Racing to the Next Argument
"The Lord's servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth."
- 2 Timothy 2:24-25
Yesterday on Facebook I saw a meme declaring, "I stand with Roseanne." I stared at it in disbelief for a moment, making sure my brain had correctly processed the visual information. Yep. A social media movement, with its own hashtag, in support of Roseanne Barr and her stupid tweet.
Then I quickly flipped through a mental Roladex of social media controversies that have recently filled my newsfeed:
gun control and the 2nd amendment
the refusal of a British hospital to treat a toddler, who then died
a group of Cambodian teens killing endangered animals
NFL players kneeling during the national anthem
President Trump's derogatory comments about foreign nations
The process and decisions regarding hiring the next BCPS superintendent
Laurel vs. Yanni
Where do we find the energy to be outraged by so much? And do we really believe that loudly shouting our opinions on these (and other) controversies in a tweet or a Facebook post is going to meaningfully contribute to a thoughtful dialogue about the issues at hand?
Don't get me wrong, some of the matters debated on social media are serious, and are worthy of Christians' time, thought, and input. Most of them, I'd suggest, are not. But whatever the merits of the hot button issue of the day, Paul's exhortation in 2 Timothy 2:24-25 (quoted at the top of this article) has particular relevance to how Christians engage in the public square. So with those verses in mind, here are a few questions to ask yourself before hitting "Publish" on that killer Facebook rant you've crafted.
Am I being quarrelsome? Let's be honest: sometimes we're just looking for a fight. At times I scroll Facebook on the lookout for a foolish or ungodly statement, so that I can blow up the comment thread with my contrarian wisdom. If my posture is confrontational, and I'm looking for someone to debate, I'm not being "the Lord's servant." Plain and simple.
Am I being kind/gentle? When I do engage in a social media debate, am I treating my "opponent" with respect and dignity? Is the statement of my opinion done in a manner that conveys love and value for the other person, or are they likely to feel attacked? "Your view is completely stupid" is not likely to win someone over to my way of thinking.
Am I patiently enduring evil? Here's maybe the hardest one: Do I really need to engage with this foolishness at all? If I feel the need to voice my disapproval of every statement or meme with which I disagree, I run the risk of becoming the "clanging cymbal" of 1 Cor. 13:1. While there may be a discussion worth in engaging in from time to time, in most cases we'll be better off (and serve the Lord more faithfully) to simply keep scrolling.
Is the gospel evident in my words? The reason Paul gives for the exhortation to be gentle and not quarrelsome is so that "God may grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth." Is my argument grounded in the gospel of Jesus Christ? Is it possible for someone involved in the discussion to learn of the crucified and risen Christ, and perhaps (by God's grace) repent of his sins and turn to him for salvation? That's the crux of all of this, really. Is my activity on social media (and in personal relationships) shining forth the gospel of forgiveness of sins and eternal life in Christ? Or is it erecting barriers between the gospel and our "opponents?"
There's more at stake for our public witness to Jesus Christ than we realize. A heated social media debate is not likely to change someone's mind or heart. However, our restraint and kindness, as well as our positive statements regarding Jesus and his grace have enormous potential to be used by God to grant repentance and a knowledge of the truth to our readers. Save your outrage for evils that truly need a prophetic Christian voice, and for the venues that are more equipped to bear the weight of serious engagement.
And in the meantime, just keep scrolling.
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