This kind of thing is not all unusual today. Look at most any news web page that has a section under the news story for comments and notice how quickly one person’s observation turns ugly. One person makes a simple comment voicing his or her opinion and you can expect that within 10 more comments, the “conversation” has deteriorated into a virtual free-for-all of name calling and launching insults. People’s views and opinions are labeled as being racist, liberal, socialist, ignorant and more! It’s not for the faint of heart!
What is good is that people are speaking their minds. They have thoughts and opinions and they aren’t afraid to say what is on their minds. The problem is that they are almost always launching their “truth” in an exchange with people they don’t know and will most likely never know. They can hide behind a screen name or just the knowledge that they can say whatever they want to “Bob Smith from Peoria” because they don’t know him, won’t ever meet him and don’t ever want to meet him. “Bob from Peoria” is just a bunch of words that they disagree with and so they don’t care what they say or how they say it. Since they believe what they say to be true, they say it with conviction and with boldness!
Christians are called to a higher standard. The Bible makes it very clear that we are to speak the truth. Zechariah 8:16 says, “Speak the truth to each other, and render true and sound judgment in your courts...” We are to proclaim the good news of Jesus confidently and boldly. Paul writes in Romans 9:1, “I speak the truth in Christ—I am not lying, my conscience confirms it through the Holy Spirit...” We are to correct the errors of other Christians when they are not living according to the truth. And in Ephesians 4:25, Paul encourages all Christians: “Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body.”
We are to speak the truth, but we have an additional requirement when we speak the truth. In Ephesians 4, Paul also says that we should be maturing in our Christian faith and not be blown around by all kinds of false teachings and false schemes. He writes in Ephesians 4:15, “Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.” Speak the truth in love. That is the missing component of so much discourse and dialogue today. So many people are so concerned about speaking the truth that they forget about doing it in love.
What we in the church must do is make sure we don’t slip into the same mind set as is found in social media. Yes, let’s speak the truth with our neighbors and our fellow believers and citizens. But let’s do so remembering that the person we may disagree with is at the very least a fellow image-bearer of God and perhaps a fellow Christian and even a fellow member of our church. Speak the truth, but do so in love, remembering that the person you may disagree with deserves the same respect you deserve and desire as well.