If you’re like me, you’ve read a lot of things on social media today that upset you. Things that you felt were personally insulting to you and many of your friends, and maybe to your faith. Things that made you angry.
There’s a very good chance you witnessed hypocrisy on a scale that you’ve never noticed before. And I’m not sure there’s anything more galling to human beings than hypocrisy — which is ironic because we’re so often guilty of it ourselves!
You may feel that your side has been unfairly singled out. Everyone’s blaming you and “people like you” for all this trouble. You see both sides of the aisle acting like spoiled children, and you don’t understand why all the self-appointed parents seem to be pointing their finger at you, and not at the brother or sister that clearly started this whole mess.
You and I need to get over it.
How does a Christian respond to being insulted?
This has nothing to do with how those other people are treating us, or how ridiculous we may think they’re being, or how misguided they might well be. This has to do with how we’re going to respond to the world around us.
In a culture driven by instant access to social media and the ability to say “I told you so” or “Look how so-and-so is acting and isn’t that shameful” across multiple channels, it’s really easy for us to find ways to land a hay-maker in the argument with that friend whose political opinion we find so appalling or self-righteous.
I just can’t find that anywhere in the Bible.
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. — Rom 12:14-21
Let’s just assume that the politicians are right – we are each other’s enemies. (And let’s not kid ourselves; for every message of peace we receive from political leaders today, I can point to a dozen where they promoted the other thing.) Our leaders spend massive amounts of time trying to convince us to hate each other and to see the absolute worst impulses in each other, and then they wonder why people are rioting or curled up in a ball, afraid they’re about to be sent to a concentration camp.
If all that’s true, how should we be treating each other? Let’s run it down:
- Bless those who persecute you
- Rejoice with them when they’re happy
- Weep with them when they’re sad
- Don’t act like you’re better than they are
- Don’t repay evil with evil
- Treat people as if you’re at peace with each other, even when they’re not at peace with you
- Do not avenge yourself
- Overcome evil with good
Being kind to our enemies is not optional
Did I miss something? Did Paul have an exception clause anywhere in there? What if that other person is the most immature, uninformed, self-centered person on the face of the earth and nothing I say or do will ever change them?
Well, you go do everything Paul writes in that list. And you keep doing them. Because “overcoming evil with good” doesn’t mean that if you’re nice to someone, eventually they’ll stop being evil. It means that it will keep you from becoming evil like they are.
Jesus went to the cross to save people who hated him. Maybe we can put up with a few annoying Facebook posts without feeling the need to lash out and “win the argument.”
But sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence; and keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ will be put to shame. — 1 Peter 3:15-16
When I strike back, when I “spike the football” after my side wins or throw a temper tantrum and attack the winner’s character when I lose, I’m not acting like a Christian.
And when I see someone who I think is less informed than I am making poor arguments from an emotional place, and I know they won’t listen to what I have to say and they’ll probably just unfriend me or call me names or at very least tell me I’m wrong, then there’s really only one reason why I’m engaging: so I can feel superior about myself and my position.
Accepting a weaker brother doesn’t mean attacking them
Paul wrote that we were to accept those who are weak in faith. Jesus said we’re better off being drowned in the ocean than doing something that would cause a child of God to sin. So why do we feel compelled to keep pushing our arguments?
Why is it so important that not only are we proved right, but that the other person acknowledge it and change their viewpoint?
We need to grow thicker skin. We need to accept that if we truly love those people who call us names, who question our integrity, who believe that you’re the problem if you don’t accept their viewpoint and their solutions, then we need to be finding ways to end fights.
Not starting more of them.