God’s given me a gift with words. Not just with writing. But he’s given me the ability to communicate, and to respond quickly. He’s given me my favorite love language: sarcasm. He’s also given me an appreciation for how words affect people. For how words affect the Church. So as much as I am grateful for this gift, I must be careful lest it become my curse.
I picked my domain name for a reason. It took me three weeks. It was rooted in Romans 12:1-2 and the transforming power of the gospel through the Scriptures. But it also rang true when I thought about the unique power words carry in general. If we could go back in time and continually tell Einstein that he’s an idiot and won’t amount to anything, I doubt he’d have made any contribution to science at all. And I’ve also seen first hand the affect the power of positive words. Affirm boys who grew up without fathers, or whose parents didn’t invest in them, and by God’s grace they will come to see themselves differently over time.
Honestly, this is what scares me. Our generation seems to have either lost the understanding that the power of the tongue is life and death, or they are only concerned with proving their point and they don’t care about the collateral damage.
I fear that Twitter has ingrained in us the habit of Tweeting before we think, and of responding before we listen. This is incredibly dangerous for those who want to advance the gospel, especially those of us who can be a bit sarcastic (and even snarky) at times. You see, it’s so easy for us to point out how wrong the other person is, without taking time to season our words with grace and love.
I’ll be honest with you: I have no idea when this became a concern of mine. Three years ago, I’d have run you over with truth just as soon as look at you. I had a huge heart for the gospel and for truth, but that hadn’t made it’s way to inform how I interacted with others concerning truth. Any improvement in this is by God’s grace alone.
I realize we all have “that person” who drives us up the wall. If you’re on the Internet at all, you’ve probably read something by someone that makes you want to throw your laptop into boiling acid. You’ve probably even read multiple things by the same person that makes your blood boil. It’s easy to fire off tweets at or about the person. It’s hard work to make those words profitable.
Here’s a litmus test: Do you pray for “that person” half as much as you tweet about him or her?
I mean really pray, not just that they’d see where they’re wrong, but pray for them. I don’t care if it’s Mark Driscoll, Joel Osteen, Rachel Held Evans, or Rob Bell. Do you pray that they would grow in grace, grow closer to God, and grow in love for God’s people and have a passion to see the lost come to Christ?
If not, maybe speaking out against them isn’t the best idea. Because if we really don’t care enough to pray for their best, then odds are that our words won’t have that intention either. God defends the oppressed infinitely better than we can. God corrects falsehoods infinitely better than we can.
There is indeed a time when we need to stand up against false teaching and false teachers. Paul did this most noticeably in Galatians. Yet one of the things I’ve noticed is that he talked about the false teaching directly, but the false teachers indirectly. He talks about people who are teaching things contrary to the gospel, but he doesn’t feel the need to bring them up specifically. Why? Because Paul is more concerned about the church at Galatia following Christ than he is about throwing the false teachers under the bus (even if they do deserve it). It seems as though his attitude is more like “I’m going to address this issue, and if you know the people who teach this falsehood, so be it.”
It seems that we’re often more concerned about standing up against a person than we are standing up for Jesus. If you want to spread the gospel, preach Jesus. If you want to combat oppression, preach Jesus. If you want to cast a vision of care for the poor, preach Jesus. If you want to cause people to care about masculinity and femininity, preach Jesus.
If you want to fail miserably at any of those, preach your own agenda.