I’m a big Abraham Lincoln aficionado. I have been since the second grade. I’ve lost count of how many Lincoln biographies and essays I’ve read. It’s gotten to the point that when my wife sees me reading a new Lincoln book, she asks, “Will that book actually give you anything about Lincoln that you don’t already know?” Typically, the answer is yes…but I will admit that a good deal of the data in each book contains information about Honest Abe that I already learned from other biographies. Nevertheless, I keep on reading…
One thing I’ve read in several Lincoln biographies is how the president would at times become very frustrated and irritated with some of his generals or cabinet secretaries and would write them a scathing, biting, extremely sarcastic letter while in that ill mood. However, most of the time he would file the letter instead of sending it off right away and revisit it the next day. At that point, he would rewrite the letter and use much more tactful and diplomatic language to express his disappointment and frustration with his subordinate. However, he would still keep the unsent letter in that file, usually with a notation that would say something like “Letter to General McClellen – Unsent.” Some of the biographies I’ve read will show the content of both letters, and the difference between them tends to be quite noticeable.
I bring this up because I was reminded of it after I came across these passages this morning in my Bible reading:
“Whoever restrains his words has knowledge, and he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding.” (Proverbs 17:27)
“Whoever keeps his mouth and his tongue keeps himself out of trouble.” (Proverbs 21:23)
Restraining your words.
Having a cool spirit.
Keeping your mouth and your tongue (keeping them under control being the clear inference).
It’s hard to do all of that when you’re frustrated, scared, upset, and discouraged. Isn’t it?
Christians, we tend to get frustrated, scared, upset, and discouraged a lot these days, don’t we? At least, that’s how it comes across from where I’m sitting whenever I scroll through social media and read the posts and comments a lot of my brothers and sisters in Christ make on a daily basis. There’s lots of complaining, lots of “glass half empty” talk, lots of fear, lots of anger.
From everyone who wears the name of Christ? No. And from those who do talk a lot in these ways, are these types of things the ONLY things they talk about? With a lot of them, no, at least from where I’m sitting. It’s fair and right to point that out. But it does happen a lot with a lot of Christians. That’s undeniable.
What does the Bible have to say?
“Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us.” (Titus 2:7-8)
“Do all things without grumbling or disputing; so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I will have reason to glory because I did not run in vain nor toil in vain.” (Philippians 2:14-16)
Brethren, do these verses describe how we are when we post and comment in social media? Is what we say a model of good works? Do we show integrity and dignity in ourselves in what we say and how we say it?
Are our words “sound (healthy) speech that cannot be condemned”? Would opponents of Christianity be able to point to our posts and comments and cite them as evidence that Christians are hypocritical?
Are our posts and comments typically nothing more than us grumbling or complaining about the government, gas prices, and the like? Are our posts and comments typically nothing more than us arguing and disputing with others over theology and/or politics? If so, then are we truly “prov(ing) ourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation”? Are we truly “appear(ing) as lights in the world” and “holding fast the word of life”? Would Paul think he had “run in vain” or “toil(ed) in vain” — i.e., wasted his time — with us if we read our social media posts and comments? Yes, gas prices are high right now and many government policies are pretty bad. At the same time, are we not Christians and is it not true that our names are registered in Heaven? Is it not true that we have been saved from an eternity in hell? Is it not true that in spite of these problems, God has blessed us every single day with many, many good things both in this life and in the next? Are our social media posts and comments evidence that we recognize this and focus on it?
“Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.” (Colossians 4:6)
“Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” (Ephesians 4:29)
When we encounter that troll who always puts us down with a biting sarcastic comment, do we respond with grace…or are we another troll who does the same thing?
Are we determined to make every single thing we say to anyone and everyone online something that would be “good for building up, as fits the occasion”…or do we let lots of “corrupting talk come out of (our) mouths” that in no way “give(s) grace to those who hear” it?
You know, when God tells us that our speech should always be gracious and seasoned with salt, and then gives “so that you may know how you ought to answer each person” as the reason why it must be this way…that means that God is telling us, “Hey, do you want to know how to answer every person you talk to online? Here’s how. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt.” Have you ever thought about it like that? Once I did, it hit me like a ton of bricks and made me realize that I needed to make some changes. Do you need to do the same?
“Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent.” (Proverbs 17:28)
“Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” (James 1:19-20)
Brethren, do we feel the need to “weigh in” on most things? Do we feel like we have to let our thoughts be known about every breaking news story and every controversy? If so, then have we considered that by doing so we might not be doing ourselves any favors, that people might have a lot more respect for us and think us to be wiser and more intelligent if we simply stayed quiet?
When we log on to social media, are we there to listen…or talk? When we are reading that theological discussion in which there is disagreement, do we take the time to ponder each of the opposing views and weigh them in our minds to see if there is any legitimacy at all in what is being said…or do we automatically dismiss it without even actually reading all of it because we’ve found one thing in it with which we disagree, followed immediately by us weighing in with our thoughts (about which we haven’t taken much time to consider either)?
Have we ever typed out a post or a comment and then purposefully decided, like Lincoln, to sit on it a little bit before hitting “Send” and reflect on whether it’s the best way to communicate in this situation? If not, why not? Isn’t that what being “slow to speak” is all about? Does not James 1:19 apply to social media conversations just as much as it does face-to-face communication? (Speaking of which, do we decide in face-to-face discussions to listen a lot and think a lot before we speak?)
Do we find ourselves easily moved to anger when we are involved in online discussions? If so, then perhaps we should consider that we’re not helping ourselves become more godly and righteous in His sight.
“Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.” (1 Thessalonians 5:21)
“Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.” (John 7:24)
“The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him.” (Proverbs 18:21)
“I charge you to keep these rules without prejudging, doing nothing from partiality.” (1 Timothy 5:21)
“For the Lord spoke thus to me with his strong hand upon me, and warned me not to walk in the way of this people, saying: ‘Do not call conspiracy all that this people calls conspiracy, and do not fear what they fear, nor be in dread. But the Lord of hosts, him you shall honor as holy. Let him be your fear, and let him be your dread.” (Isaiah 8:11-13)
Christians, are we very conspiracy-minded these days? From where I’m sitting, a lot of us are. In lieu of the Isaiah passage, is that a good thing in the sight of God?
God wants us to “prove all things.” He wants us to avoid “judg(ing) by appearance.” He has told us that it’s easy to make a claim that seems really true and spot-on…but the credibility of many such claims falls apart upon further examination by others.
Speaking of which, do we tend to automatically jump on board the bandwagons of some of these claims because they just happen to coincide with our own biases, preferences, and predilections? How is that avoiding “prejudging” and “doing nothing from partiality”?
“But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33)
“Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him.” (2 Timothy 2:3-4)
“If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.” (Colossians 3:1-4)
“So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God, just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved. Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.” (1 Corinthians 10:31-11:1)
Brethren, when we are on social media posting and commenting, are we seeking God’s kingdom and righteousness first in all that we post and say? Is promoting the kingdom and righteousness of God our top priority in how we use social media? I urge us to think about that, because social media can be a very powerful tool to bring the gospel to the lost and show the world the love of Jesus Christ. Is that how we primarily use social media? If not, why not? Is not the sharing of the gospel to the whole world the primary mission of all Christians?
We are soldiers of Christ, are we not? Since that is true, is it just as true that “no soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him”? Do we allow our discussions on social media to be primarily focused on the things of this world rather than the things of God? Think of the powerful ways God could use us through social media if we truly “seek the things that are above” and “set (our) minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.” Is what we primarily discuss on social media a real indicator that Paul’s phrase “Christ who is your life” applies to us?
Basically, is “all” that we say and do on social media purposefully, thoughtfully, and planned out to be “to the glory of God”? Do we have the scriptural directive to “give no offense” and “try to please everyone in everything (we) do” as a high priority in all that we say and do on social media? When we post and comment, do we not care about “seeking (our) own advantage” because we care much more about the “advantage…of many”? Specifically, do we have as our primary objective in all that we say or post to lead the reader to be open to the gospel so “that they may be saved”?
Think on these things, brethren. I believe this is something about which we all — myself included — need to examine ourselves and make appropriate changes (2 Corinthians 13:5).