Wisdom Seeker: Day 20

Proverbs 20

It is an honor for a man to keep aloof from strife, but every fool will be quarreling.

Proverbs 20:3

Do not say, “I will repay evil”; wait for the LORD, and he will deliver you.

Proverbs 20:22

As usual when reading the proverbs, there are several potent verses I could focus on. Today, however, I really want to look at two that caught my attention as related and highly relevant in the tense climate propagated on social media.

Maybe especially with another Presidential election campaign looming like a seedy circus freak show, I see the wisdom in verses 3 and 22.

Goodness, people. Please, please let’s not have another embarrassing repeat of 2016. I’m not talking about the winner or loser or any of that; I’m talking about the way we behaved as a nation.

The fact that our “debates” have denigrated into a sideshow where candidates primarily take cheap potshots at one another and at their opponents’ follow ought to mortify us. What happened to gentlemanly disagreement? To actually and intellectually covering the issues we face as a culture? To reality, for Pete’s sake??

Then the behavior of the supporters of Clinton – throwing a real-life, honest-to-goodness pity party complete with “cry rooms” in colleges and mourning as if a 4-year term was a harbinger of the world’s end!

What in the world have we come to? Playground politics? Do we need to re-institute nap times and snack times? Revisit the preschool days where we learn not to pull Sally’s hair, to share with Billy, to take our turn on the slide?

OK, enough of my little rant. Sometimes I just gotta say something, I guess.

But in reality, is there any actual use for a rant? Probably not. My words aren’t likely to change anyone’s mind or behavior. In fact, they could potentially incite a quarrel.

And that’s what I want to address today.

When it comes to social media, it behooves those of us who know Christ not to enter into the fray of social media vitriol.

Oh I’m not saying we should say nothing. Far from it! After all, I did have my little rant, did I not? However, when it comes down to it, before we type any words, we need to think first.

Does what I’m about to say honor God? Does it dishonor Him in any way? Is it useful to others? Does it need to be said? If it does, am I saying it in a truthful and modest way? Is my interest in defending the Lord’s honor or mine? Am I more interested in justice or in being right?

There are a million other questions we can ask, but all in all, keep verse 22 in mind. It reminds me of another passage:

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.

Romans 12:19-21

Ultimately, justice will be done. It is a fearsome thing to fall into the hands of the Living God. Where there is evil in the world, we ought to expose it – especially if it dwells in our own hearts. So have your little rants (like mine) in an appropriate forum. But for heaven’s sake, don’t enter into a quarrel or controversy over them!

If there is truth in your words, the Lord will bring it out. If He compels you to write something, be obedient by all means! But if it’s just you speaking, well… keep it behind your teeth (or off the screen, in the case of social media).

If some point or bit of Scripture you speak about brings the sting of conviction to someone else, let the Lord handle it. After all, that is His job.

Sometimes, the backlash we hear and try to defend against is nothing more than a fellow human being wrestling under the weight of conviction. If that is the case, have compassion, Believer!

Remember how it feels to be under conviction and keep silent. Don’t offer a distraction by entering into a squabble. Just let the Holy Spirit do His glorious work and pray for those who threaten or curse you. It really isn’t about you and me, after all.

Remember, our enemy is not the other political party or the guy on the other end of the social media commentary war. Our enemy is the one who deceives and hates, the one who thrives on division, strife, and conflict.

Let’s not be party to the old snake’s devices, ‘mkay?

PS: I felt it necessary to add a post script to this one. Concerning my rant, do I really think and feel those things? Absolutely, yes. Do I normally spout them out on the internet? Rarely – and more and more rarely as the Spirit of God convicts me to stick to His truth and keep my opinions to myself.

Today I used my unvarnished opinion to (hopefully) elicit an emotional response and lead into my point. Truth is truth, and I’ll stand behind the truth of God’s Word if it costs me my life. My life is His, anyway. But my stuff? Well, that’s just mine. Take it or leave it. 😉

Gentlemanly Disagreement

Remind them of these things, and solemnly charge them in the presence of God not to wrangle about words, which is useless and leads to the ruin of the hearers.
(2 Timothy 2:14)

Is it just me or do my fellow countrymen in the US seem to be increasing in verbal combativeness and anger? Even a casual perusal of social media will reveal at least one vitriolic argument delivered with such vehemence that the reader raises a reflexive hand to ward off the virtual spittle.

If only such disagreements would stay buried among emojis and uppercase fonts. But I’ve seen an increasing number of public lashings-out as well. Not only shootings but aggressive driving and other hostilities seem to be becoming more and more pervasive.

It’s our new normal, somewhat infamously (and embarrassingly) highlighted during each new political rally for local, state, or federal elections.

But Christians, we have a calling and it is NOT to take part in vicious debate. In fact, we’re expressly told to love our enemies and respond to their acts of hostility with kindness and to overcome evil with good (see Matthew 5:38-45, Romans 12:21, et al).

We are called not to argumentativeness, but to truth.

Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth. But avoid worldly and empty chatter, for it will lead to further ungodliness, and their talk will spread like gangrene.
(2 Timothy 2:15-17a)

Not only are we to uphold an unashamed adherence to truth, but when it becomes necessary for us to correct, we do so with gentleness. Not trying to fight fire with fire, but cooling the heat of the moment with the genuine love and humility modeled so excellently by our Lord when He asked, “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing,” (Luke 23:24).

Somehow in our embracing of the sincere belief that modern man has evolved to such a greater degree of wisdom than our primitive and somewhat foolish ancestors, we have also evolved ourselves right out of the art of gentlemanly disagreement.

In our quest for Nietzsche’s “superman,” we’ve run roughshod over the man of honor, trampling him and cursing him for slowing us down in our frantic hurtling down the broad path. We’ve forgotten that path leads to destruction. Indeed, the track is littered with the detritus of its destination. Not that we’ve time to stop and take notice, of course.

Yet it wasn’t so many years ago that men could agree to disagree. Two men I know of went so far as to be the greatest of friends despite the absolute opposition of their ideologies.

G. K. Chesterton and George Bernard Shaw were fabulous friends, yet their viewpoints could not have been more opposite. Chesterton was a Catholic, a prolific author, and from all accounts filled with a boundless joy. Shaw epitomized atheistic viewpoint and had some sympathies for communistic society.

Both men never ceased their attempts to convert one another to his own way of thinking. Both men frequently engaged in a hearty and heartfelt sparring with words.

But each of them respected the other, often praising his opponent’s clarity of thought or well-turned phrase even while rejecting the philosophy behind it. When Chesterton reached the end of this life – an end Shaw firmly maintained was his friend’s grand finale – Shaw, knowing that his long-time rival and colleague wasn’t the greatest money manager, he wrote to Chesterton’s widow:

“It seems the most ridiculous thing in the world that I, 18 years older than Gilbert, should be heartlessly surviving him. However, this is only to say that if you have any temporary bothers that I can remove, a line on a postcard (or three figures) will be sufficient.”

In 1936, three figures represented quite a sum of money. To put the gesture in perspective, it helps to realize that the average annual income at the time was less than $2000.

For the sake of the God we serve, for the sake of bearing His name well, and on the off chance any Shaws in our lives may be persuaded by the kindness of the Lord expressed through us, His body, let’s try to tone down the anger. Please? Let’s ramp up the humility and start jabbing those furious fingers into the face in the mirror.

Then, perhaps, we can see how ridiculous we look all hopped up and blotchy with rage. Then maybe we can enjoy a laugh or two at our own expense, and get back to the business of telling the world of the marvels Jesus Christ has done for us.

Starting, just maybe, with the marvel of how He worked in us a desire to remain in tandem with His Word of Truth as we reach out to others in love, patience, mercy, and unwavering faith in a God who is worth suffering a little shame for.

The Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth…
(2 Timothy 2:24-25)