Someone on Twitter made unkind comments about my physical appearance this past weekend. Of course his remarks hurt a bit. I’ve felt more self-conscious when I’m around people, wondering if how I look offends them as much as it evidently offended the author of those unpleasant tweets.
But for the most part, I understood that the person just wanted to get a rise out of me. He had insulted a number of other Christians on Twitter that day, apparently threatening violence against a few of them. Obviously, he was merely a stupid kid desperately trying to get attention. Several people reported him. I believe Twitter suspended his account.
His cracks about my appearance didn’t trouble me nearly as much as the juvenile way that people (including Christians) interact online lately. They troubled me because I’ve been tempted to make personal remarks about certain false teachers that I’ve blogged about or have challenged on Twitter. You’d think that of all people, I’d be the last one to make fun of how someone looks, but the taunts I received Saturday forced me to think about my own temptations to make ad hominem attacks on people.
Really, I think many of us need to start examining what we say on social media. Maybe our cutting remarks show more sophistication than the tweets that young man concocted, but sometimes our words also expose the rottenness of our own hearts.
Jesus made it abundantly clear that our words reveal the true condition of our hearts.
14 And he called the people to him again and said to them, “Hear me, all of you, and understand: 15 There is nothing outside a person that by going into him can defile him, but the things that come out of a person are what defile him.” 17 And when he had entered the house and left the people, his disciples asked him about the parable. 18 And he said to them, “Then are you also without understanding? Do you not see that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile him, 19 since it enters not his heart but his stomach, and is expelled?” (Thus he declared all foods clean.) 20 And he said, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him. 21 For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, 22 coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. 23 All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.” ~~Mark 7:14-23 (ESV)
Although He referred directly to the words we actually speak, I believe the principle equally applies to what we type. That being the case, let’s think about a couple points in relation to how we use social media.
First of all, we need to remember that the people we address online are actual people. Just like you and I. Consequently, their feelings get hurt just like our feelings get hurt. The Internet gives such an illusion of anonymity that we easily forget that we’re typing to people who drive their kids to school, take out their trash and brush their teeth. We don’t think of them struggling with the rising cost of groceries or anxiously awaiting test results from their doctors.
Our callous disregard for them as human beings should embarrass us! The Lord would have us treat them with dignity, just as we expect them to treat us with dignity. They may indeed propagate perverted teachings that demand sharp rebukes, but let’s make sure that we confine those rebukes to their errors and sinful behaviors, shall we? It may seem witty to play on their names or physical attributes, but they have no control over those things.
Nor should we make catty remarks about their children with the intent of portraying them as bad parents. How obedient are your kids?
Finally, we might want to consider whether or not our words online reflect our Lord Jesus Christ. Sure, people will reject the Gospel no matter how winsomely we present it, and they will defend any false teachers they follow regardless of how much we document our warnings. However, their rebellion against truth by no means justifies unbecoming behavior on our part.
We serve the risen Savior. Let’s behave accordingly. Even online.