamental Attribution Error.” (and other names) It seems to apply here and it’s amazing how it rings true. Whenever somebody else either fails or makes an error we look at that and attribute that to their character. If we should fail we blame it on our environment.

    “Of course he got caught….. he’s a thief.” “I was just raised that way.”

    The adverse is also usually true:

    If somebody else finds success we attribute that to their environment, while we attribute our own success to our character.

    “Of course he got a raise, he’s went to the same college as the boss.” “I finally achieved my goal with perseverance and hard-work.”

    It’s tragic and it’s human nature, but there’s no excuse for it, especially within the Body of Christ.

  3. ilona sturla says

    I love the article. I love the idea of the quote ‘christians I hate are just people who sin differently to me’. I have hated my sister to hell (how awful am I?) as she did not want to visit our 86 year old mum, my brother and I as we had Christmas renunion (2011) and she lives 10 minutes away. She did the same on Christmas day and I hated her so much for the rejection of us all.She gave no reason, and I have no idea to this day why but she has acted like this on and off for 30 years and finally after much crying I turned to hatred then love as I believe hate is the flip side of love and can change in an instant when it comes to family. After this blog I repent and ask God to show me how to not be so vengeful when I am rejected. Thank you so much.

  4. marion says

    sometimes I get quite scared [or maybe that is the wrong word], by many comments [the spirit of them included] I read from Christians online – whether they’re writing to other Christians or non Christians (confirming, sadly, what many non Christians think of us].
    ‘Scared’ in that – will we get better or worse? [I realise a number of people are more concerned about whether the world will get worse or not].

    ‘Make love your aim’ comes to me – and that can apply even when we disagree with someone.
    Frank, I admire how you and others can write in grace and gentleness with love, whether agreeing or not agreeing.
    A problem I have (whilst taking into account what sastowe said), is that I want to defend people – not because of ever agreeing 100% with the ones I want to defend – but I am so tired of comments that demonise other human beings, as if them being wrong [in our opinion] on 5% would make them wrong 100% and worthy of rejection.
    Where is the remembrance that ‘God so loved the world’
    ‘while we were still sinners Christ died for us’

  5. Kat says

    Frank, Thank you for this much needed post! What I often hear ‘Christians’ express has been on my heart lately a great deal. I’m currently gathering thoughts of heart to write an article concerning this very matter. There appears to be a great deal of bitterness (resentment) in our hearts toward our brothers and sisters in Christ. My heart tells me this is a self-pride issue more than anything else. I believe most of our family in Christ do not realize that what they are saying is so hurtful and devastating to the heart of others, because what they are truly expressing is possible hidden anger, hidden pain, and/or some form of resentment. Until we realize our real identity in Christ more fully, we will continue to judge with our self-opinions of who and what our family members should be, should do, and not do. This outspoken abuse is most outrageous toward our sisters and brothers who are in the system of institutional worship, but obviously not limited to only those family members. There needs to be more said on this extremely sad problem in the body of Christ. When are we going realize that Life is all about Love, the love of Christ in us for one another? When are we going to get that knowing? Love is the ultimate expression of our Lord Jesus and thus, should always be our expression for one another. How will the world ever know His love if we so willingly and openly express bitterness toward one another? They will never know Love, unless we love one another the way Jesus loves us. Love for one another is the Testimony of Jesus Christ and in this Love we should be one.

  6. sastowe says

    Thanks Frank – you have taught and reminded me of a lot in the last year.

    As I read this it made me also think of something I read on another blog today. It discussed spending an inordinate amount of time replying to people on the internet that say nasty things. It becomes so easy to reply back to the person trolling for an argument without lifting up and edifying or even carrying on constructive conversations with those we are in disagreement with. I am trying to spend more time doing what should have a Godly return rather than replying in an ungodly manner.

  7. says

    In 1979 I was scheduled to do a series in Houston, TX, on “Living Under Christ Not Moses.” About a week before I was to come, a brother there announced that JZ was a “heretic,” and he could not defile himself by coming to the meetings. At the urging of others he attended the last meeting, and then a group of us, including him, went out to lunch. He sat next to me and he asked a number of questions. I drew some diagrams with notations for him on a napkin. The conclusion is that he ended up liking me and retracted his “heretic” accusation. This doesn’t prove I’m not a heretic, but it does show that getting to know people goes a long way toward putting out the flames of false accusations and misunderstandings!

  8. Jackie J. says

    Frank, I have followed you for a few yrs now, but have never chimed in on anything. However, I felt it was time to say “thank you” (for this post and for so many others). Your blogs and your books have been a huge help as my family and I have somehow found ourselves outside of “traditional church” after more than 25yrs. We have experienced so much hatred from so-called Christians (many of whom we served alongside for several yrs.) In fact, I have a difficult time using the term “Christian” in reference to myself.

    Again, thank you! Thank you for standing up for what’s right. You have been such a blessing during some pretty tough times for me and my family.

    • says

      I have also found myself outside of institutional church. I’ve just begun to read these books and blog and, Frank, think you for allowing God to use you in such a powerful way. I am detoxing from religion and learning to walk with Jesus without all of the man-made trappings of religion. I have lost friends because of it. Jackie J, I also have re-thought using the word Christian in reference to myself because, these days, it communicates what I don’t want communicated about me. I want people to see Christ in me, NOT what the world thinks a “Christian” is. Sad, but “love” is not the first word that comes to mind when most people hear the word Christian.

      I had an interesting thought…The Body of Christ thrives I.spite of the religious. Of Christianity.

      Thank you Frank!

  9. says

    It’s so much easier to hate someone you don’t know, whose struggles you’re not privy to, whose cares are not your concern. It’s much more difficult to hate those you have seen weep and mourn, those with whom you’ve shared a laugh or those for whom you’ve prayed.

    Loving one another is supposed to be the mark of a Christian, by which we’ll be recognized as his.

    What a great piece and I, too, loved your Philip Yancey quote from this morning.

  10. says

    @Erik Richey: May God bless you and give you strength. I have just finally accepted being the “odd man out”, and I’m 40! :) (Although many tell me my oddness has nothing to do with Christ! :) )

  11. Erik Richey says

    Thank you, Frank, for this post! I have been dealing with this at work people making fun of me for being a Christian telling me I need mental help, calling me names and just plain being harassed. I know that none of these things they say against me is who I am. Thank you for your encouragement!

  12. says

    I will agree that Pres. Obama did offered very good insight and you did a good job of expounding on it. I was easily thinking of the Scripture that says “By the same measure used on others; will be measured to you.” and the famous Golden Rule.

    What caught my attention was your use of Roman 8:28. Yes, I do believe God can work all things for the good of those who love Him. In fact, this is a partial reason for sharing “A Summer of He!!” on my blog. I had once asked God, “How are you going to use this?” I was referring to a very painful experience. I had the sense of “Watch and see.” This was years ago and last week I wrote the story. The story has also to do with forgiveness.

    Here is what I have been learning about that wonderful truth. It is not what good the telling, does for me. It is what it can do for others. I know what it’s like to have to forgive those who very seriously hurt you. It’s painful. Yet, Jesus was faithful to see me through it.

    • says

      Barry: Wonderful. We must be obedient to share what He asks us to share when He wants us to share it. No man can make that decision for us. Christ is our Head. Those who know us very well and are closely in our lives can be help too in discerning such things. I hope your blog blesses and helps many people.

  13. says

    FROG
    I really appreciate this post. Things have been getting out of control in the “christian” blogosphere recently.

    I have been making calls for civility and trying to post calming and reasonable takes on the issues. I will be sharing this on Facebook.

    Thanks, Frank

  14. stan cardwell says

    Frank,

    this was just excellent and something I need to hear as a people pleaser, as someone concerned with what others think of Christianity

  15. Ransom says

    I have always said that most people don’t love or hate me. They love or hate their own impressions of me formed by their life experiences with other people similar to me and other situations similar to ours.

  16. says

    Funny, I was just thinking about this today. My ministry will never please everyone & that’s okay. My audience is my audience. Someone else is ministering to those who are not listening to me. I don’t need to be everything for everyone. Such a liberating thought! I only need to be faithful to my calling & the Caller. God will take care of the rest.

    I appreciated your post and the words of Obama. I have had hard time understanding all the hate flowing around. But it really is all about the people who are hating. God help us all!

  17. Shannon says

    jackie, I read the post and the comments twice and no one ever said anything about public false teachings. it appears you read this into what’s written. ironically that’s something the post talks about, reading into things. I found your “get a grip man” comment to be snarky and sounding angry. it’s important to “get a grip” on what’s actually being said before responding.

  18. Pat Pope says

    “The folks who hate you, they don’t know you. What they hate is whatever fun-house mirror image of you that’s out there, and they don’t know you,” Obama said. “And so, you don’t take it personally.”

    I wish I could take President Obama’s last comment to heart: “…don’t take it personally.” Sometimes I wonder how he and Mrs. Obama endure it all–the especially cruel remarks and caricatures. I’m a lot stronger than I used to be, but still find myself either being hurt or embittered over people’s viciousness. But I’m working on it–working to find a way to rise above the fray with head held high undeterred in serving Jesus regardless of what others say or think.

  19. says

    I find people who say things on the Internet instead of speaking to someone in person to be cowardly…it’s easy to be “brave” behind someone’s back.

    I think this definitely applies to everyone, whether they are in “ministry” or not. I know that there have been many times I’ve shied away from doing or saying something because I was afraid of what people would say, even including making different choices for my kids’ educations. I’ve since changed my thought processes on such things and I care a lot less nowadays.

    If you know your motives are right, ignore the naysayers. God knows your heart and he will turn it around for your good.

    Thanks for the post, Frank. :)

  20. jackie alnor says

    Since when do you need to talk to someone face to face in order to refute his PUBLIC false teachings? Get a grip man

  21. says

    Thanks Frank for this reminder. It is always good to remember that Christ is always working in each of us and to love one another. I appreciate your blog greatly.

  22. says

    I used that MLKJr comment on my own post today. Timely thoughts based on most things going on all over the internet. I imagine that if we sat together over coffee and looked each other in the eyes…we wouldn’t be brave enough for the snarky gossip and sarcasm, judgment and cruelty in the name of being right, and being heard. We just wouldn’t do it to their faces. So why under the guise of anonymity?

    The more I see of Christians…the tighter I cling to Jesus.

  23. says

    A timely message. I’ve had opportunities lately with people (old and young) using email, texts etc. to try to solve disagreements, in the place of face to face communication. They say it’s “easier”. I appeciate Twitter, Facebook, this and other blogs but don’t believe Christ-centered people should use them (or any other means of communication) to attack. We’re learning this first hand in the community I’m with. Thank Him for the discernment He’s working thru you.

  24. says

    I’m liking these words from Aristotle: “There is only one way to avoid criticism: Do nothing, say nothing, and be nothing.”

    How sad it is whenever a precious child of God backs away from their part in God’s marvellous plans for fear of the criticism that may (will) come their way.

    *Wanders off thinking about how often I do this myself*

  25. says

    “Historically, Christians have suffered the edge of the sword at the hands of their fellow Christians far more than by the hands of non-Christians,” how true! I moderate a student cafe for 11-16 year olds and I find the biggest problem is they forget there is a real person at the other end of the computer in their haste to put a point across. I have had to ban children from using the cafe for their hurtful comments and then been on the receiving end of abuse from the parents – very sad!

  26. Jon says

    great post. i’ve been reading your blog for several years now and I want to thank you and your blog manager for making this a safe place to have conversations. I love that people can post disagreements on topics but i’ve never seen anyone mistreated or anyone personally attacked. so thanks for keeping those kinds of comments off the list.

    I know if i was being attacked personally or my wife or children were being lied about or attacked or judged, I wouldn’t want such things to be approved. your constant reminder to remember Jesus words about doing to others as we want them to do to us has been life changing for me. I’ve been a christian for a very long time but I will admit that I’ve never really applied that in my circumstances. and i realize how few others do either now. keep writing. keep reminding. many of us are listening and benefiting.

    • says

      Jon: Thanks for noticing and your kind words. Disagreements are one thing. But slander and ad hominems are another. The blog manager doesn’t approve those because they violate love (no one would want it posted if it were aimed at them or their loved ones), they grieve our Lord, they defile others upon the hearing it, and they empower and create a platform for damaging lies and hatred. We want this to be a safe place for everyone. Safe to agree or disagree. Again, I appreciate your insightful comment, bro.

  27. says

    Great post. If we can’t ( or won’t) love our fellow Christians, how will we ever obey Jesus and love our enemies? We cannot base our love for people on our agreement with and/or approval of them. We must love like Jesus loved — even loving those who hate and abuse us.

    This phrase always helps me: “Hurt people, hurt people.” The people who hurt you (or me) are hurt puppies themselves. No telling what they have been through and what they are currently going through. We can walk away from them and/or ignore them. However, they are stuck with themselves and with their hurt and misery. Those poor hateful people — what pain they must put themselves through. How they need the love of Jesus!

    • says

      Steve: True words. However, in my experience, those who speak ill of other people in hurtful ways often aren’t in touch with what they are doing nor are they in touch with what’s in their own hearts. Obama was so right.

  28. Will says

    I think I may have misunderstood this part.

    “Accept all opposition as coming from the hand of God. Satan may mean it for bad, but God means it for good. Romans 8:28 is still valid.”

    What exactly do you mean? I don’t think I’m suppose to understand this as God causing opposition?

    Anyway, loved the blog!

    • says

      Will: Everything that happens to us has first passed through the hands of God. Romans 8 says all things work together for good to those who love God and are called according to His purpose. It’s a case of our Lord’s sovereignty, foreknowledge, and His amazing ability to write straight with crooked lines. If this is a new idea to you, it’s a whole universe to explain. I go into it some in my book “From Eternity to Here” Part II, if interested in more.

  29. Shane Anderson says

    Whew, this is a timely word. Lately I’ve been criticized by some very dear friends of mine for rejecting an idea, a “doctrine” if you will that they’ve all bought into. As clear as I tried pointing to Christ, many clearly misunderstood or totally rejected the core of what I was saying.
    But looking back, it has been a God-thing. Am I a follower of men, even dear friends such as they are, or am I a servant of Christ? But also, it gave me many perspectives to evaluate to see, Was I clear on the main points? Was I kind and gracious with my words? These, too, are things the LORD is teaching me and times like these help draw out what’s inside of us.
    Thank you for such a comforting message.

  30. Julie Thompson says

    Wow! this is so good. I needed to hear it. I also love your tweet this morning,

    “Christians get very angry toward other Christians who sin differently than they do.” ~ Philip Yancey

    how true.

  31. Otto Beich says

    Sober, insightful, and encouraging words. I was discussing this issue with my wife about this this morning. Thank you.

  32. Chris says

    Frank, thanks for this. “Searing insight” is right, this is something I needed to be reminded of today. Obama’s words here are very valuable. Thanks for sharing them.

  33. Bill says

    This is so refreshing! I have observed the same thing with some of my christian friends. What’s funny is that some people will just accept it when a christian does this kind of thing to another christian. It’s like we think certain sins are so bad but when someone tears another believer down we just look the other way or go along with it. That’s the part that I don’t get. I’m glad you’ve written this because it needs to be said. What would the world think if we who claim to follow Jesus would really love each other and treat one another with love, care and respect?

  34. Tom says

    Excellent post. I am no fan of Obama but what he said here is very true. The people who have hated me didn’t really know me well at all. The people who really know me love me. I think this is probably true for most people too.

  35. Jennifer says

    Frank, thanks so much for this. I really needed to hear it today. I’ve been harboring ill feelings in my heart to a few people that I don’t really know very well. I have judged their hearts and I’m now repenting of this. Thank you so much for being sensitive.

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