It seems to me that social media encourages some fairly loose tongues to be converted to some equally destructive words on the screen. The effect is often instant and, once out there in cyber-space, it’s hard to take those words back or pretend the comment was never made. A quick search through someone’s social media posts can reveal much about a person’s attitudes. It’s a snapshot of the soul. And that should give us pause for thought.
It should also keep our fingers hovering above the keyboard until we’ve thought through our reactive responses. It’s so much easier to blurt out an indignant comeback when we’re not up close and personal with our alleged adversaries. Anonymity gives us false security and an overinflated sense of our own outrage and courage. Keyboard warriors abound and sadly, Christians are not exempt.
In the current state of a country (indeed, a world) under significant stress, I am witnessing more and more people being attacked over their differing political and social views. Disagreement is fine. Judgement is not. Ridicule is not. Insults and put downs are definitely a no-go area, and unfounded accusations and outright abuse are serious boundary transgressions. They hurt! Scripture is extremely clear on this point.
James 1:26 speaks out strongly!
‘If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person's religion is worthless.’
Proverbs 15:1 makes our responsibility clearer still.
‘A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.’
Does it mean we need to be silent on important issues? Not at all.
Anger, in and of itself, is not sin. The way we express it, however, can be, and too often is. I wish I could say I’m not guilty of this particular transgression but I am. I confess I’m extremely frustrated with people posting about their inalienable rights to not wear a mask, use social distancing and hand sanitizer, and to flout the gathering size regulations, all requirements that have entered our reality since the advent of COVID19. If you could only hear the words buffeting around inside my head as I hover my hands over the keyboard, you might be a little shocked.
Ten years ago, I’d have ‘let rip’. And, shamefully, I may even have been proud of it, as difficult as it is to admit. These days I hover (mostly) and if, as I wrestle with myself, I can’t find a way to righteously express myself, I scroll on by. Not every post needs my questionable wisdom. It’s been a long and winding road, and one I see so many people, Christian or otherwise, struggle to navigate.
I’ve found the following Scripture from Romans 12:20 particularly reassuring. It strengthens my resolve.
‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.’
What if we witness a brother or sister mocking, judging or belittling someone who holds different views, on social media?
Galatians 6:1, directs us as follows:
‘Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.’
It’s not easy to find the right balance and sometimes, no matter which approach we use, it will fall on deaf ears and the online abuse will continue. What to do then? It seems harsh, but here it is.
‘Drive out a scoffer, and strife will go out, and quarrelling and abuse will cease.’
Clearly, when push comes to shove, abuse is not to be tolerated. Do your best and if all else fails, hit that ‘unfriend’ button and reclaim your peace. But don’t forget to hover first. We might later regret a hasty decision and it will certainly be awkward to explain. Tricky, isn’t it?
Melinda Jensen has blogged extensively on emotional and psychological abuse and is currently enjoying a sea change from writing fiction to writing non-fiction, self-development books. Who'd have thought? A keen student of human nature, she's had articles, short stories and poetry published in a variety of magazines, newspapers and journals, having juggled single-motherhood and chronic illness for about 25 years. She's still almost sane and definitely has a heart for God and a yearning to bring a couple of books to fruition this year. Apart from that, she's besotted with cats, makes jolly good fudge and is living her dream on an acre and a half of beautiful soil bordering rainforest. On that note, she’s extremely passionate about the natural environment God has gifted us all with.