Social media is a wondrous thing! With it we connect with friends long lost; discover those with shared interests; waste hours watching video of animals doing cute and funny things; and have the opportunity to share our thoughts worldwide with those we would never even hope to reach otherwise. Last year alone, my blog was read in over 80 countries – How’s that for cool!
Like all things in life, there is also a downside to social media – OK, several. The ability to express one’s self anonymously enables many abhorrent behaviors online. But there is one that I think deserves special attention, especially from my Christian readers: verbal fisticuffs about religion.
Whether, it’s between Christians and atheists, conservatives and liberals, or about who ought to be able to ordain or marry whom, the tone online is often violent. Without the fear of embarrassment or public humiliation, folks will say, or write, things they would never express face to face. And it becomes less about proof and persuasion than it is about victory and destruction.
Tragically, we often watch these duels on Facebook until we can’t abide them any longer and are compelled to ‘unfriend’ the offenders. I must confess that my friend total has shrunk recently because I couldn’t take it anymore. What’s worse is that often these individuals think that they are actually doing the right thing in their defense (or is it offence) of their faith or position. I’m not aware of anyone who was pounded into supporting any point of view or belief system – at least not in the free world in the third millennium.
Consider what the Apostle Paul had to say to Timothy on this matter:
Run away from infantile indulgence. Run after mature righteousness—faith, love, peace—joining those who are in honest and serious prayer before God. Refuse to get involved in inane discussions; they always end up in fights. God’s servant must not be argumentative, but a gentle listener and a teacher who keeps cool, working firmly but patiently with those who refuse to obey. You never know how or when God might sober them up with a change of heart and a turning to the truth, enabling them to escape the Devil’s trap, where they are caught and held captive, forced to run his errands. 2 Timothy 2:22-26
It’s easy to infer that, like most of us who expressed things a bit too exuberantly in our youth, our friend Timothy was falling into this argument trap. Paul reminded him that rarely is anyone persuaded with a Bible up the side of the head. And while it may make for good programming on the cable channels, confrontation is an ineffective evangelism tool.
So my challenge to you is to consider Paul’s advice to Timothy: don’t argue but listen gently; keep your cool and teach; be patient but firm in your convictions. The old “more flies with honey than vinegar” adage seems to apply here. Work on being less like Westboro Baptists and more like Gold Bond Powder – less abrasive and more soothing.
So let the politicians fight among themselves. We follow the one who said “as I have loved you, so you must love one another” (John 13:34).
You’d be amazed at how attractive that can be!
Pressing on toward the goal . . .