“I admire people who know when to quit,” essayist Joseph Epstein once opined. Unfortunately, during an election year many people don’t quit . . . posting their thoughts on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and God knows however many other social media websites happen to be in existence.
I once heard someone say that reading the opinions posted by commenters on websites made him feel like he had fallen into hell itself. True, that’s overstatement, but the point trying to be made is clear. It’s a rather unedifying spectacle to say the least.
Although I know better, the other day I read the comments posted on a particular website. I went away bothered, grieved, and saddened. Two thoughts came to mind as I’ve reflected on that experience.
We need to take time to pray and think before we post a comment. James writes, “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God” (1:19-20). Note carefully the words: quick to hear . . . slow to speak. We will give an account to God for every word spoken and written. When you read further, you find James reminding readers: “If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless” (v. 27). I’m certainly guilty of not always thinking before I post a comment or blog, but I’m thankful that the Lord convicts me, and I’m able to grow from that experience. I’m learning to pray, “God, is it really necessary for me to say this?”
We should stop assuming the worst of people. As I read the comments in the blog I was reading, people made one vicious comment after another, assuming they knew why the person did and said what he did and said. As far as I can recall from my theology courses in seminary, omniscience is not a communicable attribute. Therefore, unless someone tells us why they did what they did, we don’t and can’t know. As followers of Christ, we ought to be characterized by poorness of spirit (Matt. 5:3), mercy (5:7), purity (v. 8), humility (Phil. 2:1-11) gentleness (Gal. 5:23), and, above all, love (1 Cor. 13:1-7). Obviously, we can still confront people; but even that should be done in love (Eph. 4:15). And I seriously doubt whether that can be done by commenting on a Facebook post (or other social media site).
Paul tells us that love “bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” Frank Thielman’s comments on this verse have always stuck with me: “Love believes the best of others and hopes the best for them.” If readers judge such words as naïve, then I hope I’m willing to be naïve.
Maybe today you’ll resolve to think before you post. I think that would be a wise decision. After all, in the words of the inimitable Carl Trueman, “not every thought that sparks between the synapses in your gray matter needs to be written down.”