Few people can deliver a putdown like Martin Luther, at least according to the Twitter account @LutherInsulter. “You blubber and writhe along with all the devils in hell,” says one tweet. “You seem to me to be a real masterpiece of the devil’s art,” says another. Ouch.
Elisha cursed mocking young boys, and bears came out and ate them. Nehemiah pulled out the hair of Jews who intermarried. Paul wished that Judaizers were emasculated.
And yet Paul also repeatedly commends gentleness. “And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness” (2 Timothy 2:24).
Is there room for sarcasm and snark in the Christian life?
A couple of weeks ago I opened my inbox and found a caustic email from a friend. I phoned him later that day and we talked things through, but I felt the sting of those words for a few days.
I felt that I had handled the situation fairly well, even as I struggled to forgive. But then, a week later, I hurt a friend with careless words. I had to apologize, and I suspect he feels the sting of my carelessness and sin. I can’t look down on my friend who hurt me when I turn around and do the same to others.
Perhaps it’s all the social isolation, the anxiety about the future, or the charged political climate, but I suspect it’s easier to lose our cool these days. Or maybe it’s a perpetual problem made a little bit worse. Every time I go online, I seem to find angry and even disturbing attacks made by people who call themselves Christians against others.
These are angry days, and none of us is immune.
We feel justified in using angry words because we’re convinced our cause is just. We must use strong language when so much is at stake, we think. Or maybe we just get frustrated and reveal our angry hearts. But I’m concerned about where all this anger is leading.
As I’ve thought about this the past couple of weeks, I’ve come to two conclusions of what I should do.
First: curate everything that doesn’t draw us to greater godliness. I’m unfollowing people with a vengeance. I’ve stopped listening to certain podcasts that are full of snark and that tempt me to scorn those who disagree with me. I’m reading less news. The unfollow and block features in social media are our friends.
On the other hand, now is a good time to add more Scripture and good books into our lives, and to follow people who model grace and gentleness online.
Second: stop adding to the anger. We don’t have to post everything we think. If we’re wondering whether to say something sharply or not, it’s probably best to get feedback from someone who’s not afraid to challenge us. I usually regret words I say when I’m angry and feel my cause is just. Some of us need to speak up more, but a lot of us could learn to be more patient and gentle.
“…kind to everyone, …patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness.” Less snark. More gentleness. More accountability. Not a bad social media strategy for these angry days.