I want to say that I’m not picking a fight, but encouraging my friends. I invite you to study the Bible and see for yourself…don’t just believe this stuff because I say it; believe it because of what you see in the Bible. Also, feel free to ask me to prove that what I say is true. I will be happy to send Bible verses and hopefully discuss it more in person.
I was on Facebook recently, and one of my friends had posted about something that offended her. You see, she was a Christian, and she was offended about a gay pride festival in which the people staged a mock crucifixion of a naked “trans-Jesus” to celebrate the LGBT community. Even though I know that this took place outside of the United States, and I know that not every country has freedom of religion, I’d be lying if I said that this celebration wasn’t hurtful to me also. In fact, I’d be willing to bet that anyone would be offended if their religion was made fun of, whether it be Hindus, Muslims, Atheists, Jews, Christians, or Druids. Anyway, there was a long chain of comments putting her down for being offended. They were expressing severe dissatisfaction with the fact that she was judging people for their beliefs and not letting them have their own opinions (this surprised me since she was merely saying she was offended by the mocking of her faith). They were also misinterpreting Scriptures, to support their comments.
As tempted as I was to start correcting people, and explain the actual message of the Word, I knew that it would be unwise. I learned many years ago that it is a waste of time to get into these debates on social media. I confess that before I knew what it truly meant to follow Jesus, I used to lose control sometimes and write awful things. I’m ashamed of this fact, but that’s not me anymore. That guy is dead. I’ve learned that no one ever wins these things.
Most of them are started out of pain and hatred rather than the desire to seek mutual understanding. Anything that is said will instantly be interpreted as hostile (especially if it was intended to be hostile anyway). If someone disagrees with you, you can simply type, “You are an idiot, sir, and are therefore not credible.” Who is going to stop you? Who’s really going to be able to prove you wrong in a comments section? Most people are probably going to just ignore the small novel you write in response anyway? The easiest comments to read are the ones that are small and damaging, like a snake bite. This is a very real issue anyway with the current existence of cyber-bullying. When you are safely behind a screen, it is pretty easy to have the confidence to say whatever is on your heart. The problem with that is that most of the time, we don’t have the best things in our heart; most of the time our thoughts are judgmental, cruel, and vulgar. Try writing down every thought you have for a day and see if I’m wrong. Jesus once said that everything that is in your heart, whether good or bad, will eventually be revealed by the things you say (read Luke 6:45).
When we let our hearts speak freely online, we can very easily lose control. The tongue is, after all, very hard to control. James 3 speaks a great deal of wisdom into this. The author says that in the same way a small spark can start a gigantic forest fire, our tongues can have a lasting and damaging impact on anyone. Remember, we often tend to speak what is on our hearts. Have you ever lost control and said something that you regret? Can you imagine what it would be like if every thought you had about someone was spoken?
James continues, “For if we could control our tongues, we would be perfect and could also control ourselves in every other way.” We all make mistakes sometimes. That’s what happens when no one is perfect. The only way to control what we say is to control what is in our hearts.
Jesus said that you can discern, or JUDGE, the species of tree by looking at its fruit. You know that an apple tree is an apple tree because it has apples hanging on its branches. A banana tree has bananas. A healthy tree has healthy fruit, an unhealthy tree has unhealthy fruit, and a dead tree will not have fruit at all (Matthew 7:16-18). If we were to say that this standard is a true one and measure every tree by that standard (which we do), it would be pretty easy to look at a tree and figure out what tree it is based on its fruit or individual leaves. Common sense. Earlier in this same chapter of Matthew, Jesus says that the standard you use to judge others will also be used to judge you. When Jesus talks about trees, he is actually comparing them to people. If you judge a person’s heart by the things you see in his or her life, then you will also be judged by the things that are seen in your life.
You can JUDGE what type of person you see by what they produce in their lives. A violent person is probably going to act violent. A confused person is probably going to act confused. A liar is probably going to lie, and a healthy person is probably going to act healthy. Again, the content of our hearts is indicative of what we will say or do. Fairness, justice, and equality would demand that the same standard be used. Logic would then propose that it is ok to JUDGE as long as we are ok with being JUDGED. The only way a person would possibly be ok with this is if he or she knew that God saw him/her as perfect, and that God is working to help him/her live that way. This is actually God’s plan for us; thanks to Jesus, it is a reality.
In John 15, Jesus says, “[God] cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more.” If we are going to control our tongues, we need to start by controlling our hearts. Only God can do that. The great news in all of this is that there is a way to be seen as perfect by God. On Judgment Day, there is a way to have God look at all the wrong you’ve ever done, and have Jesus say, “No, this person is innocent.” The only way is to realize and acknowledge that Jesus’ death is able to atone for everything we’ve done wrong, and every time we will mess up. This is called “justification.” It means that we are seen as perfect in the eyes of God. I have also heard it explained this way: To be justified is to be “just-if-I’d” never sinned at all. As God works on our hearts more and more, our lives actually start to resemble what God sees (we call this one “sanctification”).
If you are a Christian, know this: This is all part of a conversation that should really be had in person with an open Bible and an open heart. No one will pay attention in an online debate. Therefore, don’t try to respond whenever someone tries to provoke an argument. Our words can be hard enough to control as they already are. I am NOT saying it is wrong to voice your opinion. The United States is, after all, a free country–we have been blessed with the freedom to say what we believe without fear of punishment. I am merely saying that defending those beliefs in an online setting is a trap that can destroy a Christian. If you want to defend your beliefs, try to do it in person. Otherwise, the most beneficial thing to do is to encourage our brothers and sisters to stand firm in their faith; to encourage them to not be disheartened by the words other people say. Don’t give up on truth just because many people don’t believe it.
And if you are speaking truth, never let anyone shame you into silence by saying “you’ve probably sinned before too” or “stop judging.” Aside from the fact that Jesus never plainly said “don’t judge people,” the very faith that we have declares that we are justified by (1.) sincerely choosing to follow Jesus and by (2.) believing that his death is sufficient for taking the place of the death we deserve. Again, this allows us to be justified. (And again, by that I mean “seen as sinless in God’s eyes”) This DOESN’T mean that we will never sin again, but that we have made a decision to live like Jesus instead of the world. We have chosen to give our hearts to God and let Him remove the “bad fruit.” This means that if you fail to meet the standard of perfection, you can still turn back to God, knowing that Jesus’ death covers ALL your sins.
Our ultimate goal is the same goal that God has: peace. No more pain or sadness or violence or failure. Jesus is coming back y’all; this is the hope that we have. I pray that God will speak something to you in your heart.