Monday, August 6, 2018

What We Don't Say Can Speak Volumes

 “When there are many words, transgression is unavoidable, But he who restrains his lips is wise.” Proverbs 10:19 
One of our pastors has been doing an excellent series on the Internet during Sunday School.   A course on this subject may seem redundant considering the volume of commentary already out there.  Nevertheless, it has been particularly refreshing to hear a real life perspective from someone who knows our people personally and whose profession before going to seminary was in IT.     
We covered a number of aspects related to technology and the Internet in general,  but the one most applicable to me had to do with digital community.  As a blogger and an occasional Twitterer I need to be reminded that the Scriptures are very clear about how we are to conduct ourselves in public, whether it is the Internet community or our real life community. 
One of the big problems with the digital community is that we have become somewhat dehumanzied.   In a sense, unless we have actually developed a relationship with the person we communicate with online, we become little more than a gravatar or thumbnail and a comment.    We need to consciously fight against the temptation to dehumanize people,  especially when they rub us the wrong way. 
For instance, last week I was scrolling through a Tweet thread of a  group of women I do not know.   I don't know how I even landed on it,  but  they  were  professing Christians and  were engaged in blasting various pastors and theologians who did not agree with their perspective.     I was blown away by the mean spiritedness of the whole thing and actually went to bed stewing about it.  I wasn’t bothered that they had an opinion,  but rather by the way they spoke of other believers with whom they did not agree.  Since I didn't know them, those women to me had become nothing more than a few pixels and nasty comments.     I clicked away in disgust.   
Yesterday as our church was singing praises to the Lord I closed my eyes for a moment and just listened.   The music was beautiful.   All those voices blending together in perfect harmony was simply glorious.     
And then I remembered those women on Twitter. 
I thought to myself that those women were probably using their beautiful voices to sing praises corporately in the same way we were.   Maybe they were even singing the same song and feeling the same sense of awe and wonder the Lord gives His people when we come together to worship Him.   
Suddenly, they were no longer just a thumbnail with a nasty attitude.  They were sisters in Christ with families and friends, and burdens to bear.  Sisters who didn't stop to think carefully before they engaged in an online conversation.   And one day we will be in Heaven together singing praises to the same Lord. 
So much online division and strife could be avoided if we would simply stop and think about others before we make comments.
I have been guilty of this myself which is why I try to avoid engaging in controversial issues.   I have strong opinions like everyone else, but I have to ask myself whether entering into those discussions will be truly beneficial or will they just give me an opportunity to be heard and fan the fire.   Most of the time it is the latter.    
Those with whom we may disagree online are image bearers and neighbors.   They are not merely pixels and comments or blogposts that make our blood pressure rise.   I don't need to respond to everyone I disagree with and try to correct them. 
What we don't say can speak volumes because sometimes the better part of loving my online neighbor is simply to make no comment at all.   

Here's a few verses I try to keep in mind before commenting.
“Keeping away from strife is an honor for a man, But any fool will quarrel.”  Proverbs 20:3  
“A fool takes no pleasure but only in expressing his opinions.”   Proverbs 18:2  
“Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.”  Eph. 4:29  
“A fool’s anger is known at once, But a prudent man conceals dishonor.” Proverbs 12:18 
“A gentle answer turns away wrath, But a harsh word stirs up anger.”  Proverbs 15:1

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