How can we conversate without condemning, or discuss without condoning? And more importantly, how can we engage at all without leaving the scene battle-scarred or injuring those we leave behind?
It doesn’t take long after logging into any social media platform of your choice before you feel the urge to duck. It’s easy to get caught in the crossfire of various moral, political, and spiritual battles waging online by simply scrolling, offering a quick temptation to sign out and pretend like it’s not happening. Oh, the comfort when we look the other way, shield our eyes, or pull up another cute video of puppies or cats and stay naïve to the war.
For others, though, it can be just as tempting to dive headfirst into the war, fists flying and sword swinging, with no concern for the casualties around us and the carnage we leave in our wake.
Falling into the ditch on either side is less than ideal. So what does the straight and narrow, middle path even look like? How can we conversate without condemning, or discuss without condoning? And more importantly, how can we engage at all without leaving the scene battle-scarred or injuring those we leave behind? Especially when the other side is often a fellow Christian?
It’s not easy, but I think 1 Corinthians 13 provides us with a great template to follow. Despite social media and the World Wide Web not being invented in the days the Bible was written, this passage is rich in wisdom and goes to prove that the Bible is the Living Word and always provides the answers we need.
1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (NIV) says, "Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres."
Here are ten biblical tips for what brotherly love looks like on social media today:
1. Love is Patient
This one is very difficult, especially when it comes to online matters. How often do we impatiently wait for the other person in our conversation to come around to our way of thinking? How often do we impatiently wait for them to stop talking (while barely listening) so we can be heard instead? How often do we patiently hear them out before railroading over them with our own view? If you’re like me, this one can be very convicting. We’re usually seeking to be heard, not to hear, and the fact is, we’re never going to get anywhere that way—especially as a Christian witness. A deep breath and a prayer for patience can go a long way when it comes to engaging on social media.
2. Love is Kind
This one is so simple, yet so hard. Kindness is crucial. On social media, it’s worth the extra effort to really filter what you’re saying because there is no tone or body language to accompany your text block. So much can be misinterpreted and misjudged through the lack of in-person conversation, especially on hot-button issues like we’re constantly bombarded with today. Let your words (whether spoken or typed!) ooze with unmistakable kindness. You’ll never regret going that extra mile. (And remember the Golden Rule!)
3. Love isn’t Envious
On social media, it can be tempting to become jealous over how many likes or comments someone’s post on a particular topic received. We might have poured our soul into writing a heartfelt post on whatever issue is at hand, only to feel ignored, while another Christian brother with a bigger platform received a huge amount of feedback. Are we trying to have a voice to speak on things that give glory to God, or are we simply trying to be heard—or even become famous? Check your heart posture before posting, and be on guard against jealousy and envy toward your brother.
4. Love Doesn’t Boast and isn’t Proud
These two go hand-in-hand and are all over social media. It’s hard to show brotherly love if we’re always bragging about ourselves, isn’t it? And it’s hard to effectively engage in conversation with our fellow man when we’re too proud to even hear their point of view. Pride says, “I’m right and you’re wrong” and leaves no room for discussion. If you can leave pride out of the platform, you’ll get a lot further in successfully expressing your thoughts or convictions.
5. Love isn’t Self-Seeking
Ouch. This one is tricky, too, isn’t it? When we truly show brotherly love, we have a deep-rooted desire for the other person’s well-being. Are we leaving both the poster and the conversation better than before we started it? Are we showing our fellow man respect, or are we only trying to demand it for ourselves? What is our goal in engaging in the conversation in the first place? All good questions to ask in order to check our hearts before continuing forward.
6. Love isn’t Easily Angered
Social media is full of triggers. Everyone on there has their own trauma, their own past, and their own sensitive subjects. Everyone online is going through or has gone through something we will probably never even know about. And all of those experiences contribute to the way we react and interact over particular topics. So, getting angry isn’t the solution—listening and showing compassion and patience is. At the end of the day, you still might disagree (and probably will, honestly), but you’ll have shown the love of Christ along the way. And what is a victory outside of that, anyway?
7. Love Keeps No Record of Wrongs
I used to struggle with understanding the difference between forgiving, holding a grudge, and setting boundaries. It can be a confusing task, but essentially, as Christians, we are called to forgive—full stop. If the person in need of forgiveness is a Christian brother, their sin was covered on the cross by Christ. If they’re not, they will face judgment one day. Our withholding forgiveness essentially shows that we believe what they did was outside the scope of Christ. But it’s okay to forgive and set boundaries that don’t allow a person to repeat their offense against you. Protecting your heart or mind from them doesn’t mean you didn’t forgive—it’s being wise. This obviously looks different in different circumstances, but on social media, let’s forgive when someone speaks harshly to us or of us, and then decide if we are to provide a second chance or set a boundary by not interacting with that person anymore.
8. Love Doesn’t Delight in Evil
Brotherly love doesn’t rejoice when a fellow brother gets called out on social media. We can disagree with someone with honor. But it’s not noble to see that person embarrassed or ashamed and rejoice in their mishap. In the same manner, we also don’t condone evil practices that are being celebrated on social media. We can engage in a healthy exchange of opinion or dialogue without condoning and supporting evil acts such as abortion.
9. Love Rejoices with the Truth
In the recent overturn of Roe v Wade, there were many Christians afraid to publicly celebrate the victory because of not wanting to be off-putting to others who disagreed. But the Bible tells us to rejoice with the truth. And the truth is, the overturn of Roe v Wade was a major milestone in our country’s history that deserved to be celebrated by Christians. Life is always deserving of celebration. Don’t let your joy in various Christian victories be silenced on social media out of fear of offending. Use it as an opportunity to witness and spread the message of the Gospel. Remember, the Bible says the Gospel is offensive—but we don’t have to be. (1 Corinthians 1:18)
10. Love Hopes and Perseveres
True love is all about second chances. It’s important that we don’t write someone off because they simply argued with us online. Too often I’ve seen in-person friendships disintegrate because of online arguments. What a tragedy and a waste! Rather than give the benefit of the doubt or meet with the person to hear their side and fully interpret what they meant, we are more likely to assume the first. Then we inevitably unfollow and unlike and un-friend, causing even more division and unnecessary conflict. But true brotherly love always hopes and perseveres, meaning it doesn’t stay discouraged and it doesn’t give up. Don’t dismiss your fellow believer because they differ from you.
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