Our church has been going through a study of the book of James. Last week we came upon a verse that is mightily convicting in this digital age:
Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; James 1:19 (ESV)
You don’t have to parse the original Greek text or consult a Bible scholar to divine the meaning of the Scriptures here. It’s pretty clear that James is saying that a mature believer is one who is slow to make hasty judgements, quick to listen and gather all the facts about a situation, and slow to express anger. Does this characterize our online activity?
I have been recently reading about the dustup about Campus Crusade for Christ, who changed their name to CRU. Quite a few folks have expressed their disapproval of this change. And while you may not like their new choice, what is distressing to me is the hasty judgements people have made without gathering all of the facts. For instance, it’s not at all about “taking Christ out of their name” to be more relevant. This is a decision they have been weighing for years, initiated by their founder, Bill Bright. It’s simply because they do much more than “Campus” ministry and because the word, “Crusade” hurts their evangelistic work in other countries. You might check out John Piper’s insightful defense of CRU here.
But alas, many have not dug down that deep into the story. Instead, they’ve scored easy, rhetorical cheap shots against the organization. This would be understandable among unregenerate sinners. But for Christians to act this way betrays their adherence to the Scriptures. In fact, James finishes out his first chapter by making that exact point. Rather than jumping to conclusions, we should let the Word guide us. If we don’t, we develop an unrestrained tongue and our faith is useless. Amazingly, Christians (beginning with me) seem to declare Facebook, Twitter, email, etc a “Bible-free zone” where we can say and do anything. James would say that what we are doing is looking into the Word and not obeying it.
This is not simply about Campus Crusade. This kind of cheap-shot rhetoric happens all the time. There are whole blogs devoted to scoring easy, out of context, funny points against brothers and sisters in Christ. I’m not talking about genuine debate and biblical discernment done in a loving way. I’m not talking about witty humor that gets the church to laugh.
But some of what passes for “discernment” is merely sensational gossip and snark. And some of what passes for Christian humor is over-the-top and disrespectful. Christians, who pride themselves on standing for the truth of the Word of God should have a similar fidelity to truth in their online activity.
This means we don’t forward that nasty email about the President unless we really know it’s true. It means we should restrain from repeating rumors about politicians or church leaders that we got second-hand. I means we should act mature. This may not “sell well” on cable TV, talk radio, or Twitter, but it’s how we should live and act and think as gospel-soaked followers of Jesus.