Today, I want to talk about a reality that I bet many of you have seen on Facebook, Twitter, blogs posts and comment sections all over the Internet: Christians fighting online, publically and with vitriol (which is a big word for being nasty).
I bring this up because, not only do I think that this harming the reputation of the church, I also think it’s harming the Christian community and people.
Now, of course, right off the bat there are going to be some who say, “But shouldn’t we stand up for truth?,” “These issues matter!,” or “Shouldn’t we be able to debate within Christianity?” And, of course, I agree with all of that. We should remain firm to what we believe. Some issues do matter immensely and need to be addressed, and, of course, discussion and debate have always been part of Christianity and always will be.
My problem isn’t with the truth, discussion or addressing important social issues. My problem is subtler than that: It’s about what goes on in our hearts. My problem is when Christians actually start to enjoy all the debate, division and arguing.
Because, what I’m starting to see all over the place isn’t just people who love certain issues, topics and perspectives. It’s people who love to fight. It’s people seeking out to engage others in nasty back and forth arguments. It’s people who call out others and say “farewell” to so and so. It’s people who intentionally provoke, not to discuss, but to divide, distance and ridicule other positions. It’s people who actually relish in the fighting, provoking and dividing over whatever their issue is.
And, the problem with this is ridiculously obvious: If we love to fight, we are probably forgetting to love. If we love the conflict, the fray or the issue more than people, we are missing the point. Because, in a fight or argument, the goal is to win, convert and conquer – all of which can lead us away from loving. And, loving others isn’t optional in the Christian walk, but when we start looking for fights to have, we’ve stopped looking at Jesus and loving others.
So, to be clear, I’m not saying that certain issues don’t matter, that discussions are pointless or that we shouldn’t stand up for injustice.
No, what I want to raise to the surface is something that has happened in my heart, and something I think I see online all the time. Sometimes under the cover of standing up for truth, justice or whatever, what is really going on is that we are angry, looking for a fight and more interested in winning our theological or social agenda, rather than loving and listening.
Please hear me! Some things need to be changed. Some things are evil. Some things need to be called out. But, before we ever call someone else out online, I think it starts with calling out the sin, hate, anger and a pathological love of division within ourselves.
And, I’m pretty sure Jesus said something similar.