“For where you find envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice. But the wisdom that comes from God is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness.” –James 3:16-18
I’d like to stray for a minute from the stated purpose of this blog and share some thoughts. These thoughts are not directed at any one person, or any one side of the political divide. I say that to be fair, but in truth, I’ve seen more of the behaviour I’m about to describe on the side of the Right than the Left, and on some days it’s been so frustrating that it’s made me want to, for the first time in my life, vote Democrat for President just to spite people. Not a mature response, but this is a moment for honesty.
Like many people, one of the things I do most mornings at some point is check email and facebook. It is helpful for me, as many people in the States respond to questions or emails in the evening there, while I am asleep. But lately, I’ve noticed that this habit is accompanied by a sense of nausea and dread, and I’ve figured out that this is entirely due to the large amount of inflammatory political statements people are posting in their status updates.
Not all of these are from Christians, but I am writing to you, my dear Christian brothers and sisters, followers of Jesus, and calling you to immediately stop posting about politics on facebook. Not because it is annoying (which it is), but for the sake of the God we serve, for His honour.
Let me explain.
First of all, a two sentence status update is a terrible place for intelligent political discourse. You can throw out some strong statement, but there’s no space to provide a well thought-out argument as to why you are right, to back up what you are saying (other than saying “Fox News said so.”) There’s no place to indicate respect for people who see things differently. No place for love and honour.
It’s a great place to throw out a provocative statement and try to get a reaction out of people, but a lousy place for understanding, listening, and unity. What comes across in most of these posts is anger. Unexplained and unjustified anger. Judgement. Pride–people talking as if they know, they truly understand everything about politics and the world, and if you see it differently, you’re an idiot. This is the tone that comes across.
Read the verse above. In it, James lists qualities of wisdom. Do you think you have wisdom about how the world works, about political truth and why this or that is really going on? Well, if that wisdom is from God, then it is considerate towards others. It is submissive. It is full of mercy and bears good fruit. It is impartial. These qualities seem to me to be totally lacking in your political posting, and therefore, by Biblical definition, are not wisdom at all.
But do we really want to demonstrate this kind of wisdom? Do we really want to look like Jesus, even on facebook? Are we inviting intelligent discussion of important issues?
No, and I think secretly, if we would search out hearts, we’d see that there is ego involved here. We want the gratification of seeing that people have clicked ‘Like’, that they have agreed with us. I know this because I’ve done it at times. But it is pure egotism, and it needs to stop.
Why is this important? It is important because humility important, and you have to remember the truth that no one, not even you, is right about everything, and no one, not even the guy on the other side, is wrong about everything. No one is that consistent. And the world is too complex.
It is important because my guess is that some of your facebook friends aren’t on the same side of the fence as you, and when you brazenly post (which is all a two sentence status update can really muster), you potentially alienate them.
And what’s worse, is that some of your facebook friends likely aren’t Christians either. To me, this is the biggest point I want to make. Those friends who aren’t Christians–they are watching. They are. They just are. A huge number of my fb friends are not believers, and I know that they watch. So if you are marked by judgement and anger, they are seeing that, and it is pushing them further from Jesus. Jesus said something about causing others to stumble having unpleasant results…
In addition, some of the opinion-spewing shows that we have a tendency to believe the news media more than we do the voice of God. People, hear me clearly: no news source is unbiased. Bias rears its head even in the choosing of what to report. Every story, no matter how neutral, has some sort of angle, and that’s true if you’re Fox, CNN, or the BBC. And none of those networks have the full truth, and none of them have the Kingdom in mind. None of them are reporting things the way God sees them.
Instead, we need to ask God for His perspective and go to the Scripture to find it as well. Take this week’s events in the Middle East. I’ve seen some of the most ignorant and heinous commenting on this. An uprising is occurring in many places, with horrific violence, much of it triggered by this film. This is not Obama’s fault any more than 9/11 was Bush’s. And what much of the commenting does is forgets that these are real people, loved by God, involved here. I saw Donald Trump tweet something like “I said these Libyan people we were helping were going to be trouble, and again I was right.” But I have friends who have worked in Libya and have been treated with nothing but respect and hospitality.
So did you respond to the fear mongered by the press? Or did you look deeper? Did you see the pictures of the Libyan protest the next day, in favour of America, with signs apologising and saying “This violence is not what we are like or what we stand for?”
Here is what Pete Grieg, leader of the 24-7 Prayer Movement, said: This is a clash of worldviews. Freedom of speech (US) v honour (M.East). Grace (apology will suffice) v Law (film-maker must be punished) And I agree.
And did you prayerfully look deeper? For in everything there is a “story behind the story.” And the story behind the story here is that since the Arab Spring, there has been an unprecedented–seriously, historically unprecedented–move of God in the Middle East. Literally thousands and thousands of Muslims are suddenly coming to Christ all throughout the region, many of them in some of the world’s most “closed” nations. Things are happening that have never happened there before. God is also bringing healing and help to the traumatised people of Libya. Gee, can you think of anyone who might not be too happy about those things, who might want to quash it?
The enemy. What is forgotten in much of our political whining and whining and whining is that our struggle is NOT AGAINST FLESH AND BLOOD. Not our economic struggle, not our political struggle, not our religious struggle. There is a spiritual darkness named Satan who hates us and hates what God is doing in the earth, and just maybe, instead of blaming and pointing fingers, we should get down on our knees this weekend and pray for God’s mercy and spiritual strength in the midst of what is very obviously an attack.
So, the next time you feel like posting something short and yet inflammatory that is politically-themed on facebook or twitter, here’s what you should do instead:
1. Ask yourself, have I prayed for the leaders I am about to complain about? Should I do that instead? And then you should pray for your leaders and submit in your attitude to them.
2. Ask yourself: Are there people who might read this who might be hurt by my tone? Am I coming across as arrogant, like I know everything? Am I doing this for some sort of gratification on the internet? Is this pure? Peace-loving? Considerate? Full of good fruit and mercy? Or is it melodramatic, as if I’m saying God can handle anything but if this next election doesn’t go my way (and therefore, His way) then the whole world is going to fall apart?
3. Am I acting as if America is the centre of the universe and its preservation or reputation in the earth is more important than the Kingdom of God? Have I really sought God’s perspective, an eternal perspective, in this issue? Do I remember that the Church thrives under hardship?
Okay, that’s my rant. It was really bugging me and I needed to get it off my chest. Tone it down people, tone it down. And if you can’t tone it down on social media, then, in all love and all due respect, please shut up. Thank you.