Updated: Nov 8, 2022
Why are we compelled to get into Facebook debates? We know that sparring on social media is never profitable. Yet we often defend our honor, (or the honor of those with whom we agree) in order to win the argument. It usually ends up with us suffering from high blood pressure and low self-esteem. Emotions are high. Lines are drawn. Friends are lost. Can you relate?
Have you ever thought that doing the right thing was going to be the "right thing" to do? It's funny how saying the right things, or sharing the truth, will always offend someone. I heard a long time ago that "it's not always the right time to do the right thing." You have to choose your timing and presentation wisely. Maybe you agree with that mentality. Maybe you don't. I think it makes sense. Regardless of your opinion we must be prepared for the consequences. Both bad and good. Everything you do on the Internet is public and permanent. If you aren't ready to face the arrows stay out of range of the archers. They will aim. They will fire. And someone will get hurt.
A recent re-post of an article on my Facebook page caused a firestorm of criticism. Some of it was public, but I also received many personal messages, IM/DMs, text, emails, etc. The article was written by a minister within the churches of Christ about the urgency of baptism. It was extremely timely and exceptionally written. After reading it, and having prayerfully considered what to do with that information, I decided to repost it on my personal page. It was re-posted with no commentary. No tags. No locations. No names mentioned. No specific congregations were mentioned. The article says all the things I would have loved to say but did not have the fortitude. However, the comment section became a spirited “conversation” about anything but the article. I feared that it was becoming too personal. So I ended up deleting ALL of the comments. Nearly 100 of them. Most of the comments were fantastic! But it got ugly. Did it stop? No. The individuals who were offended by me deleting their comments took to other social media pages, and even to some other posts on my page (completely unrelated), to vent their outrage. It got uglier.
When I made my original post I went about my day not knowing what the next 48 hours would hold. It wasn't long before I saw the notification bells going off on Facebook. In the comments section of that Facebook thread things got awkward quickly. There were some specific individuals who made some false statements that clearly have no merit against me. Why? Heaven knows. These hateful comments had absolutely nothing to do with the original post. Nor were they relevant to the topic being discussed. Instead blame was placed at my feet, and at the feet of other church leaders, for why they had left the faith. Sad. Very sad. And they needed a scapegoat for why they left the Lord and pursued a life outside the faith.
My heart breaks for these young adults. I knew them when they were children but did not serve as their youth minister. They claimed to have left the church years ago. They see the Lords church as a cult (article posted below to refute this false statement). Yes. You read that correctly. Sadly, I have watched many kids leave their morality and abandon their spiritually after high school graduation. Even after going to a Christian college and receiving church donations/scholarships to attend. However, two of these people have continued to spread hate and egregious misinformation on their own individual Facebook pages about the church. They took this opportunity to vilify people and condemn Christians. They placed strategic emojis on comments in an attempt to further their agenda and provocation toward debate on many other Christian posts on other pages regarding this same issue. Awful. Right?
When this happened on my personal page I was taken aback. These individuals had never commented on any of my previous posts in recent memory. At first, I asked for facts and references for their wild comments. Then, others asked for the same information. What are you talking about? Where did you get this information? Was it true? Had these things really happened? When? Where? How does this have anything to do with the original post on baptism? A friend of mine cautioned, "You know healthy debate has ended when things get personal." He was right. No explanations. No details or sources. Just hateful comments. I ended up deleting all of the comments (even the good ones) because it made my friends vulnerable for attack.
Sadly, I had to unfriend four of these young people to stop the comments from hurting people. You may say, "it's not a big deal," however, it's the most I've unfriended in one day. I hate to block or unfriended people. All my platforms are public. I believe we should listen to people. Even if they have nothing to say but falsehoods. It's what Jesus did. I don't like cutting people off or shaking the dust from my feet. I prefer giving people the benefit of the doubt and hope they offer me the same courtesy. Why? I live by an old motto: "Hurt people, hurt people." I hated it to be me and my followers but someone needed to listen. Now that door is shut. At least temporarily.
After this experience I had 3 take a ways. 1) It’s never right to slander the character of someone else. We are fruit inspectors not judges. I had an elder tell me once: “Believe none of what you hear and only half of what you see.” Sometimes we believe the first person. We don't fact check. Defamation and slander are malicious forms of lying, and God hates lying (Exodus 20:16; Proverbs 6:16–19; 10:18; 12:22; I Peter 2:1). Don't sink into the mud because everyone ends up looking like the instigator of the fight. It's why my momma always spanked me and my brother when we'd fight or argue. She knew she'd get the culprit one way or another.
2) We may be able to edit or delete comments but we cannot remove the pain it has inflicted. The worst accusation was that we (churches of Christ) were/are a cult. Two of the young ladies in the gutter still have family members in the church. I can't imagine what their family thinks of their posts and participation in such hateful rhetoric. I pray they didn't read it. The NIV rendering of Ephesians 4:29 says, "Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen." We might also add to "those who read" our communication as a context for our benefit today.
3) Those who are critical, judgmental and harsh are really crying out for help. It is my professional opinion, and my personal experience, that people who are intentionally trying to spark debate or controversy must have an agenda. Sometimes it's seen. Sometimes it's unseen. Clearly no one should want to say hateful things without expecting a reaction. This is most evident on Social Media. It's one reason why many wise Christians are opposed to using it. Be careful not to give the devil a foothold (Ephesians 4:27). Don't let him use your words or actions to help his cause.
We are supposed to pray for those who persecute us and speak hateful things against us (Matthew 5:44). Always try to see the other person's point of view. More often than not when someone posts some thing on my page I will go to their individual page to see what they're posting. It gives you a little insight as to what they're dealing with right now. Sometimes people react in an unbecoming way (or an unChristian like way) because they are currently being attacked by the devil. Concerning my specific situation, individuals began to speculate and assume things about myself and the original author of the post. I prayed, remained still, and then responded. This was fruitless. Therefore, I did the only thing I knew to do and that was delete all of the information, both positive and negative.
Should we stop using the Internet? Is social media from the devil? What happens when people attack you without provocation? Give it to God. Don't stop standing for the truth. Don't stop being yourself. But be prayed up and ready for the attack. All who love godly in Christ Jesus "will suffer" persecution (II Timothy 3:12, James 1:2). Don't be discouraged. The Lord is with you. And He loves you both.
You are loved.
Dr. Ray Reynolds
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