As always, I will preface my words by saying I am one who’s words condemn herself. May God help me to take my own advice. Pray for me.
Let’s face it. It’s blatantly obvious that social media has become a huge public square that most of us stroll through (and in this case, scroll through) every single day. And with several different platforms, it consumes a lot of our time. Safe to say 2020 has given us all a lot to talk about and each day as I scroll through my newsfeed, I honestly find myself shaking my head at some of the things I read, as I’m sure you all can relate to as well.
Fact: Some people lack a much-needed filter and some people are plain ruthless.
Fact: These people are still our brothers and sisters and we are not to judge them, but love them as we were commanded and because, we too, are also flawed.
Social Media Becomes a Warzone: Then, what?
So, the question is … when war breaks out online, are we to speak up or just stay silent? And is it wrong to do one or the other?
The answer, in my humble opinion, is that it’s all about your approach and intention. Let me clarify that this is not meant to get into politics or inhibiting one’s freedom of speech/voicing one’s opinions. Rather, the focus is not necessarily on what we say, but how we say it.
The way we speak is everything:
Are our words contentious? Do we try to put out a flame or add fire to fire?
“As charcoal is to burning coals, and wood to fire, so is a contentious man to kindle strife.” —Proverbs 26:21
Are we using foul language?
“Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers.”—Ephesians 4:29
Are we being divisive with our brothers and sisters?
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.”—Matthew 5:9“…every city or house divided against itself will not stand.”—Matthew 12:25
Are we imitating Christ?
We live in an era where we seek to avenge ourselves with an answer or comeback.
“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind.”—Romans 2:12
We do so out of pride.
“Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for ‘God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.’”—1 Peter 5:5
Do we emulate Christ by turning the other cheek, as He did? GOD HIMSELF was slapped by His own creation, yet did not react. GOD HIMSELF did not respond when He was being mocked, spat upon, and ridiculed, so who are we mere humans to think that we deserve more than Him? His humility is unparalleled. We must follow in His steps.
I’m all about standing up for what is right, but done the right way. And the right way is the way we were taught by Christ, and His apostles (whose feast we just celebrated recently). May we mimic their example. Many of them were martyred and their blood was shed at the expense of relaying messages for us that we so often fail to heed. Let’s not allow their blood to have been shed in vain, let alone Christ’s.
Furthermore, just because we have free will and freedom to say what we want doesn’t mean we should:
“But beware lest somehow this liberty of yours become a stumbling block to those who are weak.”—1 Corinthians 8:9
St Paul wisely said:
“All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful; all things are lawful for me, but not all things edify.” —1 Corinthians 10:23
He also said,
“Let your speech [be] always with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer every man.” —Colossians 4:6
“Be angry, and do not sin.” —Ephesians 4:26
Being Christian doesn’t start and end when you’re in a service on Sunday. Being a light to the world is a 24/7 duty. I’m going to be extremely frank when I say that consistently seeing fellow Christian brothers and sisters supporting unchristian responses whether through the form of a comment or a “like” are equally wrong. We should be correcting each other.
“And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will.” —2 Timothy 2:24–26 (emphasis added)
Nowadays, instead of forgiving, bearing with one another in love, or loving our enemies, many are quick to retaliate, insult, threaten, and/or block anyone who offends us. Where is the love? How can we truly be Christ-minded when we respond like the world does? If we are going to fight for something, let us, as soldiers of Christ, put on the armor of God (Ephesians 6:11–18), because the real battle is not pertaining to the matters we are arguing about online, but rather our battle with Satan: you might tempted to win the argument at the expense of losing your brother, and letting the Enemy advance against your spiritual defenses. We should pray before we speak and for others.
You can say something supportive or you can disagree about something without insulting or belittling someone else. No matter how rude or nasty someone’s comment may be, we have to resist the temptation to respond in a similar way, otherwise we are no different from them and not representing our faith. Christ said, “Father, forgive them.” What do we say to others? We need to either be humble or be silent.
Those who appear voiceless have a voice too, but perhaps they are talking to God instead of to you
I’ve seen many people online criticize others who are not vocal about various matters and automatically casting them into a category of unjust. Just because someone chooses to speak up, does not give them the right to speak for others who opt for silence. This judgment itself creates much of the tension we see online and inevitably leads to discord.
Social Media Becomes a Warzone: Where to stand?
Most of the time on social media, I purposefully choose to stay silent when it comes to sensitive topics or heated discussions, but not because I have no feelings or opinions on the matters. Believe me, I have MANY feelings and opinions. But sometimes remaining silent speaks volumes (in a positive way). Some people don’t want to deal with drama, discuss politics; some people prefer to pray about the issues rather than talking about it with other people online, etc. We don’t know the reasons why someone may not speak up, as we don’t know their story or what they’ve been through. I want people to understand that staying silent does not equate to apathy. There could be a million reasons why someone is not vocal, but ultimately it doesn’t make them any less of a soldier during a fight. Their prayers could mean more than any spoken word could in God’s eyes. Taking shelter versus fighting in a war may appear to one as hiding away or not helping, but again, there is more than meets the eye. Some might take a verbal stance in a war, but it’s also perfectly okay to take shelter—in the Lord:
“The Lord will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace.” —Exodos 14:14
Silence allows us to practice self-control:
“I have often regretted the words I have spoken, but I have never regretted my silence.” —St Arsenius the Great
If we speak less, it gives us more time to pray, grow, and listen:
“So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God. Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.” —James 1:19–22“He who has ears to hear, let him hear!” —Matthew 11:15
A quote I’ll never forget:
“Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak. Courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.”
Even in Coptic iconography, the mouths of the subjects are depicted as very small, for the purpose of showing how our words should be few.
Remember who else can see what you say
First and foremost, God sees. This should be enough for us to choose carefully what and what not to say.
But if that’s not enough for you, remember: maybe you have friends or followers that happen to be clergy, or younger siblings and little cousins who look up to you and respect you. Regardless of age, please be cognizant of your readers and be aware of the example you are setting.
Furthermore, be aware that you can fuel a fire that can lead to people leaving the Church altogether and simultaneously preventing potential people from even having the desire to join the life-giving body of Christ.
“For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.” —1 Thessalonians 5:9
We must therefore THINK before we speak impulsively. Speaking of thinking, this is always a good reminder:
Before you speak, THINK…
T — is it True?
H —is it Helpful?
I — is it Inspiring?
N — is it Necessary?
K — is it Kind?
We learned in our childhood days the basics:
“If you have nothing nice to say, don’t say it.”
Our thoughts determine our lives:
It all starts in the mind. Our words and actions stem from our thoughts. If our thoughts are good and firmly planted, then fruitful words should proceed from our mouths.
My goal is not to condemn anyone, as I am not without flaw; rather, my ultimate wish out of genuine love is that we all would be more cognizant and considerate, and above all, that our words would parallel the name we bear as Christians.
Words sting, words linger, words are not just words. Words can build up and break down, taint someone’s reputation, or publicly humiliate them. Words are hard to forget and leave emotional scars. Words can be a doorway to lead someone in or out of the Church. Words spoken in seconds can have ever-lasting impacts. Choose your words slowly and carefully and always remember that God gave you your tongue and mouth. We are His temple. Let’s treat ourselves as such.
God bless you all and pray for me.
By: Suzy Tawfik
Delivered to you by COPTICNN™ | Coptic News Network on 2020-07-13 from Atlanta. United States Of America
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