What you say and how you say it is more important than who you end up voting for. Who you end up voting for is a matter of conscience, and reasons will vary from person to person. I will talk about all that in a few moments. But rudeness in speech, or writing, is a violation of God’s law. Lack of self-control is a work of the flesh and not the Spirit. When we fail to love others, it misrepresents God’s holy character to other Christians……and to the world. In other words, the love we show to others when we communicate carries more weight in Heaven than the time we spend inside the polling booth. And besides, you’ll spend way more time doing one than the other.
I am speaking about your rhetoric here. According to Wikipedia, rhetoric is defined as “the art of discourse, an art that aims to improve the capability of writers or speakers to inform, most likely to persuade, or motivate particular audiences in specific situations.” We use it more often than we realize. Some days it’s constant. Other days not so much. But ultimately, we can’t get away from situations where we need to use words to persuade others in some way.
When you are gone from this earth, people will still remember your words…….especially words that had either a positive or negative impact on them. But most people won’t get into the ins and outs of who you voted for. Life and death are in the power of the tongue, says Proverbs, not in the power of your vote. Yes, who we vote for is important, and I recognize that. But there is something far more valuable that looks to be a blind spot amongst some Christian social media users. God has recently shown me my blind spot, or at least one of them! And had He not shown me, I may have alienated one of the best guys I know with my prideful and ill-timed rhetoric. It isn’t too late for me, or any of you. With the election still nearly 3 months away, we have time to make strides in our social media sanctification. This isn’t to say that everyone on social media is guilty. But I have seen a pattern, both on Facebook and the Blogosphere. I have seen it now in my own heart. The last one took the longest for me to notice.
And let’s be real here. Not one Christian has all the right answers on this political stuff. The minute we think we’ve made the greatest argument for our candidate (or non-candidate if you’re not voting), the chair gets pulled from under us and someone comes up with a rebuttal that we simply cannot refute. Of course, in many cases our pride will surely make an attempt to refute it. We often do this even when we know we’ve lost. (Married men, you know what I’m talking about! We are guilty as charged.) And even after our pride miserably fails, and we know we can’t refute someone, we will google search to see the best responses others have come up with. And if google has nothing, we’ll youtube it. That way, we have a ready arsenal to strike down the latest aggressor against our “perfect” political opinions.
In some ways, this year’s election is a lot like the last one…….and the one before that. We have two primary candidates, and a few third party candidates as well. Christians went to that all important forum to voice their most highly prized opinions: social media. What’s wrong with that? Nothing. Social Media can be a great tool. Notice I said it can be a great tool. But just like a hammer, it can either be used to build up, or to destroy. I have seen everything from questioning people’s salvation because of who they are voting for, to the prevalence of the “why I’m right and everyone else is wrong” attitude, to outright anger and vitriol directed toward any disagreeing parties.
This subject has been on my heart a very long time. But I kept putting it off thinking that things would get better. I thought the day would come when I would jump on Facebook and see well-organized political debates saturated with kind, humble rebuttals up and down my news feed. It never happened though. But something else happened that I really did not see coming: my own sin was exposed. I involved myself in a dispute with a brother who loves Christ more than most people I know. In attempting to defend my political choices, I offended him instead. I place the blame on myself. He is too godly to allow me to do that though, so he ended up apologizing to me as well. I entered the debate trying to break his reasoning down. I wanted to show everyone on that post just how clever my argument was. Clever, maybe. But hidden in so much pride and defensiveness that no one would have noticed anyway.
Brothers and sisters, do not let this get the best of you. Watch out for the evil one here, because he is out to devour you and your friendships in Christ. And believe me, if he can do that, he doesn’t care one bit whether Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, or a Third Party candidate wins. He is more interested in getting you to demean others on your way to the polling booth. He is more interested in getting you to craft that perfect sarcastic response to someone in your Facebook comments. People, I fell victim to this recently. By God’s grace, things have been made right with my brother. But this is a warning to all. I care about how the body of Christ treats one another. And we cannot simply blame the devil for these things. Our hearts condemn us as well.
Christians, Scripture has much to teach us when it comes to our social media habits. I hope and pray these points are beneficial to you. I am only scratching the surface here, but I’m convinced it’s that important. Why should you care so much about how you engage in Facebook debates, especially the political ones happening all the time on our newsfeeds? For many reasons. Here are 5 of them!
1) God will judge our words. We will give a direct account to Him on our Judgment Day. Jesus said, “I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” (Matthew 12:36-37) Yes, every careless, meaningless word we have ever spoke verbally, or written on blogs and social media will be brought into account. These aren’t just words that were intended to tear people down, but words that were not used to build others up. Ephesians 4:29 states, “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” Please……don’t play with fire on this one. Also, read this helpful but terrifying quote from Stephen Charnock: “Can a man’s conscience easily and delightfully swallow that which he is sensible falls under the cognizance of God, when it is hateful to the eye of His holiness, and renders the actor odious to Him? . . . Temptations have no encouragement to come near him that is constantly armed with the thoughts that his sin is booked in God’s omniscience.” You may get the best of someone on Facebook. You may copy the best quotes into your comment section. You may have more people agreeing with you on a particular post. But if your words are careless, the One who has eyes like a flame of fire knows what you are doing. So before you post that meme meant to dehumanize someone else’s favorite candidate, think about it long and hard before you click the infamous “post” button. In fact, I say read it about 5 times before you post it! And if you’re still unsure, have someone you love and trust read it. Remember, if it tears someone down, it could be brought up at the Judgment.
2) Presidential terms last for only four years. Our unity in Christ lasts forever. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 13:13, “So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” I used to wonder what this verse meant when it said the greatest is love. Most commentators believe that love is listed as the greatest because Paul knew that faith would one day become sight. Hope, which is our certain expectation even now, will become a reality one day. But love will go on and on and on……………forever. It continues into the New Heavens and New Earth. Jesus will love us forever. Christians will love Him forever. And we will love each other forever. And each Person of the Trinity will love each other Person forever and ever. Beautiful thought, isn’t it??!! Folks, whoever gets elected will be ousted in either 4 years, or 8 years. Their term will come to an end. And they too will one day come to an end. Since love lasts forever, why not practice it now? We’re commanded to do so. God delights in our obedience, and so should we.
3) The world is watching. In John 17, Jesus speaks these famous words: “The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.” Very simple. Lost people are watching us. Jesus has told us this clearly. In fact, I did not quote the whole section, but he says this same thing in back to back verses. Christian, the world is watching everything you do. They are watching you at work, when they come to your home, when they visit you at church, and when you post and comment on Facebook. Let us make sure we are representing our Savior well. God wants His children to show the world that we love one another. Let’s start obeying that commandment with every part of our lives, especially when engaging in social media debates
4) Bad conversational habits lead to sinful patterns that will be hard to overcome. Often times, we worry more about how to refute an argument than we do in listening to it. Our objective should be to further conversation, not strike it down. Sometimes we are planning our response as the other person is speaking. This leads to nowhere good. James 1:19 everyone: “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.” Everyone is talking. Everyone is writing and commenting. But very few are listening. And sad to say, very few are thinking before they speak. This is not the way of Christ. Let us be mindful of these sinful patterns. And let us repent of them. Otherwise, the enemy will get a foothold. And social media is an easy place to establish bad patterns. It is so tempting to quickly respond to someone who is not standing right next to you. But be careful, those comments will hurt someone. Trust me.
5) You could be wrong. Others have just as strong convictions as you have. Every true Christian wants to do the right thing. And we all believe we are doing the right thing with our vote, or non-vote. We should not think too highly of our own opinions on this election. Why? Well, besides the dangers of pride…….I would also say that an election that has caused so much disagreement in the body of Christ indicates that no one has this all figured out. If it were that simple and clear-cut, then we would all be happy happy, joy joy. (some of you get that) There are godly people on all sides of this monster. Some are voting for Trump, some Hillary, some Third Party, and some not voting at all. Many Christians are presenting this election as clearly a black and white issue, failing to see that there is much gray in it. If there are godly men and women who think so differently on this election, then who are any of us to say that our arguments are definitely the best? Can we not show grace and tolerance for others we disagree with? We all believe we have great reasons for how we are going to vote, or not vote. Conscience is the determining factor here. Of course, our conscience should always be shaped by Biblical principles. There are also other things people take into account when they vote. Things like: their background and experiences, what their ethnicity is, their knowledge of the candidates, specific issues they believe are most important, how a particular candidate will affect other branches of government, etc., etc. The list could be almost endless.
♦ A final word of hope and encouragement for those of us who have sinned.
There is abundant forgiveness in Christ! Amen and Hallelujah!! God is merciful and gracious. 1 John 2:1, “My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” If you have sinned in your words to another Christian, or anyone for that matter, look to the cross of Jesus Christ. There you will find cleansing. If you believe now that meme you posted was nasty in its portrayal of your least favorite candidate, confess to God how you offended your brother or sister. And I would even suggest you confess how you did not honor those in government positions. We are to pray for them. We are not to mock them with memes that are cruel and dehumanizing. Remember, Christ died for sinners. He will forgive you, and give you the strength to move on. His Spirit will bring repentance to your heart. I know how charged up politics can be sometimes. But we must walk by the Spirit and not let our emotions rule over us. It is not a sin to use Facebook to post about controversial issues, but God help us when we do!
Love lasts forever. Love endures all things. Presidential terms do not.
For additional help on taming the tongue, or taming the clicker on your computer mouse, here is the best sermon ever on how to use words, and how not to use them. You can tell I am not biased at all on how good this sermon is. Paul Tripp really nails it here.
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