“I Wish They Hadn’t Said That” by Dave Gadoury

“I Wish They Hadn’t Said That” by Dave Gadoury

“I wish they hadn’t said that.”typing

“I really wish they hadn’t said that.” If you have spent much time on Facebook or other social media, you have probably found yourself thinking as much. I sure have. I am not surprised at some of the outrageous things people say or forward on the internet, but when they come from the keyboards of my Christian brothers or sisters, I wince.

The source of my disappointment can vary. Sometimes what they have said is simply nutty. Sometimes it contradicts a basic value that Jesus calls us to. Or it makes the rest of us who follow Jesus just plain look bad. But mostly it makes me grieve over the missed opportunity that these words represent.

For many in our culture today, it is fine to just “let it all hang out.” But it is different for us, because we are called to let whatever we do “in word or deed” be done “in the name of the Lord Jesus.”

There is so much that could be said about good “internet etiquette”, but I think it all comes down to a question of what and who we really love. 1 Corinthians 16:14 says, “Let all that you do be done in love.” ** Here are some of the ways that I think Jesus’ love should show up on our walls, posts, and comments in the future.

Love the truth

Those who love the truth will be very reluctant to forward or retweet insulting, questionable, or unproven stories, innuendos, and so-called “facts.” God’s word tells us to “let no unwholesome word proceed from our mouths (or devices?).”

Too often, Christians fall into the trap of passing along what are demonstrably biased “reports” and urban legends. Instead, we should be asking two important questions: (1) Do I really know that this is true? Did it actually happen the way it is described? How do I know? And (2) even if it is true, is this information going to advance the cause of the gospel (more on that later) and benefit others?

Love the stranger

Regardless of what we may think about our country’s immigration system, God’s command is clear: “You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself.” (Leviticus 19:34) This was not only a law for Israel, but it is also a consistent principle throughout the Bible. “Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.” (Hebrews 13:2 NIV)

woman-hijabLet’s be honest. There is plenty of room for disagreement over such practical issues as how many legal immigrants our country should admit, how we should be kept safe from invaders who may do us harm, and what is to be done about those who came (or who were brought as children) into our country illegally. But none of these has anything to do with how we are to treat those that we find among us, however they came.

Our obligation is to love them, serve them, and treat them the way Jesus would. We are to believe the best about them, see them as people made in God’s image, and show them the mercy that He has shown us.

Soberly, whatever is posted on the internet is there for all to see (or forward without our knowledge or permission to the whole world). I guess the question we need to ask, in light of that fact, is this: “What if the immigrant in my city were to read this post or comment? Would it convince them that there is someone out there ready to show them the love that they may not have experienced anywhere else?”

Love the gospel

Maybe it is just me, but I think that the overarching concern for all of us should always be, “How is what I am doing or saying going to cause someone to be drawn to Jesus and come to faith in Him?” Answering that question has to serve as a filter for many things we may feel like saying.

We have a right and responsibility to have informed convictions about so many things.  Things about politics, about public policy, and about societal trends – the list is endless. But does that mean that expressing these opinions in the cold and polarizing world of the internet is going to draw people to Jesus? Perhaps not.

I am not saying that we should avoid having or expressing opinions about controversial things, or even that we should give up on advocating for causes or issues that not everyone will agree with. It is how we do this that matters. We should find ways to speak that demonstrate grace and kindness for all. Those who may disagree should be convinced that their perspective is at least being properly understood by someone willing to listen. And above all they should be convinced that they have been treated with respect.

The Apostle Paul said, “I do all things for the sake of the gospel.” (1 Corinthians 9:23, NASB) That bottom line motivation is what I think may be missing from some of what is written on social media by my fellow Christians. We are all called to be ambassadors for Christ. “Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.” (Ephesians 4:29, NLT)

In 2017, can those of us who enjoy our time on social media be true diplomats for the gospel?

** Except where noted, quotations are from the English Standard Version