We've all seen it, perhaps we are part of it ... the assassination of others on social media. But when it is friends attacking friends, or fellow Christians attacking other Christians, it can leave hurts that can't be resolved like they could if the criticism had been face to face. In this post, Guy looks at trial by social media when judging other gets a little too close to home.
In a social media dominated world, are we more inclined to throw stones at others than before? … or is it just that it is more public?
And why do we feel that it is our right, perhaps even our duty to throw those stones at others?
Is trial by social media and Google search something we should be part of?
These are the question I have been asking myself over the last 24 hours as I have gone about my day with a heavy heart as a result of numerous stones being thrown by friends at people and organisations who God has used to help our family a great deal. What do you do when you are caught in the middle on social media, and are faced with watching friends lob grenades at others – and by association – at you and your other friends?
A Feeding Frenzy
Social media seems to create an environment where people of a particular view, persuasion or grievance feed off one another. One comment, then two, and in no time dozens if not hundreds of comments that grow ever stronger language and reteric that resembles a shark feeding frenzy. All the while, the person or organisation that is the subject of the abuse has no right of reply – nor any hope of engaging in a civilised and logical discussion. Is this how we should conduct ourselves? Is this ever justified?
I’m sure we have all seen these posts.
Words referring to people you know like ‘psychopath’, ‘evil’, ‘deviant’, ‘sociopath’, and others I can’t publish …
In such situations, is it better just to stay away or to respond?
To Comment or Not?
The dilemma is this:
If you comment and try and bring balance to the discussion, it may well backfire.
Proverbs 26:4 gives us this warning:
“Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest thou also be like unto him.” – Proverbs 26:4
Mark Twain put it another way:
“Never argue with a fool, onlookers may not be able to tell the difference.”
And yet if you say nothing, cyberspace becomes filled with a one-sided picture of the person or organisation in the spotlight … and people begin to believe where there is smoke, there is fire.
Trial by Google
Oh the power of Google search. How easy this has made life. It is helping me as I write this post to find quotes like Mark Twain’s above.
Yet do we rely on it to forge our views, even our judgement of others too quickly?
As a dad of 9 kids, I have a number of frequent sayings that I tend to come out with for my kids (and to remind myself). One of those is about not being too quick to judge.
“It is a poor judge that doesn’t consider both sides” – Guy Mullon
With so many kids, there are frequent disputes in our home, and some kids become more skilled at articulating ‘their side’ than others. As a father, I need to be careful that I am not siding with the most articulate, or the loudest, or the best at reasoning their case. I prefer to get a quick resolution when I have 10 disputes a day to resolve, but it is more important that I make a just judgement than a fast one.
None of us would like to be in a courtroom that didn’t allow a fair reply by the defence, or even to inform you that you were on trial at all … and yet that is exactly what happens in the courtroom of Google.
Trial by Google will never be just. It tends to be those who have a grievance or know of someone with a grievance, who tend to post about someone or an organisation, and therefore fill cyberspace on a topic. Why? because the grievance generates the passion to take the time, effort and courage to post something.
Try doing a search on a controversial public figure – what ratio of negative comments do you find vs positive comments?
Negative comments rule by a country mile.
I wonder what we would have found on Google in 33AD about Jesus and his disciples if it had of existed then?
Controversy Is Not Always A Bad Thing
The fact is though, that controversy is not always a bad thing.
In fact, Jesus was and is the most controversial person ever, and he warned his followers that we must be prepared for controversy as well.
There are many verses about this in the bible. Here are a few examples:
> “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” – 2 Tim 3:12
> “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you.” – John 15:18
> “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.” – 1 Peter 4:12-14
The idea of not being afraid of controversy is not one that is only applicable to religion. One of the things I learnt in my marketing master classes was that you NEEDED to have core premise that was powerful, provocative and controversial. You need to provide a clear line that specifies what you stand for. Those who agree will join you, and those who don’t will go elsewhere. If you try and be everything to everybody, you end up being nothing to anyone.
If you try and be everything to everybody, you end up being nothing to anyone. – unknown
But this goes against the grain somewhat, because none of us likes to be criticised. If we take a hit from a stranger, the impact doesn’t tend to last very long. But when that criticism is from family, friends, and is mean and perhaps ill-informed – that is when our teflon coating doesn’t keep the criticism from getting to us. It goes straight to our heart.
While we should expect criticism, we should be careful that we are not the ones who are judging others.
Am I A Just Judge?
Why should we not be the ones throwing stones? because when we condemn others, we will be hypocrites.
“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you” – Matthew 7:1-2
In John 8 there is a story about how the teachers of the law brought a woman to Jesus who had been caught in adultery. The law at the time demanded that she be put to death by being stoned. What was Jesus to say?
He spoke quietly and challenged those who watched to kill her if they were not guilty themselves.
The reality is that we are all guilty …
Have I lied? … yes, therefore I am a liar.
Have I stolen? … yes, therefore I am a thief.
Have I lusted after a woman? … yes, therefore I am an adulterer like the woman, because Jesus said in Matthew 5:28 that lust in my heart is as adultery.
The apostle John was probably there that day. This is what he later wrote:
“If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us”. – 1 John 1:8
I am guilty of this and more.
That is why I try and remember to resist the temptation to throw stones from my glasshouse.
In 1 Thessalonians 4, Paul exhorts us to aim to live holy lives, but he also tells us that man (or woman) is not to be the avenger of those who fail.
Why? because it is against God that we sin (see Psalm 51:4) and we disregard God, not man.
Yet when we survey the great people of history that God used, we can see the wickedness and weakness in them. If we like them, we forgive them and rationalise the great blessing they have been over and above their weakness.
King David is the classic example of this. (see 2 Samuel 11)
Very few Christians fail to read and hold with reverence his words in the Psalms, and yet this man was by his own confession someone who perved on a naked bathing woman, then used his power and position to manipulate and commit adultery with her to fulfil his own desires, got her pregnant and then tried to cover it up with murder of her husband who trusted him with his life. And this was when he knew God, not before.
Sadly, with many people in positions of influence, power and ministry, their testimony is damaged by a failure of character.
Where they thought they were strong, they are actually found to be weak.
The scriptures are littered with many such men.
What makes us think the men and woman in positions of power and influence today will be less prone to failing than those of the past?
David had many enemies too. Many detractors, many who were critical of him. They were people who didn’t see him like God saw him. They were people who didn’t have the benefit of history to view his life, so I wonder what Google and Facebook would have said about David had it been around?
What would Facebook have said about King David had it existed back then? – Guy Mullon
I am not for one moment comparing leaders of today with David – not in terms of the importance of their teaching or otherwise. My point is just that if David could fail so badly and yet loved God as much as he did, is it really reasonable for us to expect that men and woman today won’t fail badly too sometimes … how about often? Does that mean they are a heretic and going to hell?
But God chooses to use weaken, broken and sinful men for His purposes anyway … and in the age of social media, we don’t tend to like this very much.
We would rather those we listen and look up to for leadership and have stand in our pulpits and teach in our conferences have no faults. It would be nice if they were above reproach – but rarely can any of us go through life with such a perfect reputation.
It is probably more likely that they simply don’t know what we and God know about ourselves.
The question still remains, what do we do when we have a genuine grievance against someone?
Well, go to your bible and find out what to do. It is not my purpose here to give a thorough examination of this … plenty of books are available on the subject. But here are a few ideas:
1.make sure it is a genuine grievance on our part and not one we have taken up on behalf of others (except in exceptional circumstances)
In Luke 12:13-14, two brothers tried to get Jesus to take sides over the split of an inheritance. Jesus refused to take an offence one against the other.
In Matthew 5:9, Jesus said “Blessed are the peacemakers …”. It is pretty difficult to be a peacemaker when we are taking up someone else’s offence.
There may be exceptional circumstances when someone is completely unable to deal with an offense against them, and so requires an advocate. In such a case, I suggest that the elders of their church being of spiritual maturity and some responsibility for the care of the offended, represent the offended on their behalf.
There is also of course cases where the law of the land has been broken, and in such case the proper authorities must be made aware of the alleged crime and then the law of justice should be served through the court system and the rule of law.
2. Approach the person with your grievance personally
Matthew 18:15-17 is the classic passage that indicates first steps when you have a grievence against another.
“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone (emphasis added). If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.”
Pretty clear really. We have no place dragging someone through social media before we have personally done at least this.
Sometimes someone who has hurt us will not acknowledge their wrong, let alone ask for forgiveness.
Yet Colossians 3:13 says “bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.”
This isn’t even conditional on the other asking for forgiveness. Jesus forgave when he was on the cross before he was asked to. He is our example.
Remembering that unforgiveness leads to bitterness, and bitterness is like drinking poison and hoping the other person gets hurt.
Forgiveness is a decision we must make, not a feeling, and it is for our benefit more than theirs!
Spiritual Auto-Immune Disease
Jesus took pains to point out that believers in Him are all part of the same body, and so when one part of the body hurts it all is affected. (see 1 Corinthians 12:27)
Pain in one part impacts the rest – or so it should.
In this day and age there seems to have been a massive increase in auto-immune diseases. There are many different types, from Addison’s disease to Multiple Sclerosis. An auto-immune disease is when the body attacks its self. Doctors normally don’t know why and there is often no cure in conventional medicine.
Sadly, the body of Christ also has an auto-immune disease.
Yes, Christians have always attacked each other, but the rate today seems to have increased.
Or perhaps it just seems that way because of social media. I’m not sure.
But it is very sad and distracts us from the real battle, and I’m sure it grieves the Spirit of God and gives glee to Satan.
I don’t know about you, but I will be trying not to be a part of this auto-immune problem. Join with me and let’s examine ourselves in the light of Christ’s forgiveness of us.
“Let us test and examine our ways, and return to the LORD!” – Lamentations 3:40
Thanks for reading.
Leave a comment and let me know what I’ve missed.