A pick, a poke, a controversy,
Hit and run, a verbal grenade,
We may see it as clever, though without mercy
And own it like an accolade
But are we making people think
When what and how we say it scars?
If it causes a stir, a strife, a stink
Instead of edifying it maligns and mars?
People should be thinking anyway
And what they think should be of good report
Let’s meditate on what we say
Not load up on sarcastic, sardonic retort.
The world already knows that tactic
And uses it at the drop of scarf and hat
It brightens no story, dresses up no didactic
But stokes the fire and escalates the spat
Here’s something requiring greater skill
You won’t find it in general practice
Restraint and kindness, grace and good will
Be a rose in a field of cactus.
When entering today the public sphere
And the marketplace of varied ideas
Let the Jesus in you shine bright and clear
So they can look at you and believe He is!
It’s not a Social Media phenomenon, but those platforms have proliferated this problem. Begin by making a provocative statement about race, religion, politics, other social issue, matter of judgment, or the like, then step back and watch while the unrestrained and undisciplined scratch and claw at one another. Soon, the issue is obscured by hateful remarks as combatants escalate the rhetoric. The tactic is utterly worldly, yet too often it is brothers and sisters in Christ with the sinister stick in their hands jabbing at the hibernating grizzly! My consistent question is, “Why?” What is the purpose? Certainly, we should all be more critical thinkers, but such tactics as these generate much more heat than light. Rather than logical, rational points and counterpoints, they usually produce ad hominem attacks, reductio ad absurdum, and other Latin diseases!
When you consider how the New Testament governs our speech and guides our conduct in dealing with each other, you have to ask where the above-mentioned ploys fit in. Here is a sampling of admonitions and instructions the Holy Spirit gives us through Scripture:
- “So then we pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another” (Rom. 14:19).
- “Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person” (Col. 4:6).
- “A perverse man spreads strife, and a slanderer intimate friends” (Prov. 16:28).
- [God hates] “one who spreads strife among brothers” (Prov. 6:19b).
- “Pursue peace with all men…” (Heb. 12:14a).
- “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God” (Mat. 5:9).
- “Love does not act unbecomingly” (1 Cor. 13:5a).
- “Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or remain absent, I will hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel” (Phil. 1:27).
- “And the congregation of those who believed were of one heart and one soul…” (Acts 4:32).
Be careful. In an attempt to be clever, relevant, and cutting edge, could we instead be alienating, divisive, and polarizing? There’s a big difference. May we all pray for the wisdom to differentiate. Especially in a divided world that is watching how those who claim to be Christians speak, interact, and treat them and each other, may we “be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves” (Mat. 10:16). Be dove-imitators, not bear-pokers.