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Dog-Fights and Discernment

At the end of 2021, I deleted all of my social media. Not just deactivated but full on nuked it as I described to a friend. I felt like Joseph running from Potiphar’s wife, so desperate to remove myself from the situation that I figuratively dropped my cloak and ran.

My problem wasn’t the anti-biblical content, although there are unsearchable depths of that. It was actually Christian accounts that were causing me the most grief. Accounts that most closely aligned with my professed doctrine, theology and convictions were provoking and exposing heinous sin within my heart. They didn’t stir me to up to love and good works (Heb 10:24) but rather stirred me to split hairs, fight over nuance, and condemn anyone who disagreed. 

I read an article recently about Martin Lloyd-Jones confronting a fellow minister of the faith, T. T. Shields, over his apparent love of controversy. Shields asked Lloyd-Jones if he read much of a particular author and Lloyd-Jones said he did not, citing that he didn’t find his works helpful. Shields was shocked by his answer and Lloyd-Jones continued “It’s all very well to make these criticisms of the liberals, but he doesn’t help me spiritually.”

Shields responded, “Surely you are helped by the way he makes mincemeat of the liberals?”

“No, I am not,” Lloyd-Jones responded. “You can make mincemeat of the liberals and still be in trouble in your own soul.”

Shields defended his attitude saying, “Do you know, every time I indulge in what you call one of these ‘dog-fights’ the sales of [his newspaper] go right up.”

“Well,” Lloyd-Jones followed, “I have always observed that if there is a dog-fight a crowd gathers; I’m not at all surprised. People like that sort of thing.”

I was so busy cheering for the destruction of someone else that I didn’t realize I was being torn down at the same time.

I did like that sort of thing. I loved it. What many of the accounts I followed had in common with Shields was that they regarded their rapid growth as a sign of doing something right. All the while my own heart sank deeper into sin of pride, arrogance, combativeness, separatism, and us-vs-them mentality.

I fell stagnant in my faith and I look back on those recent years as a black hole of unproductiveness. I was so busy cheering for the destruction of someone else that I didn’t realize I was being torn down at the same time.

The root issue for me was that these accounts fed my sinful desires of the flesh. I call them my “anti-1-Corinthians-13 attributes”: I am impatient, I am unkind, I am envious and boastful; often arrogant and rude. I insist on my own way. I am irritable and resentful. I revel in destruction and crown myself the authority of truth.

While I can’t say that their means and methods were objectively wrong, they weren’t helpful and they didn’t build me up (1 Cor 10:23). Discernment, which is wisdom, is cultivated by the Holy Spirit through faithful study of God’s word. James 3:17–18 says “But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.”

Since taking a break from social media, I’ve felt the Lord grow me in compassion, tenderness, and empathy. And as I’m saying all of this, I don’t want to be the pendulum that swings the opposite direction and passively accept and affirm everything that I cross paths with – doctrine matters. But I feel I would much rather focus on pointing myself and others to the truth of the gospel, rather than the destruction of others.

Does the content you take in from social media sow righteousness? Is so-and-so on Instagram telling you what discernment looks like, or are you being transformed by the word of Christ which dwells in you richly, leading you to teach and admonish in all wisdom (Col 3:16)?

I echo Paul’s heart in Philippians 1:9–10, “It is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ.”