Trapped in my home today because of our recent freak winter storm, I've browsed Facebook a little more than usual. I never cease - never ever cease - to be amazed at the things people are willing to say when they are not looking someone in the eye – when they don’t really have a relationship with that person.
Today’s never-cease moment came when a Facebook friend posted a status about – well, it doesn't really matter what it was about – so, I’ll leave that part out. The never-cease moments aren't actually limited to any one specific topic. The person that posted claims to be a follower of Christ and I have no reason to doubt that. Her post in no way departed from anything that most would consider Biblical teaching – in fact, it was compassionate and defending the cause of another, rather than themselves. Yet, someone, also claiming to be a Christ-follower, chose to jump in to comment that she and those that agreed with her were in error. Some of those that agreed with her are, by their own admission, not followers of Christ.
This “commenter” sounded critical, condemning, and judgmental. I don’t know this person at all. They may not be like this in person. They may not have meant it in the way it came across in a social media setting. But in those few minutes of expressing their opinion, they alienated a whole host of people, likely caused pain to some individuals and hurt the cause of Christ.
We are called, as followers of Christ, to be mediators – to be ambassadors – to be people that point others to Christ. To pull out an old, seldom-used-any-more word, our speech should be winsome and full of grace. When someone that does not follow Christ crosses our path on a level that brings disagreement, we should take all measures to be grace-filled and kind – even in that disagreement.
Many claim that we can say these things “because we’re in
“It’s our right in a country founded on free speech and democracy.” “If they
can spout their opinion, then I can speak mine.” “The truth will sometimes
offend those that don’t want to hear it.” All of those things are true. We CAN say it, it is our RIGHT, the truth
sometimes does offend.
But – and it’s a big but…
Just because I can, does that mean I should?
Just because it’s my right, aren't there some things worth giving up my rights for?
Isn't there a difference in offending and being offensive?
Early on in my Facebook experience, I found myself caught up in a few of these threads. It is easy to find yourself there before you even know what’s happened. Misunderstandings are easy in this medium.
I have lots of opinions. And I’ll voice most any of them to most any person. But I will choose to voice them in the context of a relationship – where I've earned the right to speak into their lives – to disagree. Across dinner tables and fire pits, sitting knee-to-knee in my living room, holding their hand and making sure they know the disagreement doesn't change my love for them.
When our need to express our opinion – no matter how right we think/know we are – becomes more important than the person we’re speaking to, something has gone terribly wrong. When our need to post memes, statuses, comments, blogs and articles that scream our counter-culture beliefs becomes more important than those that will see it but will not hear it in any context of love and grace, something has gone terribly wrong. It is polarizing and further isolates us from the very people Jesus spent most of His time with – the people He has called us to love.
We may exercise our right to free speech, but in doing so, we may very likely push someone further from Christ rather than closer – is that right really that important?
Instead of standing up for our rights, making sure everyone knows we’re right and have the answers, let’s choose to be winsome. Let’s decide to look people in the eye when we must disagree.
We CAN say it on social media, but let’s choose not to. Let’s choose love.