For many years now, I have enjoyed visiting various websites, blogs and groups on the Internet to participate in or observe conversations on various topics. It has always been fun and informative. However within the last few years, I noticed a trend that concerns me. In the past, secular websites would often get into a disagreement on an issue and comments would fly like fur during a cat fight. People's feelings would be wounded and a number would leave never to return. How sad! However, blogs and the Internet are not the only places this is happening. Even in our civil discourse over political issues, we find people throwing vitriolic barbs at one another as though they had been life long enemies rather than representing their views in a constructive manner. Little is accomplished when this happens. Instead, people are separated one from another.
Unfortunately, I have begun to see this happen even on Christian websites and blogs. Instead of presenting arguments and ideas in a respectful manner, some folks attack without warning leaving the conversations in a tatter. It happens, as well, in church meetings, national congregational meetings, and
at times, within the home of a believer. The old joke goes, "What did you have for lunch on Sunday, roasted Pastor?" These really are not laughing matters but something we all ought to take to the Lord in prayer. It is hard enough to deal with those in the world who attack the faith. When Christian brothers and sisters turn the guns on one another, there are many casualties.
Jesus taught His disciples how we need to relate to one another and to God. In the Gospel of John chapter 13 verses 34-35, Jesus said: "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples if you have love for one another." This is one of the most critical statements Jesus made. Our love for each other is to mirror the love that Christ has for us. What kind of love does He demonstrate? The word agape best describes it. This word refers to an unconditional love. Nothing can be done to earn that love...it literally says, "I love you in spite of your imperfections." Secular society does not operate in this kind of love. The world's love is more "I will love you if you perform according to my standards. It is self-centered and self-serving. Our Lord wanted us to stand out and be different in the way we relate to one another so it would be evident to those outside the faith that we possess a love that builds up, edifies and does not tear down. This is what makes the Christian faith attractive.
In addition to uttering this command, Jesus carried the concept further. John 14:15 reads: "If you love me, you will keep my commandments." Beyond professing with our lips that we love the Lord, our lives should reflect obedience to Him and to His commandments. With regard to our words and deeds, Scripture is clear. We are not to kill, lie, steal, slander, or envy one another. Likewise, we are to honor our parents and not commit the sin of adultery (Exodus 20: 9-17). Jesus summed up all the Law and prophets by reminding His disciples that we were to love God with all our heart and all our soul and all our mind and our neighbors as our self. By walking in obedience, we prove that we have had a heart change towards God and man alike.
Paul, in his epistles, echoes these commands from the Lord. I Thessalonians 5:11 reads: "Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing." In his letter to the Romans, Paul again writes in 14:15: "So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding." These passages point to the importance of encouraging one another. This shows love and commitment as brothers and sisters in Christ. This does not mean that we can never disagree. However, there is a right way and a wrong way to go about this. Beating someone over the head with your Bible (figuratively speaking) in public is certainly not the way to glorify the Lord. Rather, Christ exhorted us to go to a brother or sister privately if we have an issue with them. We are to make every effort to show love in what we say and do. This is God honoring.
When we read a public blog or website where Christians are engaged in derogatory comments, it is no different than being in a public meeting. Non-Christians who come to read think that if this is the way Christians respond to one another they would rather not become a believer. Our witness is seen everywhere we go for we carry Christ in these vessels of clay. Whether we write, speak in a public gathering or in some other forum, we need to exemplify love for one another, respect, courtesy, and measure our words before we say them. Reputations can be damaged, fellowship can be broken, and irreparable harm to a ministry can occur when we become a judge and jury of another brother or sister.
Responding to a person in love means showing restraint, humility, and careful thought. If there is some error we are trying to address, we should do so remembering, first, how Christ loved us unconditionally. No one can win another back into the fold by attacking him. Our job is to pray, weigh our words carefully and allow the Holy Spirit to work in their life.
Words and actions are powerful. They preach to others what we have in our heart. We can either have a positive impact on others or create turmoil which leads to confusion. Satan loves to see the Body of Christ at war with itself. Therefore, let us be the peacemakers as much as possible. Let our love for one another be the key characteristic that people see in our lives, and let us behave as ambassadors in this world for Christ. There are too many people perishing without the knowledge of our Savior every day for us to spend our time battling one another over things which one day we may realize were not that important in light of eternity. Selah!