What’s a Christian to do in the new world of social media as it relates to our witness? Do we engage in arguments or confrontations? Do we stay silent? How do we handle online conflict?
Step 1: Most importantly, and I consider this 98% of the answer, we must prioritize our relationship with God. We must hold fast to our intimacy with the Lord and let nothing and no one interfere with it. THAT is so much more important than any other relationship. When this step is prioritized, instincts abound in all the other relationships we have- from in our home to online, etc.
Step 2: We must depend on the Holy Spirit to lead and guide as to the battles in which He wants us. My personal opinion is that the Lord is calling us more and more to battle these days. I feel it daily. He’s given us armor for a reason and it’s not so that we can sit back and relax. We must become willing to lose our reputations, put our relationships on the line, be wounded in battle IF it’s what He’s telling us to do. This is why Step 1 is crucial! If we are sacrificed to His will, then our willingness to STAND for Him increases and our ability to know when He’s calling us to do just that comes into focus.
There are times He directs me to speak. There are times He says let it go. I have to make sure that I’m obedient and not blocking my own ears out of any form of self-protection. That’s key. It forces self-examination and that is a wonderful growth tool. I’ve done it so long now that I consider it a win if I can at least just end a difficult discussion with some form of respect on both sides. Sometimes what we are is just one more wave over a rugged rock. We may not see the rock become smooth but if we weren’t a wave, it may never have become smooth. We just have to obey.
Step 3: Check our motive. We can’t enter into any discussion out of a need to be “right”. I think it’s an easy trap in which to fall. Our motive must always be to represent Christ and to put Him on display. In every case, the vertical relationship is the priority, not the horizontal one, ever. We must be willing to guard our own flesh so that we don’t make a mess of things.
Step 4: Check our goal. If we want to enter in to a conversation to “defend God” then we probably will not be impactful. God doesn’t need our defense any more than we need to defend that 2 + 2 = 4. Not even worth arguing. When you are convinced of the truth you hold dear, you are not easily pulled into argument with someone who is clearly blind. And if there is blindness, there is little hope of them seeing at that moment- in a post on social media. When have you ever seen someone respond- oh wow! I see now that you are right and I was wrong! The best goal to set is that you have spoken truth in love. That’s the narrow road.
If, however, our goal is to please Jesus in all we do, then we will come away from any confrontation at peace. That does not necessarily mean that the other person comes away at peace, however. In fact, it’s better that they don’t. If they get nasty and you stay godly, they will be confronted with themselves. And that is oftentimes the appropriate goal.
Step 5: Be bold and STAND. What does stand mean? First of all it means we LISTEN to them and ask the Lord to reveal the root of the matter at hand so that we don’t get caught up in just clipping branches. (Then we speak directly to the root. I can go into this more later if you’d like.) It means we don’t run toward them as in attack and we don’t run away from them as in retreat. We simply stand and stand firm, even in the face of false accusation. Stand on the solid rock, focused on our own behavior, not theirs.
1. We cannot ever lose respect for the other person’s right to choose. We may not respect their choice but we must respect their right to make it. God gives us free will. We must respect it as He does. Jesus let the rich young ruler walk away. He didn’t chase after him. Neither should we verbally chase after. We must not become defensive. We simply must speak truth in love, compromising neither, and let it do its work.
2. In general, people who don’t know the Lord or who do but are deceived, are, at the core of them, longing for the truth. It’s how we are all wired. Understand that when we speak to them, we are speaking to their spirit if we are moving in God’s will. Their minds and words may be defensive and lost, but their spirit is hungry for truth and to be loved. (There’s that narrow road again.) So be ever so conscious to be bypassing the harsh or lost words and aiming your response directly to the spirit in them. THAT is our main target.
3. Sometimes we have to trust the Lord to give us the words that will nullify the brain’s thinking- the brain is the devil’s launching pad- so that their spirit can hear. Just listen for His instruction and pray He tells you what to say. If we can disagree with someone and they still come away feeling like we care about them, even if we don’t see things their way, we have achieved our goal. We may not have changed their mind but we will have reached their heart and that’s what God cares about.
4. Most importantly, we know we have done well when we come away from any conversation at peace. Our peace depends on our own behavior, not anyone else’s. Even if we get into the worst argument, if we stay ok with how we handled it, we won’t lose our peace. We may feel hurt or sad but our peace prevails. If we have lost our peace, it may mean we need to confront ourselves and our own behavior and apologize for it- regardless of how much worse the other person may have been.
5. At this fifth point, we have come full circle. Again, our most important assignment is our own relationship with the Lord. All else flows from it- all of it. Every single bit of it. So, if we have stepped out of line by either remaining quiet to save our reputation or because we are introverted or if we have been too bold when we are extroverted, we need to own it and make amends so that our own relationship with the Lord is protected. Because at the end of it all, this whole life journey is about knowing Him. And that’s it. The rest is fluff.
Hope that is helpful.
We want to know You more. And out of that knowledge, we want to represent You well. Help us to speak when You choose and be silent when You choose and to not be deceived as to the appropriate option. Give us every bit of boldness You desire of us and every bit of silence when that is what’s appropriate. Help us to remain in prayer when engaging with folks who don’t know or understand You. Help us to represent you well and often. Make us skillful laborers in these new “fields” which are much less personal and much more prolific. Be our guide, Father. And at the end of it all, Lord, we pray to know You more and to make You known.