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Hateful Christianity in social media

To be honest, I have a love-hate relationship with social media, Facebook in particular. I love finding out what other people are thinking and doing, but I am deeply disturbed at the way some Christians use social media to disagree with others. Here’s why... 

The “Up Yours” Effect of Isolation

There’s something about the safety of isolation that brings out our worst. You know – the mild-mannered individual who, on strapping in behind the steering wheel, reverts to thinking that their horn and middle finger are the two most important implements for getting their way on the road.

Or in the electronic space: how many angry emails have you received and sent over the years?

Yep, isolation tends to give us a sense of safety, and apparently, a license to behave badly.

Enter social media.

Let me use abortion as an example. It’s one I’m passionate about, because I know (Psalm 139:13-18) that the moment a child is conceived, there is a person, made in the image of the living God.

But as passionate as I am on the issue of a child’s right to live, tears welled up in my eyes when I saw a Christian post an image of Michelle Obama on Facebook, holding a sign that had been photo-shopped to read “Baby Killer”.

The arguments of hateful Christianity – now there’s an oxymoron if ever there were one – will never win the day. There are a few reasons for that:

The God of Love

It’s easy enough to believe that God is love in the relative safety of a church building, or a Christian family, or a home group of supportive Christian friends (although even there, it can be a challenge sometimes to live out His love, right?)

But what about when you’re confronted with something – like, in this case abortion – with which you vehemently disagree? Not because it benefits you to do so necessarily, but because you’re outraged at the taking of innocent human lives. Then what?

Answer: ask yourself what would Jesus do?

Well, of course He managed to get angry a couple of times – traders in the Temple, hypocritical Pharisees, faithless disciples – but remember, His anger was only ever directed at those who should have known better; those who professed to believe in God.

How was it that Jesus reacted when Peter decided to lop off the ear of one of the people who came to arrest Him?

Then one of them struck the slave of the high priest and cut off his right ear. But Jesus said, “No more of this!” And he touched his ear and healed him. (Luke 22:50,51)

Suddenly, one of those with Jesus put his hand on his sword, drew it, and struck the slave of the high priest, cutting off his ear. Then Jesus said to him, “Put your sword back into its place; for all who take the sword will perish by the sword. (Matthew 26:51,52)

It simply wasn’t Jesus’ way to lash out in that way. Anger was for Him, by far the exception, rather than the rule – even though He spoke plainly and directly.

Correcting with Gentleness

To the contrary, Scripture implores us to correct with gentleness:

And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kindly to everyone, an apt teacher, patient, correcting opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant that they will repent and come to know the truth, and that they may escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will. (2 Timothy 2:24-26)

It seems that God is more interested in their salvation, than in us winning the argument. And how we respond to people with whom we disagree, speaks to them of the God we purport to represent. Our vitriol, in short, is likely to be a stumbling block to their salvation. Now…there’s a scary thought!

Wisdom is never based on hatred. Wisdom is always based on love and sacrifice. Always. The Bible tells us that the time is short, and we should make the most of the time that we have available:

Be careful then how you live, not as unwise people but as wise, making the most of the time, because the days are evil. So do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. (Ephesians 5:15)

Screaming at the world, and telling people how wrong they are and how far they’ve strayed from God never works. Let me ask you, when someone comes at you with angry vitriol, does that ever convert you to their way of thinking?!

Let’s Go with Something that Works

What works, is speaking the truth in love (Ephesians 4:14-16). What works is wisdom that stands out from the crowd, because it is expressed with a love so sublime, that it cannot be ignored. Love always overcomes evil. Because where love is, there God is in all His power; there God will work with a supernatural power to bring about His purposes – a power that makes our angry little tantrums appear so … small and ineffective.

Does that mean that we have to be weak and wishy-washy? No.

Does it mean that we shouldn’t confront evil when we find it? No.

Does it mean that we shouldn’t speak out? No.

It means that whatever we say and do should so manifestly exemplify the sacrificial love of the God who sent His Son to die not just for us, but especially for every last sinner with whom we disagree, so that our argument simply cannot be ignored; so that Christ is glorified through us.

It means that we should love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us, so that we may be children of our Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:44)

People won’t always agree with us. That’s a fact. But they are much more likely to be won over by an argument of love, than of hate; of encouragement than of vitriol; of true wisdom than of the world’s “wisdom”.

Who is wise and understanding among you? Show by your good life that your works are done with gentleness born of wisdom. But if you have bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not be boastful and false to the truth. Such wisdom does not come down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, devilish. For where there is envy and selfish ambition, there will also be disorder and wickedness of every kind. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace for those who make peace. (James 3:13-18).

Abortion – My “Argument”

So, for me, when someone comes at me telling me that I don’t have a womb and how dare I impose my chauvinistic, outdated religious views on “a woman’s right to choose” here is my reply.

No, I’m not a woman, and I can’t imagine what it would be like to carry a child inside me that I don’t want. I simply cannot imagine. But here’s the thing. In this whole debate, there is one party that cannot speak and who must remain silent. It is the child.

And let me say, with all the love and respect that I can muster, if I were that child – I would ask you to give me the chance at the life that lies ahead for me. Good, bad or ugly, just give me the chance. Bear me to full term – and afterward give me up if you don’t want me – but please, give me the chance to live my life.

Would you do that for me?

And I pray for them. Because I know that even when I can do nothing else, prayer is the single, most powerful thing that I can do.

Please, if you are a Christian, can I implore you to think deeply about how your use of social media speaks of the God whom you purport to represent.

The test should always be: “Am I speaking the truth in love? Is what I am saying the truest reflection of the God whose Son died for every sinner on this earth? Do my words, bring Him glory?”

This article originally appeared as a blog on Premier.org.uk

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