Would you believe that there are Religious people on the Internet who think of themselves as ‘heresy hunters’?
It’s true. You may even have encountered them yourself.
They are the people who prowl the social media sites, faith sites and forums looking specifically for people with whom they can disagree. They castigate those people who believe different things to what they themselves believe (even if only slightly different!), lambasting their victims with vicious messages of rejection, condemnation and judgementalism. And usually the occasional threat of ‘hell-fire’ thrown in for good measure, and all ‘said in love, brother’, of course ;).
It seems that they see themselves as the people who hold the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven; imagining they are God’s ‘gatekeepers‘ and that they have the (God-given, of course) right to say who gets in and who doesn’t. They strike hard and fast, hang around for a short argument and then go on their happy way, leaving a trail of bruised and broken people in their wakes.
Some of these people have actually opened their Facebook accounts with the sole purpose of the online hunting down of ‘heretics’ like me. They are easy to spot; you go and look at their Facebook profile and the last time they posted was like May 2017 and that was just a photo of their washing machine or something. Sad, sad people who create their own Hell by living in a world of judgementalism and critical spirit, not finding the joy in their own salvation (which I have no reason to believe is not genuine) and at the same time trying to not allow anyone else to find the joy in their ‘salvations’ either.
Now, we ‘hunted’ heretics are in good Company. Jesus Himself was followed everywhere by groups of Religious heresy hunters – the Pharisees – who did things like this:
“So they watched Him closely, whether He would heal him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse Him” – Mk 3:2 (NKJV)
Yep, you’ve got it. These people had nothing better to do than to follow Him around all day and pick fault; missing out on the amazing truth that Jesus healed people – and even ignoring it! – they concentrated instead on whether they considered He was following their Religious Rules or not.
Sounds familiar? 😉
I also find it incredible that bad-news mongers will even contradict direct quotations from
their Rulebook the Bible, which, remember, they hold to be inerrant and infallible, when those Bible quotations do not reflect their doom-and-gloom mindsets. For instance, last week, I saw on Facebook a post where a chap said that he’d simply posted the famous verses from Romans 8:38-39 on nothing being able to separate us from the Love of God in Christ Jesus. Here’s what he wrote:
“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
“I put no commentary on it, just that. I am frustrated by the fact that multiple people felt the need to reply with things about how WE can separate ourselves from the love of God through unrepentance and so forth. Why do people have this immediate urge to qualify the good news, to make it less than it is?”
As far as the Bible is ever ‘clear’, this verse is about as ‘clear’ as it gets. NOTHING can separate us from God’s Love, not even stuff we do ourself. That’s what makes it unconditional!
Apart from its being incredible, I also find it very sad that such people not only choose to believe (and it is a choice) the worst news about God that they can (while still probably claiming that ‘God is Good, All the Time’ (talk about cognitive dissonance!)), but also that they feel the need to get on the Internet and spread their horror and darkness so others can join them in their misery. Misery loves company, as the old adage says!
And I just don’t get that. At least, not from people who are supposed to be spreading the ‘…good news of great joy for all mankind’ (Lk 2:10). Some indeed seem to prefer the bad news over the good, and furthermore they will do all they can to negate whatever good news you try to give to them or to others; they are thus not open to Really Good News at all, and this mindset is therefore one of my definitions of ‘hell’.
As G. K. Chesterton wrote,
“…pride cannot rise to levity or levitation. Pride is the downward drag of all things into an easy solemnity. One “settles down” into a sort of selfish seriousness; but one has to rise to a gay self-forgetfulness. A man “falls” into a brown study; he reaches up at a blue sky. Seriousness is not a virtue. It would be a heresy, but a much more sensible heresy, to say that seriousness is a vice. It is really a natural trend or lapse into taking one’s self gravely, because it is the easiest thing to do. It is much easier to write a good Times leading article than a good joke in Punch. For solemnity flows out of men naturally; but laughter is a leap. It is easy to be heavy: hard to be light. Satan fell by the force of gravity.”
No, they can’t cope with levity, nor can they lose their seriousness. And so, when they happen across a thread where the idea of Grace (the unearned, light, completely full and free favour of God) is being put forward, they go absolutely ape. Cries of ‘Licence to Sin!‘ ‘Cheap Grace!’ and other such rubbish abound, usually touted by those who haven’t actually read the original post properly anyway.
Who’d want to live like that?
So, I have set out the problem at some considerable length. How to cope with these people?
Well, first up, we need to remember that they are usually in it only for the argument. They are interested only in putting across their point of view and not listening to anyone else’s. Like only the most diehard religious zealots, they are convinced that they are not only right, but that they have a divine commission to ‘go forth’ and fight what they see as heresy. Therefore, arguing/discussion with them is usually pointless, if your reason for participating in the discussion is solely to have the chance of influencing them towards your point of view. But there is another reason why such open and visible ‘discussion’ can be good, as I will be getting to – eventually!
They mistake courtesy (from their victims) as weakness. They mistake the lack of people biting them back, as being that their victims don’t actually have a proper argument, when in actual fact the Grace-filled person is usually being just that – Graceful (Grace-full). Let your speech always be graceful, seasoned with salt and all that (Col 4:6). They’re giving that heresy hunter the benefit of their Christike gentleness and not sinking – and it would be sinking! – to their level by going back at them with the same sort of stuff. And it’s lost on them. Behaving like this violates so many of the heresy hunters’ ‘Biblical’ Rules, which they feel they can conveniently ignore or justify away with the sorts of argument that only the terminally religious could come up with.
It can be soul-destroying, though, listening to their endless naysaying and negativity all the time. I don’t know how Jesus coped with being followed around by these leeches in His day because, make no mistake, they are exactly the same type of people. Were the concept of reincarnation actually true (I personally am convinced that it’s not!) then these people would simply be the reincarnations of Jesus’s Pharisees 😉 I suppose His attitude was simply to get on with God’s work – doing what He saw Father doing (Jn 5:19) – and if the Pharisees got some of the splash of God’s power and joy, great; if not, He wasn’t going to let that stop Him blessing those who already needed it. When He said that it was the sick that needed a doctor, He meant that the Religious, the Pharisees, didn’t feel that they needed Him because they thought they were ‘all right’ thank you very much; whereas those who realised their need of Him were the ones who actually received the blessing. And so He didn’t let the Religious stop Him blessing those who needed it. Interestingly, some Pharisees actually did become Jesus-followers, and, equally interestingly, were almost as legalistic afterwards as they were before, albeit a little less unbendingly so. Check out their story in Acts chapter 15, where it relates the story of the ‘Council of Jerusalem’.
I have written before on the idea of why Grace-preachers like me continue to post messages of Grace on Internet forums, in the face of people like these bad-news mongers.
The first reason is that our posts bless more people, and bring more people into wholeness, healing and freedom, than we will ever know. I call these people the Invisible Listeners. I would repeat here a comment sent me by someone in New Zealand, that was mentioned in that blog post above; I repeat it here because it applies to you as well as to me:
“One day, when we are in His Presence, you will find out just how many people were encouraged by what you are doing”
The second reason, for me, is that it shows our Invisible Listeners that not all Christians are harsh, disapproving and judgemental. I mention that in my article linked to above, but I have reiterated it here in case you don’t want to follow the link.
I also asked a good friend and fellow Grace-preacher, who regularly engages publicly with Pharisees online (yes, they actually follow him around on his Facebook profile!), how he puts up with the hassle of the online Pharisees.
His reply was firstly that he doesn’t let it bother him, as he realises that they are all at a different stage in their faith-walk. He, like me, is a strong proponent of the various theories of faith development, and this helps him to recognise these faith-stage dynamics and the types of behaviour they elicit.
Secondly, he very wisely told me that he believes that all the naysayers do is to provide a dark backdrop to the beauty of the Good News he preaches; the Good News of Grace, and that dark backdrop makes the precious diamond all the more obvious in its magnificence.
For those ‘invisible listeners’ who read his work without commenting – I estimate that for every person who comments, there are another nine or ten who do not* – this is the stuff of life. In fact it’s completely life-changing, in the sense of changing their lives from being nearly empty to being full; full of Life in Christ.
And it’s enhanced, not detracted from, by the negative comments.
I mean, how cool is that? It’s an idea which is utterly, utterly golden!
The idea that the ‘enemy’ – (and by that, I do not mean the modern-day Pharisee people themselves, but the ‘accuser of the brethren’ (Rev 12:10 (KJV) ) – be that an actual spirit, a ‘satan’, who actually accuses, or simply the accusing consciences of some believers) the ‘enemy’ has its accusations turned against it and used for the benefit of the saints, for their upbuilding and encouragement – is simply priceless. The love and power and Grace of God are emphasised because of the dark setting in which they are seen! The fury that must exist in the hearts of the heresy hunters when/if they see their judgementalism turned against them, well, it must burn like Hell, literally Hell, no cuss-word intended. Again, this is part of my definition of Hell (I must do a piece on that some day!)**. One hopes that this pain might help them to see sense, but I suppose that in this case most of the good fruit is not visible online because it is borne in those Invisible Listeners I talked about earlier.
So, if you are a Grace-preaching blogger or forum poster, please be encouraged. You are reaching, and blessing, far more people with your Grace message than you will ever know. And all the Pharisees’ comments do is to make your news even more glorious. Boom!
If you are a self-styled ‘heresy-hunter’, firstly kudos to you for reading this far without blowing a gasket; and secondly, remember that every. single. time. you respond to someone bearing a good-news message of hope, healing and reconciliation with one of your condemnatory, judgemental, divisive and possibly infernalist*** replies, all you are doing is to provide the black background setting that emphasises the beauty of the very diamond you are trying to tarnish. But there is hope for you too – God is nowhere near as mad with you as you imagine, and remember that some Pharisees were actually Christ-followers. He accepts all sorts, and He accepts them unconditionally. He knows how lost you are in your Religious struggles to conform, and He came to offer you His yoke which is easy and light. (Mt 11:28-30 (Message))
And if you are someone looking for a message of Love, Hope, Healing, Comfort in your weakness or in your sadness; a message of Reconciliation and/or a definite sense of ‘coming back’ to God, then rest assured that He has already accepted and welcomed you, without any cost to yourself, without any conditions (that’s what ‘unconditional’ means), with His arms open wide and a huge grin on His face. Read and believe the Good News messages, and use the Bad News messages, thoughtfully provided by the modern-day Pharisees, simply to highlight just how good the Good News is when compared with the struggle of having to keep up the appearances of Religious ‘good behaviour’ and conditional love that they try to push. Because that’s not the way that God is; not at all!
Be encouraged! Grace is there for the taking; it’s freedom, it’s light, it’s life in its fulness!
And it never ends!
*I estimate it by looking at website statistics. Am I sad or what 😉
**I do not believe in Hell as an afterlife place of burning torment for those who do not [insert Religion-based qualification/requirement for not being thrown into Hell] before they die 😉
As opposed to, ***An infernalist, who is someone who does believe in this concept.