Pray before posting
“the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell.” — James 3:6
There is power in words. They can build people up and also absolutely demolish them. But the words I specifically want to address today are those written online by myself and my fellow followers of Christ. I’ve done damage and seen a lot of damage done by other Christians on social media, which could have been avoided. We need to tame the keystroke. Some of it we may not be aware of at the time, because it is done in the heat of the moment, without contemplating the outcome. But that is no legitimate excuse and it should not be so. Note what James elsewhere wrote:
“Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry…” James 1:19
I’ve been guilty of the opposite. Very guilty at times, and had to apologize. Sometimes I was even right, technically, in what I was saying, but the tone or attitude was wrong. But as a friend of mine once wisely said, “it’s not worth winning an argument and losing people.” And similarly, as a famous author (who currently escapes my mind) said, “The point of apologetics is not to win arguments, but to win people.” But there is a lot of arguing, and negative words from Christ followers floating around out there in cyberspace that serves no purpose.
“it’s not worth winning an argument and losing people.”
I’m not asking you to forsake what you believe and feel. Sometimes, people are going to be offended by the truth no matter how gingerly you state it. I’m just saying don’t add to potential offense by having the wrong attitude or being inconsiderate of your audience. This begins with slowing down to make sure you’re taking the time to treat people with basic human dignity and respect regardless of how different their ideology may be. Also bear in mind that many people are watching your example, maybe dozens more than the ones you see commenting or giving the “thumbs up” to what you write. You are called to be the embodiment of Christ on earth, not a “like” devouring machine that responds to online praise with Pavlovian eagerness. You are God’s emissary, spokesperson, representative. And people today, in general, are on the hunt for hypocrisy. You lose all credibility in trying to stand for what is good and right by walking all over people with your words. We are called to serve, not dictate to or rule over others.
“Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation” — 2 Corinthians 5:18
It’s hard to be a minister of reconciliation if you can’t get along with people or are always turning them away because of hypocrisy, harsh words, angry attitudes or lack of compassion. God loved us, and came to serve us, even when we didn’t know him and rejected him. After all, “His kindness leads us to repentance.” — Romans 2:4 Furthermore, the bible affirms over and over that, “The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love.” — Psalm 103:8. Ask yourself: Does that describe me? Or am I more concerned with enforcing my idea of order into the world through coercion, politics, pressure or arguing? We can’t claim to be the embodiment of God’s love and grace on earth, and be surprised when it isn’t believed, because we go around assaulting one another with our words.
As I said before, I’ve been a hypocrite here, and I see the need to really submit my urges to God. For that, I’ve come up with a simple rule I’m going to try and follow:
PRAY BEFORE POSTING
At the least it will slow me down and perhaps ease any anger or ego I am responding from. And it seems simple enough. That’s it, stop and pray before posting about any topics I know are a controversial issue, or simply a personal stumbling block for me. I think this is particularly good when I am tired, in a lowered state of awareness. For some of us, that might encapsulate a broader time period, because we have less restraint in general. Something to contemplate personally.
Also, consider the medium itself. There is no inflection or other cues like facial expression for people online, which exist in “normal” communication. Online dialogue is a mine field. So much can go wrong, escalate quickly, and explode into a flame war. Also be aware that it’s public. VERY public. It’s easy for people to feel attacked when people are watching and they are the direct target (or even feel they are the target) of what you write. And if you are writing something confrontational, consider sending a private message instead to avoid this scenario. There IS a time to confront, even openly, but ere on the side of caution. A little caution now might save a world of regret and hurt feelings. The web can be a petri dish for misunderstanding. Besides, the world has enough shouting voices clamoring for attention. Don’t just add to the noise.
It’s easy for people to feel attacked when people are watching and they feel they are the target of what you write
Technology is a gift, a powerful tool. It’s connected the entire world. Your “voice” can be heard in every small corner of the globe now. Think about that for a moment. That comes with huge responsibility. Ultimately, God is best at helping us be responsible with what’s around us, but we have to seek his help. Such pace and contemplation are hampered in the digital age, where everything happens at cosmic speed. But it’s OUR responsibility to slow down and not allow this cultural phenomenon to rule over us. So, all I ask is that you consider the practice to simply stop and pray before posting or commenting. It could make a huge difference in your world, and for those connected to you, and for the kingdom of God. God bless.