Monday, November 24, 2014

Defense or Division?

I watch Facebook sadly, seeing GOOD Christian people do things that we shouldn't do.

I see anger, and malice, and greed, and wonder what happened to attempting to live Godly and temperate lives.

Oh, the anger I see is not always bad.
No, there is anger at sin, and anger at injustice.
But, there is also anger at inconvenience, and perceptions of injustice, and differences of opinion.

The malice I see is often directed at other GOOD people...people whose opinions are different, whose backgrounds are different, whose life-experiences are different.

I see greed.
It doesn't appear, at first glance, to be greed.
But when the desire for more (time, money, stuff...) is repeated day after day after day, and week after week, and year after year, it is obviously that we are not content with the good God has given us, but are greedy for more and more and more...more stuff, more time, more money.

Our pastor just finished an excellent series on Money, called "Money Matters" (you can go listen to it here).  One of the first things he covered was being content.  Did you know that discontentment can lead to sickness, fiscal difficulties, marital problems, and emotional illness?  The secret to contentment involves recognizing the true source of our money/stuff/blessings, and enjoying what God has already blessed us with (Phil. 4:12; Eccl. 6:9).

And then there is anger.  In some instances, anger is not bad.  In fact, Paul says in Ephesians, "In your anger do not sin," (Eph. 4:26), recognizing that it is possible to be angry and NOT to sin.  Most of us, however, would admit that we are not at that point with our anger.  Most of the time, our anger revolves around ourselves, inconveniences, selfishness, impatience, and discontent.   When there is "righteous anger" expressed, often it is expressed in such a way that it is not heard, whether because it is being expressed too vehemently, or in a way that is belittling of the other parties.

This is where the malice comes in.  From Dictionary.com, the meaning of MALICE:
noun
1.
desire to inflict injury, harm, or suffering on another, either because of a hostile 
impulse or out of deep-seated meanness:
the malice and spite of a lifelong enemy.
2.
Law. evil intent on the part of a person who commits a wrongful act injurious to 
others.
I am quite sure that most people do not think that their responses to others are malicious.  However, when people are angry, we tend to respond in ways designed to make others hurt.  This can be in the form of belittling, name-calling, calling peoples' motives into question, and intentionally being disrespectful of their thoughts, opinions, and feelings.  Paul talks about this in Ephesians, when he says, "Don't use foul or abusive language.  Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them."  (Eph. 4:29, NLT)

Most days I love reading through my Facebook timeline, because I can catch up with friends.  I can see where there are needs, and I know to pray for them.  I love being able to see how families are growing, and what work God is doing in each of our lives.

Conversely, it makes me sad to see God's people complaining about superficial and unnecessary things, putting political things on an equal footing with the things of God, and treating our God-family in a manner completely unworthy of the name by which we are called.

So what is the solution?  How do we stop posting things on Facebook that are unbecoming to a child of God?  I would like to propose several steps:

1.  Evaluate our attitudes.
     This is not always easy.  Evaluation of my attitude is sometimes rather painful.  But this is a necessary step to seeing WHY I am responding or posting in certain ways.  Am I just grumpy in general?  Is there something that ALWAYS triggers this response from me?  Why does it trigger a negative response?  Am I hungry?  Did I just have a fight with my husband, or a run-in with my teenager?  Did I get enough sleep last night?  Each of these things can have a huge impact on my attitudes towards others.

2.  Take your time.
     There is no rush to post anything, to tell the world what you think about a particular subject, to pass on the latest, greatest commentary on whatever the hot topic of the day happens to be.  If you simply MUST post something, post without comment or personal commentary, thus allowing the article to speak for itself.  Another good rule of thumb is to hold off for 24 hours.  Give yourself time to cool down, and time to evaluate your attitude about the subject.  If, after 24 hours have passed, you still  have something that needs to be said, then post it.

3.  Think about who we are trying to please.
     Every time we write something, or post something to Facebook, we have a particular audience in mind.  We probably do not think about that every time, but there is usually at least the thought that someone will read and "like" our post.  We are trying to please our readers.  But Who, ultimately, are we trying to please?  As one who attempts to be worthy of the Name she bears, I try to think through whether God would be pleased with what I am posting.  Am I being self-serving?  Am I being vengeful?  Am I writing for the ever-increasing numbers of "likes"?  Do I want my "friends" to like me, or do I want to hear the ultimate "Well done"?  Additionally, if I am posting something angry, malicious, or selfish, am I being a faithful witness to what God has done in my life?  Will my writings and postings ultimately be a good picture of the change that has been wrought in me, or will I reinforce the negative stereotypes many have of those of us who follow God?

I hope I have not come across in a preachy manner.  It hurts me to see people who call themselves by God's name write and speak in ways that ultimately hurt that Name that they love.

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