I don’t know about you, but one of my biggest stumbling blocks over the last five years or so has been other people’s stupidity on the internet.
OK, so just calling other image-bearers of God “stupid” is probably a pretty good demonstration as to how social media can bring out the worst in me.
And while I’m sure not everyone reading this can relate, I’d be willing to bet a lot that most of you know exactly what I’m talking about.
It has begun to concern me lately, however, how many Christians appear to have absolutely no problem being rude or even downright vulgar online just to make a point about our ideological opponents.
Yeah, I know, I already admitted to having a beam in my eye here, but bear with me a moment.
I am the first person to advocate for being bold as we share concrete truths and to make sure not to let a fear of causing offense get in the way of doing so.
But there is a very big difference between being unafraid of causing offense when speaking the truth and unconcerned that you’re causing offence when speaking the truth.
Boldness and rudeness sometimes go hand-in-hand, but the calling to be bold as we speak truth is not an excuse for rudeness.
This gets particularly hard when people are rude to us online, of course. In just the last week, I’ve been called “baby racist,” “quiverfull,” “Karen,” and a “feckless [EXPLITIVE],” and none of these insults were made in response to anything other than a simple statement of an opposing point of view. I may be tempted to sarcasm or overzealous rebuffs to bad ideas online, but I am not in the habit of calling people names, I assure you.
However, just because I’m not normally one to resort to name-calling doesn’t give me the excuse to sin against another image-bearer of God in my heart. Especially if I know darn well that were the Lord who died for me and commissioned me to preach His Gospel to every creature to read back my comments to me, I would be deeply ashamed.
Especially when I’m the sort of Christian who frequently encourages others to share the Gospel online.
Yes, boldness is entirely consistent with the Christian faith, and so are words meant to pierce deep in the conscience of a sinner.
You and God alone know which of the words that come out of your mouth are meant to belittle someone else while puffing yourself up, and which are meant to glorify God and build up His Kingdom.
You may have a social media timeline and history that is full of comments and memes that would trigger many a secular humanist or even other Christians.
But only you and the Big Guy know what is truly in your heart when you choose to publish that content on the internet, which is for eternity.
Christians are called to be wise as serpents, and yet gentle as doves (Matt 10:16). We are told that the fruits of the Holy Spirit within us will be love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentlenesses, and self-control (Gal 5:22-23). Colossians 4:6 tells us to “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.”
For me, it has been through a slow series of sobering and convicting moments that I’ve come to realize for how long I was simply not being gentle, gracious, and kind to others online and was far more focused on getting wisecracks or mic-drop moments in.
So again, I do not know what is your heart on this matter and there are probably a lot of you out there who are far more gracious to the people you interact with online than I have been for most of my life.
But I bet we all know people, whether that’s ourselves or someone else, who could really use prayer on this matter.
These are dark times, folks, and we all need to be lifting one another up and soldiering together for Christ, for the furtherance of the Gospel and the growth of His Kingdom. Many, many lost souls out there are not only lost in their sin, but they are also passionately defending ideologies that glorify godlessness and sin.
So ask yourself, are we going to win the battle for truth with sarcasm and rudeness…or the Gospel?