We debate with ourselves as to whether we should. Something is telling us not to. But, we listen to our baser selves and do it anyway. We press post, send or tweet. And, all online hell breaks loose. But, we can avoid the firestorm and the carnage if we engage five essential practices for addressing social and cultural issues online.
Addressing social, political and cultural issues via social media platforms can be a useful avenue way to stay connected and even spark healthy conversation. I would not recommend that followers of Jesus weigh in or attempt to address every social, cultural or political issue online. Important issues are worthy of face-to-face conversations. But, if we decide to engage topics online, I recommend we use these five essential practices.
Maintain the Unity of the Spirit
Practicing Christian civility online begins with recognizing that the Spirit has given us unity. Our job is to maintain unity in the body of Jesus. First, this means we should personally carry the burden for peace. As much as it depends on each of us, we should live at peace with all people (Romans 12:18). May we clothe ourselves with mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. We are to make allowances for one another’s faults and forgive anyone who offends us. Above everything else, we are to clothe ourselves in love, which binds us together in perfect harmony (Colossians 3:12-14).
Submit Our Hearts
Another way we can practice Christian civility before we press post, send, or tweet is to check our hearts. Jeremiah says that our hearts are desperately wicked. Nobody knows how bad it is (Jeremiah 17:9). A misaligned and divided heart will always lead to division in relationships, churches, and organizations. When our loyalty to a political party, gender, particular interest group, or even ethnic group supersedes our allegiance to Jesus, then conflicts that lead to division and incivility are inevitable. May we submit our hearts to the Resurrected Christ each day.
Seek to Understand
A third essential in practicing Christian civility before we press post, send, or tweet is to seek to understand other people. Christians can and will have views on cultural issues. Brothers and sisters in Christ can hold different opinions on cultural issues and respect and honor one another. To dismiss them is to deny them as image-bearers and brothers and sisters in Christ. Therefore, it is crucial that we seek to understand the other person’s point of view. Not only should we attempt to understand the point of view of the other, but we should also represent that point of view fairly and correctly. When we fail to understand and describe the person and their opinions accurately, we do what G.K. Chesterton called setting up a “false demon.” Then it becomes easier to demonize and devalue the person and their position. May we, first, seek to understand others.
Check Our Motives
A fourth essential in practicing Christian civility before we press post, send, or tweet is to check our motives. The truth is, everyone has mixed motives. When responding to one another in healthy and robust disagreement, we should ask ourselves, “Why am I responding this way? Am I responding from biblical conviction, or from fear, hatred, anger or hurt? What is motivating me personally? Am I more obsessed with winning the argument than I am with winning and preserving the relationship?” As we engage cultural issues, we should pray like David: “Search me, O God, and know our hearts; test us and know our anxious thoughts. Point out anything to us that offends you, and lead us along the path of everlasting life.” (Psalm 139:23-24)
Fight for the Highest Good
A fifth essential in practicing Christian civility before we press post, send, or tweet is to fight for the highest good of our brothers and sisters. As image-bearers, we should honor and respect all people. Our common humanity connects us. Therefore, we should treat others with honor, dignity, and respect. However, when it comes to the followers of Jesus, we have an even stronger bond than our common humanity. We are united in and by his death and resurrection. The result should be an ever-deepening love for one another. In fact, the world will recognize that we follow Jesus by our love for one another (John 13:35).
Loving one another doesn’t mean we will always agree with one another. It does say we will maintain the unity of the Spirit, submit our hearts, seek to understand one another, check our motives and fight for the highest good.
What is your rule of life or best practice for engaging social and cultural issues online?
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