Adrian Rogers once said, “The true test of your character is not seen in your actions but in your reactions.”
These days, our reactions, especially in the online world, are revealing significant character flaws.
If you look at social media on any given day, you could see that there are three common reactions people have to any given issue. They are either mad, sad or scared.
From sports to politics, end-times prophecies to Hollywood news, people are feasting on non-stop news and information that entices them to react in one of these predictable ways.
As Christians, we know that there’s nothing inherently wrong with experiencing emotions. After all, God has given us emotions to move us to prayer and action. Jesus, for example, was mad and sad at (appropriate) times.
It’s only when emotions are misdirected that they become an issue. It’s only when emotions are the steering wheel for our relationships and our lives that they become an issue.
These days, mad/sad/scared is unfortunately in the driver’s seat of society. There is something about the disembodied, digital world in which we live that perpetuates and encourages these specific reactions.
It’s time, then, for Christians to move these emotions from the driver’s seat to the back seat. What would that look like?
For starters, when news breaks online, Christians would stop and pray before they would comment. Winston Churchill once said, slander travels in six-league boots, meaning that a lie can travel halfway around the world before truth can catch up. Just because you read something online doesn’t mean it’s the truth or at least the full truth.
Secondly, Christians would season our conversation with grace. The Apostle Paul said, “Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone” (Col. 4:6). More than ever, Christians must learn what it means to be more gracious in our online conversations.
Lastly, we need to think about the weaker brother. We cannot expect to change the tone of Facebook conversation overnight. But by intentional efforts and considering how our comments and posts might affect others who are weak, we can be light when a dark conversation happens. We can bring levity to a heavy moment, and we can bring encouragement where there is discouragement.
Borrowing from a famous Christian poem, let me then offer this prayer:
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace, in person and online. Where there is hateful talk, let me bring love. Where there are offended people, let me be patient. Where there is discord and discontent, help me bring unity. Where there is error and fake news, let me bring truth in love. Where there are doubters, let me show faith. Where there are those in despair, show me how to bring hope. When there are dark days, let me shine your light. Where there are sad emojis, give us your joy. O God, let me not seek as much to be liked but to like, To be seen to be right as to do right, To get likes as to love, For it is in giving that one receives, It is in forgiving that one is forgiven, It is in dying to self that one is raised to eternal life. Amen.
When God hears and answers this kind of prayer, then we will see our mad/sad/scared be transformed into glad/joyful/encouraged. And those are emotions anyone can like.