Imagine a married man and father of three gathering his family at the kitchen table. He informs them: “I know I’ve been neglecting you this week. It’s been for an important reason. I’ve been busy online dealing with wrong-headed people. No, I didn’t win any of them over to my way of thinking. But, I kept at it and finally got in the last word on several Facebook threads. And that means everything to me!”
You probably think I’m setting up a ‘straw man’ scenario here-- and you’re right.
One cannot help but wonder, though, how much valuable family time is sacrificed because of a personal obsession with winning cyberspace arguments. A personal obsession which usually accomplishes nothing.
Consider also: Many Internet discussions flare up into an exchange of ego-driven hostilities and name-calling rants. Character assassination and bullying tactics have become the norm. Year after year, the verbal brutality rages on despite numerous articles encouraging polite online discourse.
Especially troubling is the fact that much of this misconduct is either initiated or perpetuated by Bible-believing Christians. On frequent occasions, we are harsh and very critical. "We look at our neighbor’s errors with a microscope, and at our own through the wrong end of a telescope."--Alexander MacLaren
Far too often, Christians (myself included) have been caught up in the fever of rhetorical combat--- particularly when cultural or political matters are involved. We want to win at any cost, regardless of the words we use--- and no matter who may get hurt in the process. Such an orientation is at odds with clear Bible verses referencing both righteous and wicked behaviors.
Here are just a few:
James 1:19 (NKJV)- "My beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God."
Ecclesiastes 7:9 (NKJV)- "Do not hasten in your spirit to be angry; for anger rests in the bosom of fools."
Galatians 5:26 (NKJV)- "Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another."
Proverbs 12:18 (ESV)- “There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.”
Proverbs 15:1 (NKJV)- “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”
Proverbs 15:18 (ESV) - “A hot-tempered man stirs up strife, but he who is slow to anger quiets contention.”
Proverbs 17:14 (ESV)- "The beginning of strife is like letting out water, so quit before the quarrel breaks out."
Proverbs 18:2 (ESV)- "A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion."
Proverbs 26:21 (ESV)- "As charcoal to hot embers and wood to fire, so is a quarrelsome man for kindling strife."
Psalm 34:14 (NKJV)- “Depart from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.”
Psalm 37:8 (ESV)- "Refrain from anger and forsake wrath! Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil."
Matthew 5:9 (NKJV)- Jesus: “Blessed are the peacemakers, For they shall be called sons of God.”
Romans 12:18 (NKJV)- “If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.”
Hebrews 12:14 (NKJV)- “Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord.”
James 3:18 (NKJV)- “Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.”
Philippians 2:3 (ESV)- “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.”
John 13:35 (ESV)- Jesus: "By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another."
1 Corinthians 16:14 (NKJV)- "Let all that you do be done with love."
Colossians 3:17 (NKJV)- "Whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do all in the Name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him."
2 Timothy 2:24-25 (NKJV)- “And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth.”
Titus 3:1-2 (NKJV)- "Remind them [fellow Christians] to be subject to rulers and authorities, to obey, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing all humility to all men."
Romans 12:3 (NKJV)- "I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith."
Ephesians 4:31 (ESV)- “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.”
1 Peter 2:1 (ESV)- “So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander.”
1 Peter 3:9 (ESV)- “Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing.”
Matthew 7:12 (NAS)- Jesus: “In everything, therefore, treat others the same way you want them to treat you, for this sums up the Law and the prophets."
What would the Internet be like if all of God’s people treated others the same way they wish to be treated?
We Christians differ on ecclesiastical matters such as the charismatic gifts and forms of Church Government. Additionally, we differ on issues involving public education and medical marijuana. Nevertheless, in light of Scripture, we are all summoned to conduct ourselves in a Christian manner.
More than a few Christians desire world peace; yet their habitual behavior conveys the opposite of peace.
It's so easy to have an excessively high opinion of yourself--- and communicate a dreadfully low opinion of those who dare to disagree with you. But this approach fails to be "peaceable, gentle, showing all humility to all men."
Bottom line: A ‘Christian Troll’ is a contradiction in terms. You cannot be a peacemaker and a social media bully at the same time.
Furthermore, ‘taking a stand’ can be a cold rationale for amplifying the hatefulness in our society. "Hatred, contentions, outbursts of wrath...dissensions" are among the bad works of the flesh listed in Gal.5:20.
There is a difference between truly taking a stand for Jesus Christ (and His Gospel) and simply trading insults on every social, cultural, medical, financial, educational, legal and political subject.
There is a difference between courage and rudeness. There is a difference between heroism and egotism. There is a difference between actual bravery and cruel mockery.
There is a difference between constructive dialogues based on mutual respect and those prolonged wranglings with stubborn opponents.
Contemplate the vast difference between a firm yet diplomatic presentation of your perspective and the malicious venom which tries to silence all adversaries. 'Getting in the last word' rarely demonstrates Christian love.
Ask yourself some point blank questions. Do you want to become angry? Is it fun for you to provoke and ridicule others? Do you deliberately select words that will cause pain? This unchristian conduct should be repented of, not perpetuated.
Jesus, the Prince of Peace, declared: “Blessed are the peacemakers.” He NEVER said: “Blessed are those who quarrel about every issue known to humanity.” We’ve not been ordered by Jesus to convince the world's population that we are 100% right about all things. We are instructed by Him to be peacemakers.
As ambassadors of Christ, we ought to be peaceable and patient and kind and loving (See Col.3:12-15). Thus, we do well to consider the words of an anonymous author, regarding our conduct in all spheres of life:
“Is a single heart rejoicing over what you did or said?
Does one whose hopes were fading now with courage look ahead?
Did you waste the day or lose it? Was it well or poorly spent?
Did you leave a trail of kindness or a scar of discontent?”