The media makes money by reporting that which is sensational. I get that. But words I have heard from celebrities slung at each other in the past couple of weeks do not seem to go against trends I see in the broader culture. We are slouching toward division, lurching toward unkindness, and oozing away from civility. Where will the vomiting of vitriol stop?
In a culture that purports to be espousing inclusion and acceptance as core values, we sure are not doing a great job. I am not convinced that we really have a heart for unity at all. My humble observation is that it is easy and at least lazy to paint those who disagree with us with broad brushstrokes. The hard work is listening. The hard work is a genuine attempt to understand. Harder still is to give the benefit of the doubt.
I believe that Scripture speaks directly to this by describing the character of a follower of Christ. Paul used the metaphor of fruit growing on tree to describe the products of the Holy Spirit in the life of one who recognizes that their purpose is to positively influence the world around them for the invisible kingdom of Christ.
These character traits should inform all areas of the life of a believer including the way that we interact on social media, the way we interact about our political views, and the way we interact with any and all. Love. Joy. Peace. Patience. Kindness. Goodness. Faithfulness. Gentleness. Self-Control. I wanted to set a couple of those in bold to highlight the implications for the political “debates” (more like attacks) that seem to be more and more common. But all of them speak volumes about the calling of the church toward a beneficial and positive role in society.
What if all of us took these nine things into consideration before we posted something to social media. Does it convey love or joy? Is it said in patience? Kindness? Gentleness? Does it promote what is good? Will it further or stifle peace? Can I post this before God in faithfulness? Does posting this exhibit self-control?
This process would be helpful for us in using social media, but also would be helpful in our speech. The audience is bigger and the words linger longer with social media, but what we say to people still has an impact. When I consider the role of the Spirit in the way I have interacted with others online and in person, I am convicted. I have not always exhibited self-control. I have enjoyed using Facebook as a means to vent or share frustrating situation. I have used social media as a way of making sure that everyone knows how I feel about a subject.
But even as I write this I recognize that even this blog could be taken many ways. Am I looking down on everyone and holding them to a standard I don’t even follow? Am I being negative in a way that pushes back against joy and patience?
We live in an increasingly divided culture. That is true. But I believe that Scripture holds out a third way in front of us. We have a pattern of civility in the church. And I believe that we ought to be infecting the culture around us with this civility that amounts to love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control. Let’s be the seasoning that bring civility back into the public sphere, one mouth at a time.