How Would Jesus Debate Stuff on the Internet?

February 7, 2017

When I was a teenager I wore a rainbow coloured hemp bracelet with the letters w.w.j.d braided into it. The idea was to wonder in all life's situations, What Would Jesus Do? And as cheese-ball-esque as the whole movement was, it shaped me. I still stop and look at my situation often and wonder What Would Jesus Do?

And I've wondered this lately as I've watched and engaged in heated online discussions about politics and world events. Am I answering with the same grace and love that Christ would show? Is the very spirit of God present in my words?

To be fair, I'll say that I'm not convinced that if Jesus had come 2000 years later that he would bother with facebook debates and twitter feuds. Maybe he would, I don't know. But I do know that we can glean a lot from scripture about how Christ interacted with people. Here is what stands out to me. This is how I feel Jesus would Debate on the Internet:

Jesus would honour the unique individuality of each person. He would recognize and treat each person as an individual. In scripture we see Jesus meet people with similar infirmities, similar attitudes or sins, and respond to them each in a unique way. We cannot lump together everyone who rallies for the same side in a discussion. Your friend probably doesn't believe in or support everything that's been said by those on the same side of the issues as them. We are all individuals, and the nature of polarizing topics is that when we unpack it all, most of us don't really land on either polar end.

Jesus would come alongside the person who feels weak, marginalized, and alone. I believe that Jesus would not contribute to someone feeling ganged up on or attacked by the masses. Yes, Jesus sometimes spoke harshly to pharisees and hypocrites (and we must be cautious because, unlike Jesus, we do not know people hearts!) but I do not see him anywhere in scripture shooting the wounded. He spoke tenderly to those who felt alone, abandoned and demeaned. Our goal as Christians is never to squash and humiliate our opponent, so we must watch to see that our friends are feeling empowered in the discussion and not abused.

Jesus would be for people. Passionately, powerfully, for people. Not causes, not issues, not political agendas, but people.  To be Christ like in this world is not to be against all the right issues, it is to be radically, sacrificially for people. For the feminist, and for the misogynist. For the prostitute and for the john. For the minimalist and the materialist.  For the babies, the mothers, and the abortionists. For drug addicts, business people, pastors and politicians. It means being for the liberal and the conservative alike. Radical, I know.

Jesus world love his enemies.  We have a Lord who healed his captors and prayed for his executioners.  That person you disagree with is a treasured and cherished being made in the image of his maker, and any truth not bathed in reverence for that fact is not truth at all.

Jesus would pray. I am so very guilty of diving head first into tricky conversations without first seeking the Holy Spirit's guidance, and this is folly and sin. Jesus set an example for us when he took the time to soak up his Father's will before engaging with people. I cannot engage in difficult, meaningful, intelligent conversation without the help of the Holy Spirit.  I just can't.

Jesus would flip some figurative tables. He would braid a whip and engage in holy protest and stand up against injustice. Nobody is asking you to sit down and bite your tongue. We must keep having important conversations and following those conversations up with creative, passionate, and peaceful social action.

You know what else? Jesus would also make scathing remarks that cut to the heart and leave the hearers convicted and angry. He called  hypocrites a “brood of vipers” or “white-washed tombs". But Jesus knew their hearts. He knew their intentions. We don't.  We need to err on the side of humility and kindness because we cannot see one another's hurts and hearts.

More than anything else, those w.w.j.d. bracelets reminded me, as I fell short of the ideal day after day, that I am not Jesus. I am a sinner, and God knows my frailty. He has made gracious reconciliation available to me through His sinless life, death and resurrection.  So the one thing we can do that Jesus didn't have to is make apologies and restoration where we have caused offense. It's okay to have been wrong, there is grace for that. But it's not okay to knowingly leave a friend hurt and marred by our words.

Can I tell you this thing that I've observed? In myself, in my friends, and in the media? We do this thing in christendom where we assume that the person who disagrees with our understanding is evil or wicked. Or, if we are feeling generous, we assume they are just stupid or uneducated. But when we do this we not only risk a friendship, we risk an opportunity to get outside of our own understanding and truly hear another perspective
That friend on the other side of the keyboard is not evil or stupid. They probably aren't even truly your enemy. They are a different person, with different hopes and fears and expectations, who is taking in the information and trying to discern the best answer just like you and I.

As usual, Brennan Manning hits the nail on the head:

"Jesus said you are to love another as I have loved you, a love that will possibly lead to the bloody, anguished gift of yourself; a love that forgives seventy times seven, that keeps no record of wrongdoing. Jesus said this, this love, is the one criterion, the sole norm, the standard of discipleship in the New Israel of God. He said you're going to be identified as His disciples, not because of your church-going, Bible-toting or song-singing. No, you'll be identified as His by one sign only: the deep and delicate respect for one another, the cordial love impregnated with reverence for the sacred dimension of the human personality because of the mysterious substitution of Christ for the Christian." -Brennan Manning, the furious longing of God
wow.

"Cordial love,

Impregnated with reverence.

For the sacred dimension of the human personality.

Because of the mysterious substitution of Christ for the Christian."

Yeah, that. That's what I want to be known for.

This is the question I ask myself now, when my my mind is spinning and my heart is pounding because, oh my goodness, somebody is wrong on the internet: Do I want to be proven right, or do I want to be Christlike? Do I want to make my point, or do I want to honour the unwavering love of God for the person on the other side of these screens?

And if I can't do that, if I can't speak in cordial love, impregnated with reverence, for the sacred dimension of the other, then I must keep silent until I can.

Friends, I believe in us. I believe that we can be real and raw without being demeaning. We can make a case without implying that those on the other side of it are stupid or evil or lazy. We can humbly affirm that there are absolute truths but we don't always know the truth absolutely. I believe we can love people more than we love our opinions. Not perfectly, but increasingly. 

May we love each other well today, online and off.   


4 comments

  1. I don't know how you do it, Kelly. But every day you bring well written fresh insight that seems to line up so well with what God is trying to teach me. I cannot explain how much these posts mean to me - they express so concisely all the garbled thoughts in my head. Thank you.

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  2. You hit home on this one for me, thank you for this. I have to keep reminding myself of these very things. Love your inspiration, words given to you by God to inspire and help those of us out here yearning for truth. :)

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  3. You hit home on this one for me, thank you for this. I have to keep reminding myself of these very things. Love your inspiration, words given to you by God to inspire and help those of us out here yearning for truth. :)

    ReplyDelete