There are many things that I love about the internet. I like the fact that I can research and discover all kinds of interesting things about the world around me just by “Googling” it. I love staying so connected with my family and friends around the world through social media. I love being able to download music, movies or T.V. shows that interest me and I can access blogs, books, online sermons, inspirational quotes and pictures that lift my spirit.
But there is a dark side to the internet too.
Being so interconnected to the world, also opens up the opportunity for seeing things that shock, hearing things that make me cringe, and reading articles and comments that bully and denigrate individuals on a regular basis. It seems EVERYONE has an opinion on EVERYTHING and they are not afraid to express it, not taking into account who is hurt in the process. I suppose the internet gives people a certain amount of anonymity and a kind of social freedom they would not otherwise have with a one on one, face to face conversation. They feel safe bullying and expressing themselves online, with misguided courage in finding fault and openly chastising someone they would never have the bravery to confront or speak to in person.
Christians are targeted repeatedly by those who want to mock and malign our faith and our character online. We can expect to be persecuted for our faith even online. Freedom of speech extends to every individual I suppose, but there is a cost. I am reminded of the song I sang to my children when they were very young:
“Be careful little eyes what you see…, be careful little ears what you hear…, be careful little mouths what you say…”
In this age of technology where we are so interconnected, no one can say, think, see, or do anything without it becoming public knowledge and there are always consequences if a perceived “sin” is uncovered and then openly shared online by those who stand as accusers. In many instances, Christian leaders are condemned and judged online before all the facts have been revealed. Online they are guilty and remain guilty even if future facts say otherwise. What was said in the past, even flippantly, is used against them. Who they may or may not associate with, becomes a way to justify attacking their theology or ministry. Scripture is used to condemn them more so than encourage them to repent or to show them grace; to disparage rather than edify. It benefits a condemned individual little in trying to change the mind of public opinion once it begins to spread online. They will eventually drown in the murky waters of innuendo and gossip, with their reputations ruined and their Christian witness destroyed. How terribly, terribly sad.
Who are their accusers?
Other Christ Followers…
…and Satan laughs at us.
It has become epidemic online to attack one another. Christian against Christian, defaming one another in such a public manner on the internet. When a brother or sister in Christ goes astray, there are right and wrong ways to mete out discipline. The central purpose being to restore and not punish that person! Jesus took the punishment for our sins. There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. (Proverbs 10:17; Romans 5:8; Matthew 18.) Certainly there are those who require to be called to account for misdoings, but to be accused, judged and condemned online first is just wrong!
How can we say we are different from the world, with our life-giving, life-saving Message if we behave as the world does online? What kind of a witness are we to a watching world, if we criticize one another in such an open forum on social media? How can we attack each other so publically when we are called to forgive, show grace, and be Christ-like in and outside the church?
Oh, that the Holy Spirit would constantly remind me of the “plank in my own eye” as mentioned in Matthew 7:5 , should I find myself joining in on any online conversations. Let me be careful with my little eyes, ears, feet and mouths to not see, hear, participate in, and speak out of turn online against a brother or sister in Christ. Let my opinions become like petitions lifted in prayerful, private conversation between my Lord and I. Let me be able to model these fruits of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control in person as well as online.