Imagine a married man and father of three gathering his family at the dinner 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 that usually accomplishes nothing.
Consider also: Many Internet discussions flare up into an exchange of ego-driven hostilities and name-calling rants. Hysterical tantrums and inflammatory sarcasm are now synonymous with 'speaking out'. Character assassination is commonplace. Bullying tactics have become the norm. Year after year, the verbal brutality rages on despite articles encouraging polite dialogue.
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 (ESV)- "Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness that God requires."
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 16:24 (NKJV)- "Pleasant words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the bones."
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." See also James 2:8.
1 Corinthians 16:14 (NKJV)- "Let all that you do be done with love." See also Leviticus 19:18 with Matthew 22:34-39 and Galatians 5:13-15 and Romans 13:8-10.
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 (NKJV)- “And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient."
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?
The fact is: We Christians differ on ecclesiastical matters such as the charismatic gifts and forms of Church Government. Additionally, we differ on issues pertaining to public education and medical marijuana. Nevertheless, in light of Scripture, we are to conduct ourselves in a Christian manner.
It's so easy to have an excessively high opinion of yourself--- and communicate a dreadfully low opinion of persons who dare to disagree with you. But this approach fails to be "peaceable, gentle, showing all humility to all men."
You can be virtuous without being vicious.
Bottom line: A ‘Christian Troll’ is a contradiction in terms. One cannot be a peacemaker and a social media bully at the same time. One cannot consistently call for 'world peace' while habitually radiating the opposite of peace.
Furthermore, ‘taking a stand’ can be a cold rationale for amplifying the hatefulness in our society. 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. Some Christians immerse themselves in cyber brawls-- not because the honor of Jesus is at stake-- but because they like to fight.
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 involving mutual respect and those overaggressive wranglings with stubborn opponents.
'Getting in the last word' rarely demonstrates Christian love.
As a sinner saved by the grace of God through faith in Christ, I recognize the difference between a firm presentation of my perspective and the harsh venom designed to forever silence an adversary.
Jesus, the Prince of Peace, declared: “Blessed are the peacemakers.” He NEVER said: “Blessed are those who quarrel about every issue known to humanity.”
In 1 Thessalonians 5:17, Paul wrote: "Pray without ceasing"; he refused to write: "Argue without ceasing" or "Convince the world's population that you are smart and right 100% of the time."
So: Ask yourself some point blank questions. Are you hungry for conflict? 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?
These unchristian tendencies should be repented of, not perpetuated.
As ambassadors of Christ, we ought to be peaceable and patient and kind and loving (See Colossians 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?”