3 Reasons Christians Need to Stop Insulting One Another Online
- Deirdre Reilly deirdrereilly.com
- 2022 18 Jan
An important part of living a Christian life is treading carefully when we, as a family of believers, disagree with one another. We may differ on scriptural interpretations and the ways we worship, but we can turn these differences from potential minefields into fertile ground for the gospel, if we act as Christ would have us act.
We are called to rise above a fractured society, not reflect it. When we see bitterness and hatred today—especially online, where we spend so much of our time—our role is to be examples of Christ’s love and mercy, while staying true to Christian fundamentals. Correction should be undertaken soberly, humbly, and with the aim to illuminate, not denigrate.
Here are 3 ways Christians insulting one another online hurts us all:
1. It Discourages Us
Perhaps the saddest result of Christians denigrating other Christians is the discouragement it brings. During these hard times, when we are confronted with so many challenging situations—continuing Coronavirus cases, a challenging economy, a politically fractured society—we need each other, and we desperately need the truth and security the gospel provides.
A quick dip into online conversations yield a depressing amount of snide sparring between people who all claim Jesus as their savior. Name-calling, insults, and an insistence that only one denomination leads to God (whatever the commenter’s denomination happens to be) destroys productive communication and hurts feelings, too. So-called “keyboard warriors,” who feel free to crush others who feel and believe differently from them even slightly, seem to spend inordinate amounts of time hovering over their laptops or smartphones, ready to jump on anyone with a differing scriptural interpretation.
Brothers and sisters, we should be encouraging and enlightening each other in love! It is so discouraging to offer a comment to an online conversation—particularly about the faith we cherish, the very bedrock of our lives—only to have it bashed by a “Christian” stranger. I have had this happen, and I’m sure almost everyone with a social media account has, too. Scriptural battles wage, and yet nothing is ever solved. Eventually the conversation ends with nothing gained, nothing shared, nothing changed.
Is this how we are called to treat fellow believers? No! We do have different scriptural interpretations, and that may never change. There are so many reasons for this—the church we were raised in, our own backgrounds and experiences, and how God has spoken to each one of us individually. I believe that if a church stays Bible-based, they most likely are doing their best. I don’t agree with every Christian denomination’s teaching, but I prefer to mainly dwell on our commonalities, discussing differences in a thoughtful, respectful way that may lead to real reflection and change. I am not God; my understanding of the Bible is often limited by my humanity, so I am not to judge others.
As James 2:13 reflects, “Because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment.” We cannot violate the law of liberty—the freeing power of the gospel—by withholding mercy from others. Today, we can practice this in our online exchanges.
2. It Hurts Non-Christians Seeking Answers
Christians tearing other Christians apart online also hurts those who don’t yet believe, yet desperately need God in their lives.
In college, I was interested in philosophy and really enjoyed the classes I took studying the great philosophers of history; Plato, Socrates, Aristotle. I decided to attend a meeting of the philosophy club on campus, and was shocked to suddenly be in the midst of a very combative, dismissive, and thin-skinned group! Considering that philosophy is the study of the fundamental nature of existence and knowledge, I found it both confusing and amusing to find that these truth-seekers were all too anxious to slay anyone that disagreed with them!
That experience was framed by young people who had not yet had much life experience to inform the way they discussed issues, and could be forgiven. But it did dampen my interest in choosing philosophy as a major; why would I spend even more time with such a volatile, dismissive bunch of people? It is the same with Christianity. When Christians misbehave online, calling each other names, cutting down each other’s understanding of the gospel, and attacking one another personally, it not only chases that person away from Christian discussions, but Christianity itself.
Another big difference between that philosophy club and today’s debates is that, thanks to technology, many of these discussions happen anonymously. A thorny part of human nature is how we sometimes act when we can’t be called on it, and anonymity has been a free pass for many to vent some of the ugliest thoughts imaginable.
Sadly, we perhaps expect this from society at large, today—but from Christians? We believe that each soul is loved by God, and is worthy of salvation should they repent.
Anyone interested in Christianity may very well be chased away by the nasty, dismissive behavior of Christians online. This goes for real life, too—when Christians denigrate other Christians in public (or anyone, for that matter), it stains the faith and turns people away from further exploration.
As the famous Indian activist Ghandi once reportedly said, “I like your Christ; I do not like your Christians. They are so unlike your Christ.”
Some of our best-known and best-loved Bible verses tell us bluntly and clearly how to live. Luke 6:37 exhorts, "Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.”
3. It Does Not Spread the Gospel
We are called to spread Christ’s redeeming love and his sacrifice on the cross far and wide, and when we get bogged down fighting one another, this important directive gets lost.
I once attended a large church where leadership was constantly fighting and talking badly about one another, and many in that church community eventually stopped attending, discouraged and dismayed. People were more focused on the in-fighting than in God, and this hurt everyone. When the pastor preached, his words carried less weight because of the chaos going on behind the scenes, and the Gospel message suffered.
This happens online, too. I’m sure we have all followed a vicious scriptural argument only to see someone comment, “This is precisely why I am an atheist.” If we spend our time in petty disagreements instead of keeping our eyes fixed on the cross, we are not fulfilling our discipleship. Scriptural interpretations are important; we must all believe that Christ is God’s son, that he died on the cross for us, that he is the only way to the Father, and that we must repent of our sins. These are bedrock Christian truths the Bible confirms, and they are worth fighting for, in a respectful way. But there are many other concepts and verses in the Bible that, frankly, are difficult to understand, and Christians approach these with different understandings.
Our time is better spent in respectful dialogue and in prayer over things we don’t understand. Instead of butting heads with one another, we should take these matters to the Lord, and pray for enlightenment from the Holy Spirit.
As for online sparring that devolves into name-calling and cruelty, for Christians, this should be off-limits entirely. Ugly rhetoric and ultimately pointless insistence on your particular mode of worship is not drawing others to the foot of the cross, but instead sending them spiraling back out into the black hole of the internet, as alone as they were before interacting with you.
We can be better, and must be better. As Philippians 1:27-8 states, “Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in the one Spirit, striving together as one for the faith of the gospel without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you.”
Photo Credit: ©Dole/Unsplash
Deirdre Reilly is a writer and editor, and her commentary has appeared on various websites including CBN.com, FoxNews.com, and others. Her new book, “The Pretend Christian: Traveling Beyond Denomination to the True Jesus,” details her own personal journey through doubt and fear into true belief. You can connect with Deirdre via www.deirdrereilly.com, or follow her on Twitter at @deirdrewrites.