Never avenge yourselves – A warning to Christian trolls

Internet TrollReading Romans 12 this morning, these verses jumped out at me:

“Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12:19–21, ESV)

If we take these verses seriously and put them into practice, I wonder if the reputation of the church would be greatly improved in the eyes of those who see us as judgmental hypocrites.

Jesus tells us in John 16:8 that it is the Holy Spirit’s job to convict men of their sin. But too often, we take that role on ourselves and feel that we must take a strong stand against what we think are counter Biblical activities. Do we trust God enough to work in a person’s life to bring conviction where it is necessary?

In the internet age, civility seems to be the primary casualty. It is so easy to vent our judgment and hostility to those with whom we don’t agree. Unfortunately, those in the church sometimes share in this trollish behavior. There have been times when I have read social media posts and cringed at the lack of sensitivity to those who don’t share our beliefs.

When confronted, the Christian trolls counter with an accusation of being “soft on sin” which, interestingly enough, is an accusation leveled at Jesus a time or two.

By his life and ministry, Jesus showed us that it is possible to be completely loving to all the people around you without condoning their sin.

We must engage in conversation with others who don’t share our beliefs. In those conversations we are called to stand firm on standards that are clearly taught in the Bible. But we must do this in a way that is consistent with the example of Jesus and the clear teaching of Scripture.

For example, the opening verses of Romans 2 teach me that I need to be extra careful when I confront others on their sin because I am prone to the same errors. How can I look down on someone for stealing when there is greed in my own heart? How can I condemn someone else for their priorities when mine are equally out of order (but perhaps better hidden). If I am to confront, it must not be as a judge, but as a fellow law breaker.

This prompts some questions for us:

  • Can we trust God enough to let him bring conviction where it is needed?
  • Can we be patient, knowing that God will bring that conviction at the right time?
  • Can we err on the side of being loving, having experienced the love that overcomes our own sins?

Nobody likes trolls, Christian or otherwise.