Not long ago a seeker came to a Christian website looking for answers. His first visit turned out to be his last:
Wow, as someone who was contemplating Christianity and directed to this website, I can say that after reading your comments to this story, I am no longer interested. So much hate for people that allegedly follow your same diety! No better than Sunni and Shia Muslims fighting back and forth. I thought I’d find a little more understanding and thought in the comments to a book intriguingly titled, but this is worse than comments on CNN or YouTube for that matter. Thank you all for being yourselves at least and showing me that Christians aren’t the people in the Kirk Cameron movies.
Sadly, he was turned away from the faith not by the offense of the cross but by the ugliness he saw among professing believers.
Unfortunately this kind of interaction is not rare. On February 9, 2013, CNN published an article by John S. Dickerson entitled “My take: A word to Christians—Be nice.” Dickerson was told by a well-known writer and newscaster with 1.3 million Twitter followers, some of whom claim to be Christian, that “some of the meanest, most perverse hate-tweets he receives come from these self-proclaimed Christians.”
Dickerson is not ashamed of the gospel, but he is embarrassed to be associated with some of those who represent Christ:
These are the moments when it’s embarrassing to be a Christian. I’m not embarrassed to believe the extravagant claims of Christianity: that Christ was born to a virgin, died for our sins, physically rose from the grave and is returning to rule the world. But I am embarrassed to be associated with some of the people who claim his name.
Dickerson acknowledges that the bad reputation of American evangelical Christians is due in part to persecution for preaching the gospel, but he is concerned about the disrepute that we bring upon ourselves. He quotes 1 Peter 4:
If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler (1 Pet. 4:14-15).
In other words, if you are treated with contempt because you proclaim the name of Christ, you are blessed. But if you suffer “persecution” just for being a jerk, don’t blame it on the gospel. Dickerson notes that “the word ‘meddler’ means busybody: someone who inserts himself into matters that are not his own. Might this include some people involved in the Twitter, Facebook and 'comments' showdowns of our day?”
I have been the recipient of many insults during my year and a half as a blogger. Yes, it can be painful to be the brunt of attacks against one’s character, and it can be costly in one’s personal life. But my greater concern is for the name of Christ and the well-being of His Body and the proclamation of the gospel. Paul warns in Galatians 5:15 not to “bite and devour one another.” Biting and devouring is the work of the enemy:
Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour (1 Pet. 5:8).
John has stern words for those who verbally bite and devour their brothers and sisters, which is tantamount to hating them:
Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness…. Whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes…. If anyone says, “I love God,” yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen (1 Jn. 2:9, 11; 4:20).
Dickerson quotes James 3 and Matthew 12:
With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God's likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be (Js. 3:9, 10). [Emphasis mine.]
For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks. The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him. But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken (Mt. 12:34-36).
Then he asks,
If we will give account for every careless word spoken, might we also give account for every careless comment typed or tweeted?
In this post I urge Christians not to do what Paul warns against in Galatians 5:15. In a follow-up to this post, I talk about the positive exhortations about our words and our character that Paul gives us in Galatians and other epistles.