We had just moved from a small town in Montana, where folks waved and smiled at strangers, to the brutal, anonymous environment of Las Vegas.
Driving on a big boulevard, I changed traffic lanes without seeing the car in my blind spot. As the driver passed me, he yelled, his face a snarling mask of pure hatred.
Shaken, I got home, flipped my Bible open for the day’s reading, and ran across Isaiah 3:9:
“The look on their faces testifies against them; they parade their sin like Sodom;
they do not hide it. Woe to them!”
These days, we could read the verse as, “Their social media posts bear testimony against them.”
Remember when everyone talked about being tolerant and not judging others? I don’t even hear those claims anymore. Rudeness has become perfectly acceptable.
What led to this new social norm?
I suspect it started with the ubiquitous use of social media and the resulting ease of bullying others from behind a screen.
Then 2020 happened, with its COVID stress and racial upheaval and election strife. That perfect storm caused us to throw common courtesy out the window.
Typical behavior now includes so much self-righteousness vitriol that I wonder from day to day if I should even read my Twitter feed.
I’m not impressed by snark. It doesn’t take much effort or intelligence to be sarcastic.
I am impressed by those who agreeably disagree. I admire people who let others have the last word. I respect those who respond kindly—or not at all—to attacks.
However, much of the meanness I see in social media is posted by alleged followers of Jesus.
This grieves me.
The way some professing Christians treat other people online, you’d think they are dealing with yesterday’s trash instead of God’s precious image-bearers.
Of all people, followers of Christ should be the ones who demonstrate respect and graciousness. We should be the ones who listen more than we try to prove our point.
We should demonstrate this:
“… the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” –Galatians 5:22-23b
Instead, we are often hateful, agitated, impatient, unkind, harsh, and utterly lacking self-control in our interactions with others.
Why would anyone want to receive our message while we treat others with calloused disregard?
We’re not exactly influencing culture. If anything, culture is influencing us.
As much as I’d like to see us all return to values like graciousness and common courtesy, though, I’m not suggesting Christians should try to transform society.
Check out these wise words recently tweeted by Jackie David Johns:
“One challenge before the church today is that we have assumed the role of being a counter culture, trying to conquer society & reverse social trends. We were created and commissioned to be a contrast society, the light of God’s presence shining into the darkness of the world.”
A contrast society. A light shining against a dark backdrop.
That’s who we’re called to be.
It’s not about fixing what is wrong with society; it’s about living out the love Jesus commanded us to have for one another.
It’s about demonstrating that we are ambassadors of another Kingdom, citizens of another realm.
As such, we are not free to behave in any way we wish. No matter how “normal” careless cruelty becomes in this world, it’s not okay for Christians.
So here’s the challenge: does our online behavior exhibit the fruit of the Spirit? Or does it bear testimony against us?
Are we shining a light in the darkness, or blending right in?
May our words, online and face to face, reflect the love of Christ to a world that desperately needs him.