Saturday, August 15, 2015

Does GENTLE describe your tone when disagreeing ONLINE?

I’m no longer surprised by verbal savagery on social media.  What does unsettle me is the tone of the commentary by Christians about Christians.

Imagine you and your spouse suddenly becoming the most hated couple in the nation.
In June, 2015, a Christian couple from Canberra, Australia discovered just what this is like when they were subjected to a firestorm of criticism following their appearance in a local magazine.

This is the headline from CityNews that catapulted them into both the national and international cauldron:

        “Gay marriage may force us to divorce”
        A Canberra couple has announced their intention to divorce if gay people are allowed to get married too.

‘Hate’ isn’t a word I use lightly. But after reading the comments made online following this article, even this description seems inadequate.
Facebook groups popped up to “celebrate” their proposed divorce. These were accompanied by memes which displayed their photo and said things like:

{edited for profanity}

Many of the comments about Nick and Sarah were so vile and degrading they are difficult to read, let alone repeat.

In fact, even the seasoned editor of CityNews was so affected by the avalanche of responses that “he could only read a dozen “comments” at a time without becoming morose. Many had to be moderated, such was the disturbing content.”

Sadly, this tone of commentary is becoming commonplace, and particularly and particularly against anyone who fails to speak in support of same-sex marriage. Shortly after the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent ruling allowing same-sex marriage, Matt Walsh wrote in The Blaze and pointed out the irony of the #lovewins meme that saw him receive feedback that included:

“Hi, kill yourself.
“Oh Matt, you are a perfect assh?le… Take your worthless version of the bible, and set yourself on fire. That would make my Sunday

“The world would be so much better off without you.”

No, I’m no longer surprised by the verbal savagery that is now commonplace on social media.  What did unsettle me however, was the tone of the commentary by fellow Christians about their brothers and sisters. Here’s just a few:

“People like this make Christians look like hypocrites.”

“This makes me embarrassed to be a wife, a woman, A Canberran, and a person.”

“I for one am thankful that Australia takes your marriage (and also my marriage) more seriously than you do.”

“Honestly, congratulations on inspiring and projecting more intolerance, selfishness, division, and fear into society. I can just imagine Jesus being super proud of your representation of everything he stood for (“I’m so glad they’re not wasting their time by letting people know they are loved”)

You may well have seen similar comments in your Facebook feed. Clearly (and thankfully), these comments don’t come close to matching the tone or language adopted by many an unbeliever. But sadly, neither do they express the graciousness and gentleness that is surely appropriate for Christians communications – especially about and/or towards one another.

There is no doubt that the proposal by Nick and Sarah to divorce in the event of a change in the Marriage Acts is highly controversial. I can understand that Christians might disagree with what they said or the manner in which they said it.

What concerns me, is that Christian disagreement online too often resembles nothing more than a profanity-free version of what is said by unbelievers.

Earlier this year, Former Deputy Prime Minister (Australia) John Anderson spoke at a men’s event about our changing world, and one comment he made particularly stood out. He said:

            “We’ve forgotten how to speak with one another.”

The more I read online, the more I tend to agree. As Christians, how should we speak with one another, and about one another? Ephesians 4:1-6 are counter-cultural instructions:

“As a prisoner for the Lord, then I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.”

Promoting Unity.

These words aren’t simply to describe our interactions at church or in Bible study. They are just as relevant to the way we express ourselves online.

Imagine running through this Ephesians 4 checklist before typing a single word online:

·        Am I being completely humble? (or are my words proud and arrogant?)

·        Am I being completely gentle? (or am I being harsh and unkind?)

·        Am I being patient? (or am I speaking too soon?)

·        Am I bearing with my brothers and sisters? (or am I intolerant and ungracious?)

·        Will this promote unity? (or am I stirring up division and disharmony?

The internet will always introduce us to fellow believers we disagree with. One day you might even find yourself to be the subject of vigorous disagreement. When these situations arise, Christians have the opportunity to engage in a way that not only commends the Gospel, but also promotes a better way to disagree online.

Blessings of the Lord to you!

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Do Christians have to obey the Old Testament law?

The key to understanding the relationship between the Christian and the Law is knowing that the Old Testament law was given to the nation of Israel, not to Christians. Some of the laws were to reveal to the Israelites how to obey and please God (the Ten Commandments, for example). Some of the laws were to show the Israelites how to worship God and atone for sin (the sacrificial system). Some of the laws were intended to make the Israelites distinct from other nations (the food and clothing rules). None of the Old Testament law is binding on Christians today. When Jesus died on the cross, He put an end to the Old Testament law (Romans 10:4; Galatians 3:23-25; Ephesians 2:15).

In place of the Old Testament law, Christians are under the law of Christ (Galatians 6:2), which is to "love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind…and to love your neighbor as yourself" (Matthew 22:37-39). If we obey those two commands, we will be fulfilling all that Christ requires of us: "All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments" (Matthew 22:40). Now, this does not mean the Old Testament law is irrelevant today. Many of the commands in the Old Testament law fall into the categories of "loving God" and "loving your neighbor." The Old Testament law can be a good guidepost for knowing how to love God and knowing what goes into loving your neighbor. At the same time, to say that the Old Testament law applies to Christians today is incorrect. The Old Testament law is a unit (James 2:10). Either all of it applies, or none of it applies. If Christ fulfilled some of it, such as the sacrificial system, He fulfilled all of it.

"This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome" (1 John 5:3). The Ten Commandments were essentially a summary of the entire Old Testament law. Nine of the Ten Commandments are clearly repeated in the New Testament (all except the command to observe the Sabbath day). Obviously, if we are loving God, we will not be worshipping false gods or bowing down before idols. If we are loving our neighbors, we will not be murdering them, lying to them, committing adultery against them, or coveting what belongs to them. The purpose of the Old Testament law is to convict people of our inability to keep the law and point us to our need for Jesus Christ as Savior (Romans 7:7-9; Galatians 3:24). The Old Testament law was never intended by God to be the universal law for all people for all of time. We are to love God and love our neighbors. If we obey those two commands faithfully, we will be upholding all that God requires of us.