The racial, cultural, and ideological divide in our nation is obvious by the way people talk to each other on Facebook. Our nation has survived these differences for more than two centuries, but it will not survive for long with the growth of hatred, anger, and violence born from that divide. How should Christians respond? What would Jesus say on Facebook?
Jesus and the National Conversation
Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness.” (2 Timothy 3:23-25)
Christians should be involved in politics. Our voices should have a place in the national conversation. However, Christian values should always guide our voices. What are some of the pertinent Jesus Principles that should guide what we say on Facebook?
Five Jesus Principles for Facebook Debates
1. Seek the truth.
Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32).
Christians claim to be people of the truth. That means that truth, and speaking the truth, is more important than your opinion, ideology, friendships, or winning the argument.
When posting anything on Facebook you should always check the veracity of what you are posting.
Few of my Christian friends would post something that they knew to be false. However, ignorance doesn’t always excuse you. If you post something that could be reasonably verified as false, then you are guilty of lying (which, by the way, is one of the big Ten Commandments).
Christians have posted things that I verified as being patently untrue — and all it took me was literally four mouse clicks to do it. There is no excuse for this. You are perpetuating lies; that makes you a liar.
If you want to claim Jesus as your Lord and Savior — stop spreading lies. I don’t care how funny it is or how much it helps your side of the political divide.
You are called to love truth more than any political ideology.
2. Show Respect to Everyone (at all times).
So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you …” (Matt. 7:12).
The overall national rhetoric has sunk to an all-time low. With the advances in technology and the rise of social media, there are no spaces exempt from the ugly rhetoric.
The ugly way our leaders treat each other is trickling down, giving everyone permission to treat others who disagree with them in a similar manner. Some people never needed much permission to do this anyway, but many who would never have engaged in demeaning and hurtful language are now entering the fray. And worse, an entire generation of children is being taught that this type of bullying, demeaning language is normative.
Christians are called by our Savior to be different. Resist the temptation to sink down to these low levels of talking to each other. We serve a Master who told us to “turn the other cheek,” (Matt. 5:39), to pray for the one who hurts us (Matt. 5:44), and to love even our enemies (Matt. 5:44).
James tells us that the tongue is a powerful instrument that can do immeasurable damage (James 3:6). He asks the pertinent question: How can you call yourself a Christian and then have that kind of awful language come out of your mouth? (James 3:10). And he is not necessarily talking about cursing. He is talking about hurtful things that come out of the mouth.
Paul said it this way –
Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen … Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (Ephesians 4:29, 31-32).
3. Listen Twice as Much as You Speak.
Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires” (James 1:19-20).
What is your goal with debating on Facebook? Is it to always win the argument? If that’s the case, you should stop doing it.
There are three good reasons to enter a political conversation on Facebook –
- You want to add a different perspective to the debate.
- You want to find a way to bridge the polarized divide.
- You want to learn something new.
In all three of these reasons, it is more important to listen than to speak. If you find yourself so entrenched that you cannot agree with anything the other person is saying – it’s probably time to get out of the conversation and do some serious introspection.
Listen for clues to the other person’s heart. You may be after the same things but differ on the path to those goals. Find a way to connect to their heart. The only way to do that is to listen.
4. Understand the ultimate end-goal.
Therefore go and make disciples of all nations …” (Matt. 28:19a).
As Christians, we should have a crystal clear, laser-focused understanding of what our end-goal is, and it is not to win a political battle.
I AM NOT saying that we should remain silent on our faith or on the important social issues of our day.
I AM NOT saying that we should shy away from speaking the truth in love.
I AM saying that it’s hard to “speak the truth in love” to thousands of strangers on Facebook who have no idea that you love them. Facebook may not be the best medium to “speak the truth in love.”
I AM saying that we should ask Jesus to give us wisdom and discernment before we “comment” or “click to share.”
The ultimate goal is not to win an argument or a political battle. The ultimate goal is not to be right about how things should be run in our country. The ultimate goal is not win an election. The ultimate goal is not to be more powerful than our enemies. The ultimate goal is not to be the greatest or the best or the most righteous.
Our ultimate goal is to win the lost.
That’s hard to do when you just called them an idiot.
5. Keep an Eternal Perspective
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matt. 5:10-12).
I’ve thought a lot about this verse lately. Most people interpret this to mean getting beat up by “the world” for courageously fighting against them with God’s Word. But I don’t think that’s what Jesus meant at all.
The prophets weren’t killed by “the world.” They were killed by their own. Jesus wasn’t getting beat up by “the world.” He was getting beat up by his own.
He was getting beat up for hanging out with sinners, and for touching lepers, and for breaking the traditional rules about Sabbath, and for including women in his ministry, and for speaking against the Temple leadership (i.e. the Church officials).
This word to us is not a warning that “the world” is going to beat us up for what we say, but rather that our own (the church people) will beat us up for what we say and do.
The church people might hate us when we don’t join the culture war with them.
The church people might call us names when we care more about the marginalized, the outcast, and the alien than we do orthodoxy.
The church people might vilify us when we choose sinners over orthopraxy.
The church people might “kick us out” when we choose the Jesus dream over the American dream.
And we can only make those choices when we have an eternal perspective.
We know that (just like Rome) America will one day be no more, and all the things we are now fighting for will mean nothing — BUT Jesus will still be Lord and King.
People need to see our Jesus more than they need to hear our opinions – they need His word more than they need ours.
I’ll end with the sage words of the Apostle Paul —
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you” (Philippians 4:8).