Earlier this summer, our family made a pilgrimage to the ultimate summer vacation destination, Disneyland. As we navigated the crowds, I noticed a common trait among our fellow mouse-eared tourists. With the exception of a few overstimulated toddlers and stressed-out parents, everyone around us was smiling and laughing. The strangers...
Love is patient and kind.
Our God commands us to love him first and foremost, and to love our neighbor as ourselves—but are we doing this online? Especially when we disagree with our neighbor?
I’ve been saddened by the lack of love strewn throughout Christian circles on the web in recent years. Lately, someone brought a satirical article to my attention that called out by name a person with whom the author disagreed, poking fun at them and attempting to make them a laughingstock to the reader.
My heart broke.
Is satire funny and helpful when it deals with ideas? Yes. But this was about a person. Someone created in the image of God. Someone who genuinely believes they’re following Christ.
Loving Our Neighbor
Doesn’t our great God call us to more than this? Doesn’t he command us to love others because he first loved us—even when we sorely disagree with them?
Yes, and we can and should disagree. We seek to hold fast to God’s Word when others aren’t, guarding truth by clearly addressing untruths. Scripture shows us how to appropriately call people out, as Paul does in his letters (see 2 Timothy 1:15; 2:16-18; 4:14). He desires to expose wrongdoers and wrong doctrine—but he doesn’t joke about eternal matters or resort to cheap laughs.
I pray that writing this doesn’t defeat my point, but only encourages us to think about what we post online and find entertaining:
- Does what we publish honor our neighbor, even though we might disagree with them?
- Is it necessary? True? Kind?
- Or is it unloving and, therefore, opposed to God’s greatest commandments?
Our calling is to consider the love-of-God-and-neighbor to which we’ve been called in Scripture, along with a few other implications:
1. We drive people away rather than pointing them to Christ and his Word.
If we think that satirically addressing a person we disagree with won’t do any damage or will change their theological position, we’re misguided. Like Paul, Jesus never made fun of people or joked at their expense; instead, we see him both confront people and lead them to repentance through his kindness. We see him die for sinners, while we were still weak.
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We’re making theological disagreements and relational rifts worse with our attempts to satirically clear the air, rather than doing what’s harder: seeking to understand one another in Christian love by choosing kindness, wisdom, and truth.
As a result, the people we’re criticizing respect us less—and see a dim reflection of Christ in us, if any reflection at all. We drive them away, rather than pointing them to the beautiful gospel we’re attempting to guard and preach.
2. We disregard Scripture and disobey Christ.
- “And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing….Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth” (1 Corinthians 13:2, 4-6).
- “‘You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven’” (Matthew 5:43-45).
- “Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth” (2 Timothy 2:23-25).
Oh, that the Word of Christ would dwell richly in us and lead us to love when it’s hard!
3. We do not honor the name of Jesus.
Most importantly, we do not exalt Jesus by our rude words and actions; we reflect him inaccurately and stain his precious name. Friend, if the glory of Christ is our highest pursuit, why would we undermine this goal in any way? Why would we want to do anything but adorn the holy name and upright character of our Lord and Savior?
This is what’s at stake when we speak harshly of people and joke at their expense: We weaken our evangelical pursuit of Christ’s glory and the advance of his gospel.
I’m writing to myself here, for I know I’ve slandered my neighbor and sinned against many people in my short lifetime. But I pray this causes us both to think before we post: Is this loving my neighbor, or is this rude? Does this honor Christ, and will it point people to him or drive them away?
May we increasingly reflect Jesus’ glory and display the gospel in our love and through what we publish.