It felt like I was punched in the gut. No one hurt me, though. I had witnesed another debate online between people I cared for. It was sickening. The argument was faith related and it certainly didn't glorify God. They were quick to anger. They took quick jabs at each other and were even name calling. They were acting immature. They defended opinions before they knew the entire facts. Unfortunately, others saw it too. It was embarrassing. I'm sure you have seen debates on social media go down before too. You know, the comment thread that blows up with differing views on politics, parenting choices, cultural trends, and on and on. One person shares their opinion and it is quickly opposed by another. We say things online that we would never say directly to someone's face. It's hard to stop reading all the negativity! If my screen turned into a mirror, would my reflection be Michael Jackson snacking on popcorn? Thriller!
What's really scary, though, is that Christians are insulting, gossiping, and arguing about matters in such a way that hurt the name of Jesus! And if I'm honest I've been pulled into the ring more than a few times too.
But aren't we supposed to defend truth? warn our Christian friend from bad choices? stand up for Jesus?
Certainly! But more often than not, online isn't the greatest place to do so. Let's see why...
1. I'm a hypocrite! I better check myself before I wreck myself. When we get in arguments online we appear arrogant, judgmental, and insincere. Am I inline with God's Word first?
"You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye." Matthew 7:5
2. Debates can go in circles! We cannot effectively discuss God's Word with someone if they don't recognize God's Word to be without error and fully inspired by the Holy Spirit. Without that there is no standard to base what is right and wrong off of. We are to judge those IN the church - not those outside of it!
"What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside." 1 Corinthians 5:12-13a
3. It's better to speak to others about matters in person or in a phone call. If we cannot do either then we should send them an email or a card. If we do this others feel much more respected than being questioned in front of friends on social media. This follows close to...
"If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over." - Matthew 18:15
If a believer is unrepentant for a sin against God follow the rest of God's Word on this subject:
"But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector." Matthew 18:16-17
4. What is important to me may get trampled! When we are in an opposing discussion with others that do not believe in Jesus we are putting something that is sacred and valued by us in a path of destruction. Internet trolls are looking to get under your skin and get you emotionally charged. Recognize them for what they are and ignore them.
"Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces." Matthew 7:6
5. Negativity from social media can stay in my thoughts for days. Posts or images can be based on one-sided stories, false claims, financial gain, or faulty research. Don't be easily provoked!
"Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things." Philippians 4:8
6. Love always wins! Romans 12 is a great read on how to respond to others who persecute, curse, and hate. I have this passage below memorized and so do my kids. It is a treasure to have in one's pocket.
"Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good." Romans 12:21
7. I want to shine online! Others will be more attracted to Jesus' love if we are self-controlled, good listeners, and respectful to those who hold different opinions than us.
"Do everything without grumbling or arguing,so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the skyas you hold firmly to the word of life." Philippians 4:14-16a
Have you been stirred up on social media before? How do you keep your cool and stay positive online?