I lost a good writer recently. When my team chooses writers to help us create Bible studies, we don’t just look for those who rarely dangle their participles; we look for those with good theology. But that’s still not enough. We don’t just look for those skilled at handling and communicating God’s Word; we seek those who practice it.
This particular individual has good writing skills and a solid grip on Scripture. His ethics and morality are above board. So, what was the problem?
His posts on social media.
Almost all his posts are political, which is not a problem in itself, but his posts were rude, vindictive, and hateful toward those with a different viewpoint. I had to tell him, “Your Facebook account includes a lot of overtly in-your-face political statements. Personally, I don’t disagree with your sentiments, but we avoid making statements that disparage the character or political views of others.”
In the short history of social media, no one has ever changed their opinion on a subject because the other side shouted at them and made cutting remarks. But the real harm in hateful social media posts is the way it alienates people. It puts up a wall, and as followers of Christ, a wall is the last thing we should ever construct. When we do this, we’re not simply alienating them from our political views, we are alienating them from ourselves and from the gospel! If you think that sounds extreme, it is. The claim to follow Christ—the claim to embrace the gospel of Christ—colors everything else we do.
We must express ourselves with grace and love toward others—even those with whom we vehemently disagree.
Later that day, my friend went public with the fact he would not be enlisted as a writer. He did not give names or details, but he bemoaned the “fact” that Christian publishers are bowing to the snowflakes who raise a fuss when people speak against them. He concluded by noting that Jesus, John the Baptist, and Paul would also be turned away because they also spoke the truth.
Jesus, John, and Paul did have harsh words, but they were harsh words against religious leaders and false teachers who were misleading and deceiving people in spiritual matters. They never resorted to name-calling and insults. (Jesus did refer to Herod as “that fox” [Luke 13:32], which implied that Herod was a weak leader, and he would not be able to stop the mission Jesus was on.)
In light of our current culture of rants against the government and political leaders, it is interesting that the New Testament writers never spoke harshly or insultingly against the leaders. If anyone felt like they could be justified in speaking against those in power, surely it would be men like Peter and Paul. Their ministry occurred during the reign of Nero, one of the worst Roman emperors, especially in his treatment of the Christians. In fact, both apostles were killed during his reign. But listen to what they said instead:
Paul: “First of all, then, I urge that petitions, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for everyone, for kings and all those who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. This is good, and it pleases God our Savior, who wants everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim. 2:1-4).
Peter: “Submit to every human authority because of the Lord, whether to the emperor as the supreme authority or to governors as those sent out by him to punish those who do what is evil and to praise those who do what is good. For it is God’s will that you silence the ignorance of foolish people by doing good. Submit as free people, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but as God’s slaves. Honor everyone. Love the brothers and sisters. Fear God. Honor the emperor” (1 Pet. 2:13-17).
Pray? Submit? Honor? Yes, and we do it for the sake of the gospel and the kingdom of God.
This does not mean we can’t engage in political discourse. We should add our voice to the public discourse, but we should do it with an eye on representing Christ as we do so. Let’s hear from Paul and Peter again.
Paul: “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you should answer each person” (Col. 4:6).
Peter: “but in your hearts regard Christ the Lord as holy, ready at any time to give a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you. Yet do this with gentleness and reverence, keeping a clear conscience, so that when you are accused, those who disparage your good conduct in Christ will be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil” (1 Pet. 3:15-17).
It’s time we stopped doing evil with our words. Speak the truth—but do so with love.
Related post: The Best Way to Influence People
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