(This is the third time I’ve shared this post. And it is not that I am lazy or out of ideas, it is that I am truly heartbroken over the way some professing Christians act online. Most of the social media vitriol, right now, seems to be around the issue of social justice, but it seems that the more the issue of the day changes the more the sin stays the same. And if you angrily used “social justice warrior” or “racist” as a pejorative defeater this post is especially for you.)
As a Christian, and as a pastor, one of the things that frustrates, and quite frankly saddens, me the most is how some who claim the name of Christ behave on social media. I get that sitting behind a keyboard provides an emboldening buffer for many, but for those who claim the name of Christ, this ought not to be. Even when it comes to online interactions God looks on the heart. This is supremely important. So let me be clear; Christian be nice!
When I say be nice, I am saying treat others, including unbelievers and Christians you disagree with, in other words everyone, with kindness gentleness and respect. I recently saw this posted online by a somewhat well-known theologically conservative pastor in response to a question about whether it was pastoral and wise to mock rather than refute a heretical position: “Best solution if you don’t want to be mocked…” I use an ellipse in the quote because quite frankly it doesn’t matter what was said. There is never a biblical reason to mock or belittle anyone.
Quite the opposite, Scripture is absolutely clear that believers are not to be fair, but to be nice to others; in biblical terms we are to honor every one. Really, it is a command of Scripture. 1 Peter 2:17 says to honor everyone. And yes it is a command in the Greek, it is an aorist active imperative, which emphasizes the urgency of the command. Honoring someone and mocking them are mutually exclusive.
Hebrews 12:14 commands believers to strive for peace with everyone. Paul (if he didn’t write Hebrews) concurs, Romans 12:18 states, “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers” (Matt 5:9). How can you strive for peace or be a peacemaker if you mock and fail to obey the command to honor everyone?
The fruit of the Spirit includes gentleness, kindness, and peace (Gal 5:22-23). Whether in person or on social media, as a Christian, all of your communication with others should be characterized by the manifestation of the fruit of the Spirit. And be aware that if kindness, gentleness, and peace typify the fruit of the Spirit, an interaction that is unkind, harsh, and perpetuates conflict is a deed of the flesh (see Gal 5:19-21).
Moreover believers are commanded to always communicate gracefully with unbelievers. Paul concluded his letter to the Colossians with a remarkable command:
Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person. – Colossians 4:5-6
Furthermore Christians are commanded to love our enemies (Matt 5:44) and to love our neighbors as ourselves (Romans 13:9; Gal 5:14; James 2:8). I could go on and on, but as much as I enjoy beating a dead horse, I’ll stop. I think it is abundantly clear Christians are called, in fact commanded, to be nice.
I am distilling all of these commands down to being nice, which admittedly is an over simplification, for a reason. Three times in the past two months I have witnessed a profoundly wicked meme being passed around the internet. That is not so unusual, but what is unusual is that only people who would identify as conservative Christians have been sharing this meme. It says (over various backgrounds) “Christians are not called to be nice, positive or popular; we are called to be biblical.”
This is serpent level twisting of scripture. To be certain scripture tells us that if we follow Christ not only will we be unpopular, we will be hated by the world, because it first hated Him (John 15:18). I will even concede that a case can be made (not a great one in my opinion) that the Bible is silent on the question of having a positive attitude. But I am absolutely positive the Bible calls us to be nice. When I say this meme engages in serpent level twisting of scripture, what I mean is that it is expert and so subtle as to deceive those who think they are spiritually mature and supremely discerning. I can almost see the snake slithering over the keyboard using venomous strikes to peck out “hath God truly said let your speech always be gracious?”
Claiming that it is biblical to not be nice is to accuse God of causing you to sin, and scripture is clear. James 1:13-15:
Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.
Christian, please stop sharing these kinds of memes and more importantly stop being deceived by them. Whether at work or at home, whether in person or behind the keyboard be biblical. Christian, be nice!