Life presents each of us with a series of events, ranging from the mundane to the extraordinary, that defines who we are. We move from one day to the next, drawing on hindsight for clarity. Humans are incapable of absolute purity, absolute sinlessness, while we traverse this earth. So we get distracted. So we turn aside from the call Jesus has on our lives. The devil’s in the details, right? We are- we should be- better than this.
We are stumbling. As Christians, we know it is likely we will stumble off and on for the rest of our mortal lives. That’s why there is a need for repentance. It is not to provide an excuse- a spiritual loophole if you will. No, it is so we can honestly beseech the Father, our Lord and God, for His mercy and grace. It is our acknowledgement of wrongdoing and the desire to change. Now this is important to keep in mind as we talk about some ugly things.
Lately, the world has been plagued with a health pandemic that has affected millions, whether through death, economic hardship, social isolation, etc. People have reacted to this in numerous ways, not all of which are good. Regardless of whether you see it as a hoax or as legitimate. Regardless of where your concern for the health and well-being of others lies. Regardless of these, and ugliness has reared its thorny head. Galatians 5:13 tells us “For you were called to freedom brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.” Likewise, Proverbs 24:16 says, “For though a righteous man falls seven times, he will rise again, but the wicked stumble into calamity.” A much bigger crisis rears its head. It is the absence of human decency and compassion in many forums.
Let’s talk about social media. How often do you read the comments to an article, only to see hateful, angry rhetoric? How often do we see people belittle others because they do not see things exactly how someone else does? I’ll be honest. I have been a member of Christian groups, writing groups, art groups, gaming groups… you expect to see people who only want to stir the pot, just to get any sort of response. We call them trolls in this digital age. But do you know where I saw the most appalling dialogues? Christian groups. From self-professing Christians. I will not discount the good, but there is too much hateful dialogue and rhetoric present for anyone claiming to serve God.
I will not share what I have seen, as it is something you can see for yourself, but there are three things I want to communicate.
- No one has the authority to judge the depth of one’s faith. We are commanded to help guide people to Jesus, to make disciples in His name, but we can never know the full depths of someone’s relationship with God.
- Hateful rhetoric is not Christlike. Even if you are right, no amount of demeaning talk will make it good. Harshness is one thing. Jesus was harsh. Hatefulness is another. Do all things in love.
- We do not know God’s mind. He’s God. We aren’t built to fathom all the threads He holds to bring a given moment to fruition. We can guess. We can take His words that were laid out in the Bible, but we do not and cannot know all.
James 1:26 tells “If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless.”
Psalm 34:13 says, “Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking deceit.”
Proverbs 10:19 also says, “When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent.”
1 Corinthians 2:15-16 says, “The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.
It is not wrong to hold people accountable. Through Christ, we are given more understanding into the mind of God. But we are held to a higher standard. We can disagree. We can discuss more Scripture-centered processes. We can question. We can even be angry. But we are not God and we cannot know every detail of someone. We cannot know just how much harm our ugly words do; whether they repel those who are not of the faith or they drive away those who are. Oh, I know these times are hard. We all deal with it in some way or another.
But if you think God’s body will not suffer because you belittled someone you disagreed with, if you got on your high horse and decided to mete out God’s judgement, well… maybe it’s time to open the Bible and get down on your knees. We are commanded to live lives focused on building God’s church. Not tearing it down. Throughout Scripture we are called to do things with love. Love can be harsh. Love can seem unkind. But love is not wicked. At least God’s love is not. So maybe, as we progress towards an uncertain future, we’ll draw on Him to better engage with others.