Out of the heart flows social media comments. When we comment or debate online, we show what lies within.
This reality potentially can further the Gospel when we act upon Jesus’ words, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:45). The same reality can destroy Christian witness: “If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other” (Gal 5:15).
Besides, no matter what context we find ourselves in, we still must speak the truth in love (Eph 4:15) and we must “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” (Eph 4:29).
Here are five practical rules for commenting on social media that will lead to wholesome, beneficial talk.
Be Kind And Gentle
Paul wrote, “And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth” (2 Tim 2:24-25).
If you would aspire to be the Lord’s servant, then you must be “kind to everyone” and able to gently instruct others for their good.
Slam dunking on others online, one-upping, mocking, and other like actions make you a servant of Satan, not the Lord.
Turn away Wrath
Proverbs 15:1 says, “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger (Prov 15:1).” Christians are peacemakers as we follow our Lord who made peace between God and humanity, and between one person and another.
When we find someone online who says something disagreeable, frustrating, or wrathful, a gentle answer can turn that wrath away. It can create peace. Answering wrathfully to wrath or angrily to anger only begets more of the same.
When Christ went to the cross, he spoke not a word. He received all the hate and scorn as a lamb led to the slaughter. He did not try to harshly dominate his opponents. And even among his disciples, he patiently lived with them for years while they failed to understand the very foundation of his mission from God.
And so we learn from this pattern and embrace the wisdom of Proverbs: turn away wrath. Do not use harsh words because they stir up anger. It is not more manly or courageous to use harsh words—just eviler. Satan loves your harshness and wants you to stir up anger.
Do not Comment When You Feel Angry
In Gregory of Nazianzus’ (4th century) poetry on Scripture, he spent time meditating on anger. He concluded: “For other evils God can be a cure, when he falls on our hearts. But anger bars the doors to God first of all, once it has taken control.”
An angry heart fills itself full of a spirit of indignation, making us brutes before God and others. We lose any ability to think or be open to the loving correction of God.
When you see something that angers you online, stop. Reflect. Return. Then comment. Or do not comment at all.
Do not Be Surprised When People Attack You without Cause
Gregory also wrote: “I first ask that no one grow angry with my speech. For such is the sickness of the unrestrained that they often go wild at the sight of mere shadows, and also by their own candid counselors.”
You can gently, patiently, and calmly interact online, but people will “go wild at the sight of mere shadows” and their friends, or candid counselors, will encourage them. Do not be surprised. And do not use this as an excuse to become prickly, rude, unkind, and ungentle.
Likewise, do not go after shadows yourself or listen to counsellors who want you to do evil—to attack and destroy. We must plant and build up.
Always Represent Your Opponent Fairly, Or Else You Slander
Pastor Garett Kell recently wrote, “In a debate, represent your opponent’s view w/ charity. Using strawmen is a form of deceitful slander. Your opponent should be able to say, “yes, that’s what I believe—you said it better than I could!” This is a way to love neighbor, build credibility, & advance a discussion.”
He is right.
And I fear that we too often fall into the political tribalism that besmirches our fine country by acting first and thinking later. We impute all sorts of evils to those with whom we disagree, failing to do the hard work of understanding what they actually argue.
And it is hard work. Hence, we must often rely on experts. And hence, we must often not comment despite feeling justified.
Nobody truly wins when we wrongly understand someone and attack what we assume they believe. It is true slander, evil, and sends us down a dark road of brutish stupidity.
Follow these five rules (and many others like them) to comment virtuously online. May our speech always be kind, gentle, wholesome, and beneficial to our hearers. And may they see our love for each so that they may know that we are Jesus’ disciples.
And that is much better than proving that someone is wrong on the internet.