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The Internet Is the New Frontier for Angry People to Hang Out

The Internet Is the New Frontier for Angry People Hang Out

The Internet is an angry place. It’s one of the sadder revelations about the Internet period in church history to see how it has become a context to put our sinful hearts on full display before the world. Revealing my wicked heart is not a new thing to those who know me, but having a new place to display it is new. The Internet is that space for too many of us to lower the gate and march our words out for the world to see.

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The Command Center

The Internet is not the cause of our anger, but it is merely the stage upon which we can let others know the latest ruminations in our hearts. Like real life, Internet communicators do not hide the ball: what you see is a commentary on who they are. James gave us the dichotomy that differentiates between what we see versus the source of those things.

What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel (James 4:1-2).

The cyberworld world was a surprise to me when I started blogging. Not being an avid Internet participant, and not being a blog troller or commenter on sites, I was not prepared for what I saw when I entered the blogosphere. The most alarming thing was the condition of our hearts—the command center that determines what we do.

The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks (Luke 6:45).

Not Universally

Of course, it’s not all bad. There are many bright spots inside this dark cloud of cyberspace communication: not every website, blogger, or viewer caves to unwholesome speech. One of those places is our website. God has given us the gift of a civil community where people can talk and disagree while not attacking each other, ad hominem—attacking the person and their ideas.

Occasionally, we will get the angry person who says something unkind or makes uncharitable judgments, putting us in our place. This individual is the exception. We are clear that we do not permit their communication style in our community, which is usually enough to encourage most of them to conform. Others choose to leave.

Anybody who blogs often and gets many readers will have to decide how to interact with angry believers. The reason I’m addressing Christians here is that we have the power to be a different kind of person. We do not have to act like our worldly counterparts.

Start Here

I treat the Internet like a church meeting where a speaker speaks to a broad audience. In that context people do not stand up in the room and voice their opposing opinion to the speaker. Imagine going to your church meeting on Sunday morning, and someone stood up and expressed an alternate view. That would be rude, distracting, unkind, and unwise.

If you disagree with what a speaker is saying, there is a better way to let him know: talk to him privately. For example, my website is a public forum where I am teaching, hopefully, from the Word of God. I also share my opinions about the Bible and how it intersects with our lives.

I do not expect everyone to agree with me. We do not teach a you-must-agree-with-me worldview. What we’re doing here is not about winning unanimous approval from our fanbase—a fool’s errand. Because we traffic in the practical application of God’s Word, there is a built-in expectation that folks will have other perspectives.

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Start Privately

When someone does disagree, we want them to do so in a more private setting first. It is a respectful thing to do. Conceptually, I’m speaking of the template that you see in Matthew 18:15-17. “If your brother offends you, go and tell him his fault.” This process is much different from blaring your alternate opinion in the public square.

Because your goal is about reconciling, your methodology should start on a more intimate level before it becomes a public matter. Matthew provides us a wise way to disagree on secondary issues, assuming that reconciliation is the goal. Sadly, too much talk on the Internet is about galvanizing the fanbase while alienating the other team, which opposes reconciliation principles.

Of course, if your disagreement with someone is on a primary issue—like the gospel—public discretion is not your highest aim. In such cases, people need a warning when someone is maligning the gospel. There are several helpful discernment sites that assist us with heretics. Even so, when conversing about the enemy, there are Christlike ways to do it.

When One Disagrees

There was a lady who commented on my Facebook page regarding my position on 1 John 1:9. She believes a Christian should not have to ask for forgiveness. She believes Christians are once and for all forgiven, and the church has misunderstood John’s teaching in his first letter. I disagreed with her position and chose to delete her comment to steer away from a public spat. In this instance, I sent her an email explaining why I did it.

  • I said that she is welcome to disagree with me anytime. I’m okay with it because I don’t have anything to protect or to hide.
  • Our social media sites are not places for Christians to argue. If you disagree with a public statement I make, write to me and tell me about it.

There were three reasons I responded this way:

  • While I disagree with her theology—at least on this one point, she is my sister, and I’m not going to have a public argument with her.
  • I’m soberly aware that many non-Christians are looking through our Christian community window. They are watching and learning how we talk to each other. We are to honor God with our speech.
  • I’m a busy person. I do not have the time or the desire to debate anyone. Interacting with “one-and-done, drive-by debaters” is not a wise way to steward the time that God has given to me.

The Art of Debate

There was a time when the debate stage was for those who had the skill set to stand on it. Then the Internet gave us a cyber debate stage that anyone can access. Sadly, most Christians are not writers or public speakers or have the theological depth to communicate in a debate format.

With this new public access to a different kind of stage, some folks don’t know how to use it redemptively, choosing, instead, to use it as a place to vent gossip and slander and to argue. Some of the ways that we communicate with each other sadden God and the body of Christ. It also sends the wrong message to those who do not know our Jesus.  There has to be a better way for us to do this.

I hope these thoughts will serve you as we engage each other in cyberspace. I do not share these things as though I have perfected Internet speech; I have not. There have been too many times when I was an impulsive keyboard warrior. To paraphrase our brother, James, be slow on the keystroke and quick to prayer. Sigh!

Six Quick Tips

Here is a inexhaustive list of helpful tips that I trust the Lord will use to spur you on to good works as you think about others. I would be interested to hear your thoughts on these ideas, plus others that you may have. If you want to share, you’re welcome to do that in our free community forum.

  1. You Are My Brother – If you are a brother or sister in Christ, we must talk to each other like brothers and sisters in Christ. The Spirit of God is in you and me. Christ died for us. We are the Father’s children. If I walked into your home and began to say unkind things to your child, you would be offended. When we say harsh things to or about God’s children, we are insulting the Almighty. My friends, this should not be. If we must disagree, we should not cop an ungodly attitude.
  2. Ask Questions First – It is impossible to say everything that needs to be communicated in a blog article, regardless of its length. Most of my articles are just over 2,000 words. A book is 40,000 or more words. There is no way a person will sufficiently cover a topic to your preferences. Give your brother or sister grace, which you can do by asking a question before you make a statement. We could avoid so much tension if a person would ask a question to gain clarification rather than make an assumptive statement.
  3. Trust Neither of Us – There is no doubt that I can be wrong about something. I have been wrong many times, and I will be wrong again. My wife could give you a long list of things that I’ve done wrong. Did you know you could be wrong, too? Wouldn’t it be better to enter into a conversation with a healthy amount of self-suspicion? Neither of us is omniscient. I will state my opinions, and you share yours. It would bless both of us if we did not strap our different views to a grenade and launch them at each other.
  4. No Public Arguments – I will not engage you in a public argument. There are three reasons for this: (1) It’s unnecessary for secondary issues. (2) I don’t have the time. (3) It does not build up the watchers, whether they are believers or not. If I write a heretical piece, I want you to come at me with your loving gospel guns blazing. Start privately. If I do not change, I want you to find a friend or two and approach me again.
  5. Allow Freedom – Why can’t it be okay to let a person have their freedom to live their Christ-life the way they choose? Are secondary matters that vital to you? If you need to share your view, will you do it kindly, with grace, allowing for both perspectives? Perhaps before you sound off on a matter, you could talk to your pastor or other trusted biblicist to gain their perspective. The process of taking the time to ask someone about it might be just enough to remind you that it’s not that essential to comment.
  6. Read the Context – If you have a different opinion and want to share it, make sure you understand the context before you disagree. Many times, a person will read a blurb from an article and miss the context. They sound off, inevitably hijacking the author’s point and creating an issue that did not exist because they did not take the time to clarify the context of the blurb. My rule-of-thumb is that if you’re too lazy or busy to gain the context, then I’m not going to permit you to take up my time to explain to you what the article already lays out for you.

Call to Action

  1. Are you a ready, fire, aim person when it comes to reacting to what you see on the Internet? Or are you more thoughtful, possessing self-control and patience? Perhaps reading your last ten comments on your favorite social media platform will answer the question for you.
  2. Are you a lazy commenter? You read a blurb and comment, not understanding the context. Do you know how foolish it is to consume another person’s time because you would not take the time to research, study, pray, and think about a matter?
  3. What do the last ten comments that you have made on your favorite social media platform reveal about your heart?
  4. How much time do you spend on the Internet? How much time do you spend in prayer? Will you share those two time allotments with a friend and ask their opinion on your stewardship practices?
  5. If you are an impulsive commenter, the next time you sense the temptation, will you wait thirty minutes before you type out what you want to say?
  6. Have you considered a social media fast? How do you think it would bless your soul? If you spend more time on the Internet than you should, what type of redemptive efforts could you do to bless others?
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