I seldom (almost never) go to Facebook to read my feed. But I recently was notified by email of an exchange that took place on Facebook and was sorry I clicked on the link.
In the exchange, I found that two believers that I know crossed a line in disagreeing with a third believer over what has become a political issue. Rather than stating the reasons for their disagreement, they made comments about the third believer that were basically ad hominem attack. I was saddened by their lack of respect for their fellow believer and the damage that they caused to the body of Christ.
In response, I thought I would highlight some suggestions for Christians in their use of social media:
- The truths of Scripture are timeless and authoritative. But care must be taken in applying those truths to political issues. When it comes to governmental policy, can we admit that problems are always more complex than the partisan rhetoric allows? We need to be open to hearing other opinions and if critique is necessary, it should be focused on the issue rather than on the person who disagrees.
- We always need to keep in mind what we learn from Genesis 3 and Matthew 7. In the latter passage, Jesus warned us of our tendency to be critical of others while making excuses for our own sin. His illustration of a log and speck, while humorous, perfectly illustrates how we often act. We are ALL flawed in our character AND our thinking. We need to be open to hearing other opinions so that we can progress in wisdom and understanding.
- We are called by Paul to “speak the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15). If we need to address incorrect thinking on a subject, it must be done with love. In the exchange listed above, I wasn’t feeling a lot of love jumping off the screen. What I observed instead was an attitude of if you don’t agree with me, I will not have anything to do with you.
- Guard against falling prey to our “sound bite”, “hot take” culture. We live in a society where competition for attention is fierce and people often say outrageous things to get noticed. Take a deep breath and analyze what is being said before rattling off an angry response. Analysis and reflection on the issue should be done before hitting the send button.
- Be really, really careful in adopting a “well if you believe that you must not be a Christian” stance. While there are beliefs that would cause one to be outside the orthodox faith, how one applies Scripture to societal issues should be open to discussion.
- Finally, James 1:19-20 should serve as a caution. He tells us to be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger. Why, because our anger does not achieve the righteousness that God wants us to display.
While the angry, “I guess I showed them” type of response may be gratifying in the moment, it doesn’t help in the long run.
Such a response brings division which grieves the Lord who died to bring unity.
For the record, I still have respect for all those involved in this fracas. My guess is that eventually there will be healing in the damaged relationships. But had the ideas above been followed, some wounds could have been avoided.