Eph. 425 Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. 26 Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, 27 and give no opportunity to the devil. 28 Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need. 29 Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. 32 Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. 2001 (Eph 4:25–32). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.
15 “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. 2001 (Mt 18:15). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.
If I’ve seen it once, I’ve seen it a thousand times. Sometimes it has happened to me. Sometimes I see it happen to someone else. That’s the problem with Facebook (and to a lesser extent, Twitter). Everything’s out there in the public, and the American public’s communication skills are poor at best. In our self-absorption, we communicate angrily when we shouldn’t and we refuse to communicate when we should do so lovingly. We play all sorts of games in order to avoid loving and respectful communication.
So it happens that someone will post something on Facebook and, especially if it is political or theological, others will “comment” on it, effectively trying to shout down what the original post says. One might legitimately question whether the post should have been put up in the first place, but it is equally true that all the contradicting of it is just as unnecessary. (I would argue that the original poster’s rights are stronger than the commenters, who effectively make themselves the “peanut gallery”). Then a long protracted discussion emerges, a battle ensues. Who will get the last word?
In our loud and angry society, such is the stuff of everyday life and communication. Lurking behind the not-so-genuine shock that we feel when someone disagrees with us, and our deeply felt need to respond and create “equal time,” is a sinful nature working overtime. Thanks to sin, “my truth” is sacrosanct and anything that threatens it is villainous. We may have freedom of speech, but we should never exercise it in a way which only demonstrates our freedom to make fools of ourselves. With rights come responsibilities and, as mother used to say, “if you can’t say anything good about someone, then don’t say anything at all.”
Mother was right. At least she was standing on Biblical grounds. Righteousness and communication come together when a person opts not to speak or at least brings a loving, humble concern to the other person directly (privately), as Jesus encourages in Matt. 18:15. In order to do that, one has to keep their own emotions in check and, indeed, be willing to check their own rights at the door if it builds up the other person. This we call “love,” because it is a small way in which the love of Christ on the cross is mirrored in our daily lives. Christ checked His rights at the door when He was crucified. He gave up His right to live in order that we might live. Rather than feeling like we ought to get that last word in, Christ’s “It is finished!” means the last word has already been spoken.
In other words, we need not feel that “our truth” must win the day. We need not feel that we must have the last word. We need not even be so shocked that others disagree with us. After all, we are sinners. When we are shocked that others don’t share our opinions, are we not suggesting otherwise? And if we are not sinners, what happens of Jesus’ cross? We need not lose the baby with the bathwater. Taking even 10 seconds to weigh our words could make the difference between the Gospel and only so much more law.
The next time you hear something or read something and you feel that shock and anger welling up because you don’t agree with it, I lovingly encourage you to check that anger at the door and joyfully go on with your day. You’re free. Christ has already had the last word and He’s given you the victory over those feelings. We are above that…”if we would be Christians” (Luther).
Lord Jesus Christ, You alone are the way, the truth, and the life. Grant us wisdom to live in your truth, love to reconcile our differences, and compassion as we speak and communicate with others. AMEN.