EDITOR’S NOTE: Ronnie Floyd is president and CEO of the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee.
NASHVILLE (BP) — Words hurt people. I have been told for years and found it to be true personally, “Hurt people, hurt people.” When words are used about someone or to someone that defame, demean or degrade them, hurt occurs.
The toxic talk occurring across social media platforms relating to Southern Baptist matters and relationships is inexcusable. Not only is it inexcusable, it is unbiblical. Not one of us is exempt from Jesus’ command in John 13:34 to “Love one another,” nor are we exempt from the words of Ephesians 4:31, “Let all bitterness, anger, and wrath, shouting and slander be removed from you, along with all malice.”
Each of us is challenged to a real struggle with the taming of our tongue. Just as stated in James 3:6, “The tongue is a fire … and is itself set on fire by hell.”
Unquestionably, each word we verbalize or write does one of two things as recorded in James 3:9, “With the tongue we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in God’s likeness.”
Jesus was very clear in His words recorded in Matthew 12:36, “I tell you that on the day of judgment people will have to account for every careless word they speak.”
Therefore, knowing this, there must be a better way. Consider these four areas of a better way to conduct ourselves on social media:
— Think first, write second.
— Respect everyone, as each is made in the image of God.
— Share helpful information and encouragement with others.
— Read it again before you send it.
— You do not have to speak to everything.
— Silence from others on an issue does not equal agreement or a lack of concern.
— When your thoughts and feelings are shared related to specific ideologies you may believe, there will be people who agree or disagree with you.
— When disagreement occurs, stay high with ideas, not low with personal feelings and accusations.
— Give the benefit of the doubt to others whose ideas and perspectives you may not completely agree with.
— Discipline yourself to expand your world of thoughts you share, otherwise, you will be viewed as issue-oriented, losing the possible influence you desire.
— Whatever you post, make sure Jesus would be pleased. All you do represents Him.
— Always honor one another, never forgetting that each person is made in the image of God.
— Social media is not the place to handle ongoing sharp disagreement with others; attempt to set up a time on the phone and talk personally.
— If untruth is shared about you or the ministry you represent, you have a choice: Do I walk away and consider the source, or do I confront it because it is such a flagrant lie? Since the offense is online, if you do not know the other person, you may have to approach it publicly, but do so in the right way. If you know them, deal with it offline with a phone call.
— Follow the spirit of Matthew 18:15-17 with the goal of restoration. Actions of Matthew 18 ultimately can only be done offline, however the spirit of it can always be adhered to by each of us.
— The Gospel always travels on the tracks of a relationship in the Scripture; therefore, relationships are very important to Gospel testimony and advance.
— When someone has a basic question about something, they may be able to discover an answer by online discussion or via email or phone. I often encourage our denominational leaders to respond promptly to emails or phone calls related to concerns or questions.
— Airing out disagreements and concerns about our convention online does happen; however, we should ask if there is a better way. I believe there is through the power of relationships and cooperation.
— Through relationships and our cooperation together, we can often work through our challenges and disagreements.
— Anyone can be negative, especially in this volatile cultural climate; however, we should choose to edify one another in Christian love.
— Please remember that those of us serving our convention of churches want to do our jobs well and serve our Lord and your church in the highest manner.
Finally, whether our issues are theological, cultural, methodological or personal, always choose to honor God in everything — including the way we conduct ourselves online. Defaming, demeaning or degrading others is unbiblical and unchristian in every way. Choose to bless others with your words and actions. Pray through challenging experiences to ensure we respond in a biblical and Christ-like manner. This is the better way.