As Far As It Depends on You, Just Get Along With People on Social Media

We live in a culture of vehement disagreement. Just take a look at your News Feed.

Every day, I see (and am sometimes involved in) conversations on someone’s Facebook post that revolves around a vehement disagreement on some political or societal issue. Sometimes that disagreement can be over something trivial and the disagreement can be joking and playful. But sometimes it can be bad and vitriolic.

These kinds of interactions have led some people I know to stay out of conversations on Facebook altogether, and I applaud them. Perhaps it would be better for me to take that route. I’ve been in quite a few of those bad conversations and said some things that were out-of-line or had a sinful attitude and approach.

Romans 12 has some words for me. Verses 16-18:

Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.

Live in harmony. Live peaceably. If we look at social media, there’s not a lot of harmony and peace.

There is a place in society for disagreement and people having a conversation in which opposing viewpoints are presented. People are different, so we’ll have different ideas and opinions on how certain things “should” or “ought to be” run or thought about. That’s just part of being human.

But we shoot ourselves in the foot as a society and as the body of Christ when we resort to vehement vitriolic disagreement.

I’m guilty of this. I’ve tried to stay away from being mean in my comments but my attitude has gotten sour over some things said on Facebook. I have done little to create an environment of harmony and peace on social media.

But these verses challenge me, and hopefully challenge you who might read this, to think through how we behave on social media. Are we creating an environment of peace and harmony on social media?

To be fair, there’s only so much we can do, right? We can’t control how other people behave on their Facebooks and Twitters. Romans 12:18 takes care of that, saying that “so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” It’s saying that we must do whatever we can to pursue peace in our relationships with everyone. There are going to be times where the other party isn’t as willing to pursue peace, and in those times we can be content knowing that we’re trying to do the right thing. But remember that doesn’t give us license to be spiteful and unfairly critical of the other party.

My fiancée once told me something very wise. We were talking about fighting sin and she said, “You need to do what you need to do to not do what you don’t need to do.” I was like, “Brilliant!” We need to take whatever steps necessary to avoid sinful behavior. Particularly online.

I need to think five times about what I’m about to post. I need to think about something that my dad tells me all the time – “Is this thought helpful?” I need to think about how what I’m about to say can create an environment of peace, even in the midst of disagreement.

It is possible to disagree well.

 

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Agree to Disagree: When Christians Argue

I hate disagreements. I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in this. But it sucks.

I feel like a phrase I’ve been uttering a lot recently is “agree to disagree.” It’s a good way to diffuse or end a tough argument. In Christianity though, this is super hard. Christians often disagree over things they very strongly believe.

For instance, I had a disagreement with a friend recently over the legitimacy of some feelings I was having. I almost yelled at this friend. It was difficult because I wanted to avoid an awkward situation, but it was something I had to do, something I had to say.

I think it’s partly human nature, but there’s an aversion most of the time to peaceful disagreements within the body of Christ. We want to stick to our guns and how we feel and think, but we can’t seem to be friendly about it. There’s always frustration, and even bitterness sometimes.

I was thinking about this and wondered how the early church handled disagreements. 1 Corinthians covers this in a few places. Paul writes, “I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and judgement” (1:10). He was referring to the Corinthian church’s tendency to disagree on who they followed – Paul, Apollos, Peter or Jesus. In this matter, Paul insists that there be agreement, and I’m pretty sure the agreement is over following Christ.

Shouldn’t we be the best at disagreement? Not in an intellectual sense necessarily, but in a loving sense. God loves us in spite of our many daily disagreements with Him. And because He loves us, we love others (1 John 4:19).

I think of myself and how little I love people I disagree with. Even in the moments of disagreement, my love of people turns into contempt or, at worst, disgust. For example, I don’t always agree with everything my pastor says. I can get frustrated when he handles a piece of Scripture differently than I would. How petty is that?

When you talk about anything religious, it’s difficult to agree to disagree because it’s usually a very strongly held belief. Sometimes those convictions are well-founded and sometimes they’re not. If it’s something that the Bible is explicit about, I won’t back down. But if it’s up in the air, there’s not need for me to be so stringent.

Or is there? For instance, I’m on board 100 percent with Christians being honest and transparent in ministry settings. My main reason: why not? When we’re transparent, Christ is made much of and the grace of the Gospel is more practically understood. I struggle in a lot of areas. I feel like being real and authentic about it will be much more beneficial.

But not everybody agrees with that approach. And I suppose that it’s OK to feel that was since the Bible doesn’t explicitly say to be transparent in all ministry settings. We shouldn’t put up a front, but there’s nothing that says it’s OK to sugarcoat things, which happens far too often when it really shouldn’t be happening at all.

See? I get thinking about a deeply held conviction I have and I disregard everything else anyone thinks. We are hesitant to even admit that we could possibly be wrong. I could be wrong. I don’t think I am, but I could be. It takes humility to admit you could be wrong, and I am very often in short supply when it comes to humility. We don’t need to cave and always assume we’re wrong, but we need to be willing to be wrong.

So what’s the solution? The solution is that I need to be transferring more of God’s grace to me towards others and not be so mean and arrogant. There’s a difference between stubbornness and arrogance. Stubbornness is believing what you believe and sticking to it, while arrogance is believing no one else has even a small chance of being right.

We need to agree to disagree, but not in an avoiding or begrudging way. In a loving and gracious way, the same way God treats us when we disagree with him. Like in our relationship with God, we should share our honest thoughts, opinions and feelings on situations. We’re free in Christ to do that.

But let’s be nice about it.