W.W.J.D. on the Internet? A.K.A How Not to be an Asshole Christian Online

Tuesday, October 1, 2019
Woman seated on floor with a laptop and books

Remember W.W.J.D?

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.

1. 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.

2. 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’s 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 people are feeling empowered in the discussion and not abused.

3. 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, the prostitute and for the john, the minimalist and the materialist, 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.

4. Jesus would 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.

5. 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.

6. 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.

A Standard of Humility and Grace

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.

This is the question I ask myself now.

When my mind is spinning and my heart is pounding because, oh my gawd, 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 genuine love, saturated with reverence for the sacred dimension of the other, then I must keep silent until I can.  It is a tall order, my friends.

But I believe in us. I believe that we can be real and raw and bold 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.

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