The Main Thing
Welcome to the third article of a series entitled, The Main Thing. This series of articles is designed to encourage Christians in general, and ministers in particular on how we can have a more positive impact on social media. There is a large amount of negativity that exists on social web sites like Facebook and Twitter, and the addition of the election season has only added to the trouble. These articles are designed to remind us all that we have a responsibility to reach people for Christ, and to focus on the main thing in preaching the Gospel of Jesus. We must not forget that we can preach the Gospel in all things, even in political conversations, and discussions about current events and social issues.
I would encourage you to read the last article entitled, Stop Complaining, if you haven’t done so already. This week’s article is entitled, Don’t Fight, and addresses how we should approach social media conversations. Let’s take a look at how this simple practice can have a world of impact.
One of the saddest and most embarrassing things to see on social media is a long thread of arguments and insults between people. It’s sad to see when strangers engage in such discourse, it’s even worse when the parties involved are friends or family. It’s deplorable when such dialogue comes from Christians and ministers of the Gospel. It’s important that we defend our faith, preach the truth, and expose the lies of the enemy, but we must “pick our battles”. Further, we should endeavor to engage in conversations, and not arguments. The problem is that much of the dialogue on social media turns into a knock-down, drag-out, war of words over trivial things like jokes, memes, and personal opinions. These arguments cover an array of topics from reality TV stars to Supreme Court rulings. People on social media are engaging in outright fights about sports, celebrity figures, and the current Presidential election. In the midst of such battles on Facebook and Twitter, it’s important to remember what the Word of God teaches believers. Titus 3:9 stands as a good reminder of how we should conduct ourselves stating, “Avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and arguments and quarrels about the law, because these are unprofitable and useless”. [i] While this particular scripture addresses a context from a different time and for a different audience, the lesson still applies to us today. While we may not argue about Jewish law and customs, we certainly argue and quarrel about everything else.
In the spirit of changing our posts, I want to encourage us all on a few steps that we can take to stop the fighting on social media. We have every right to communicate our opinions and beliefs. We also have the right and duty to defend the values we hold dear. However, in the midst of engaging others on social media, we must remember to avoid fighting with them. Fighting only further entrenches opposing views, offends, and alienates people. For Christians and ministers of the Gospel, it’s a good reminder to consider that very few people have been brought into the Church family through debate and coercion. Rather, it’s the message of Jesus Christ and His teachings of love, forgiveness, mercy, and grace, that draws others to the faith. Let’s stop fighting with one another by taking a few small steps.
1. Don’t Provoke
The best way to stop a fight is to never start one in the first place. While we are not responsible for other people’s attitudes and emotions, we can and should choose our words and our messages carefully. Whether we are making our own statement, or responding to someone else’s, we must avoid provoking people. Scripture reminds us along this line when Paul wrote, “Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them”. [ii] We can adhere to this teaching by taking the “higher road” in our communication. We need to stop personally attacking people. We must not be disrespectful and condescending to them. We can and should communicate our stance in ways that are helpful and encouraging. It’s often easier to do this when we understand where the other person is coming from. Many times we’ll find that we have more in common than not.
2. Find Common Ground
Next, we should work towards finding common ground. Most everyone that we come into contact with on social media desires similar things. Most of us have loved ones that we care about. Most of us want the next generation to be better off than us. Most people want to live in peace. Most people want to enjoy a certain level of freedom, privacy, and safety. The great thing about many of these desires is that the message of Jesus Christ establishes, protects, and promotes them all. We may not agree with a quarterback refusing to stand during the National Anthem, but we can agree that all people should be treated with respect. We may not appreciate all of the lyrics of the National Anthem, but we can appreciate the sacrifice men and women have made for our freedom. We may not agree with, or appreciate a person’s viewpoint, but as Christians we should never attack the person for having them. Let’s find common ground first, and work from that point. Doing so will help turn our conversations in the right direction, and away from fighting.
3. Agree to Disagree
It’s perfectly acceptable for people to reach a disagreement. It’s probable, and very likely that we are going to disagree with someone about something at some point in our lifetime. God made each person as unique as a snowflake with their own tastes and preferences. The truth is that we will often see things from different vantage points. While we firmly believe in the truth and absolutes that are found in the Bible, no human is ever going to have exclusive rights to all truth. Part of the fall of mankind, and the sinful nature that is inherent in him, includes error and ignorance. This very environment can, and does create points of disagreement. There are times that we will be able to persuade others towards our point of view, and there are times that we won’t. We must all be spiritually and emotionally mature enough to know when to “part ways” and agree to disagree.
Continuing to argue and bicker endlessly about the same topic isn’t beneficial. We’ve all been there before. With each reply to a Facebook comment comes an additional reply followed by a counter response. After hours, and sometimes days of responses to a single post on someone’s Facebook page, all parties are left with is resentment, frustration, and a list of suggested websites to visit that only validate the author’s viewpoint. One of the best ways to avoid fighting is to learn when your message has fallen on “deaf ears”. Jesus Himself once said, “But if any place refuses to welcome you or listen to you, shake its dust from your feet as you leave to show that you have abandoned those people to their fate”.[iii] As Christians, if we truly believe that a person’s position will eventually do them harm, we have the power to continue to pray for them and to live as a positive influence towards them. Oftentimes the best “preaching” that we can do is not with our words but with our actions. It’s okay to agree to disagree and it will most likely avoid another fight.
In closing, remember that just because we have opposing viewpoints doesn’t mean that we are enemies. There is only one enemy that we should be aware of, and he is working overtime to divide us all. Paul reminds us that as Christians we don’t fight against people but rather the enemy and his world system. The great news is that we are not fighting against an enemy that is greater than us, but rather one who has been defeated by Jesus Christ! Let’s enforce that victory by preaching the Gospel of Jesus and avoiding the bickering and infighting on social media that’s dragging us down. When we change our posts, we change the world.
Stay tuned for the final article entitled, Preach the Gospel.
[i] Titus 3:9, New International Version
[ii] Ephesians 4:29, New Living Translation
[iii] Mark 6:11, New Living Translation