This week’s sign touched a nerve. It was great to see so much enthusiasm and encouragement for our sign’s message this week. In a sense, it’s one of those messages that is really obvious, and hard to miss. Current events, as well as history and reflection, teach us just how badly things can go when we fail to use appropriate care before speaking, or worse, posting something on social media. And yet, it’s not as if everyone always follows this advice. If they did, it would be pointless to post it!
As you may already know, Eastern Passage Baptist Church is, like the other churches, here to be a beacon of love for the community. Our goal is to love God, each other, and our neighbours, treating each one as we would wish to be treated – with respect, compassion and kindness. That’s the essence of the famous “golden rule” Jesus taught his disciples (students) to follow, and it’s just as relevant now as when it was given – “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” (Luke 6:1)
Even a child can understand this week’s message, and of course, children should be encouraged to live by it. Here are a few simple thoughts to encourage all of us to think before we speak or post:
1. “Whoever derides their neighbor has no sense, but the one who has understanding holds their tongue.” (Proverbs 11:12) Sometimes it feels like it takes divine intervention for us to resist saying (or posting) the first thing that comes to mind, but if we are wise, we’ll manage it. It’s a good idea to read everything over and wait a moment before posting anything. You may even want to find an “editor” who will review your posts for you before you hit “send”. Once you put something out there on the internet, it never really goes away, so be sure it’s what you want to say (and keep on saying) before you send it!
My mom, like so many others, used to say, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything.” I also remember learning to ask myself before saying something, “Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary?” Just because a statement has a basis in fact doesn’t mean it’s wise, good, or kind to share it with the world, or even with the person to whom it refers. Let’s not lose the value of being kind, or the value of sometimes keeping our mouths shut. In short, be nice in person, and be just as nice online, even if it means remaining silent.
2. Being loving is even better than being nice. Of course it’s better to be polite than mean, but “be nice” is not our goal as followers of Jesus. Our goal is to treat people lovingly, just as Jesus taught us, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” (John 13:34) You may not be a Christian, but there is still every reason to believe that treating others well is a great way to live, and to make friends who feel respected, and who respect you in return.
3. Say only those things that build others up. That’s what it says in the Bible, and it’s a great rule of thumb today, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” (Ephesians 4:29). Ask yourself, “How is what I’m about to say, or post, going to benefit others?” If there’s no obvious benefit, it could be a great comment to keep to yourself.
4. It is okay to give constructive criticism. I’m not trying to say that you should never provide helpful feedback to friends, work colleagues, or government about how things could be (or could have been) done better. It’s okay to suggest a better way, or even to insist on one, and you can do this quite persuasively, without being disrespectful or attacking someone else’s character. Rude words or posts don’t win anybody over. Instead, “Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” (Colossians 4:6)
5. “A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart. What you say flows from what is in your heart.” (Luke 6:45) What’s in your heart? And will it hurt anyone when it comes out? Perhaps it is time to spend some time thinking, even praying, about what’s going on inside you. Are you angry about something? You can be sure there’s a more constructive and healthy way to deal with your issues than posting angry comments online, or yelling at whoever is nearby – one that is less likely to come back to haunt you. Find someone you can trust, someone whose words are kind and true, and talk to them about it. Get professional help if you need it. Deal with your own issues, before you take aim at someone else’s. You will be better off for it, and so will our community.
I hope this week’s sign, and blog, provide helpful encouragement to you in these areas of speaking in person and posting online. It’s a complicated world, since we’re now so connected to so many other people. Sometimes we feel really anonymous online, but our comments and actions have an impact on others. Sooner or later, they can be traced back to us, and there can be consequences, even for our online actions. Nobody’s perfect, but let’s encourage each other: it’s good for us all to be careful what we say, and thoughtful about what we post online. It’s good for us, and it’s also good for our communities, whether we’re interacting with them electronically, or in person.
Thanks for listening. Have a great day.