A Quiet Appeal to Us, in the Spirit of Matthew 18


Imagine that I’m whispering to you. Or, at the absolute most, imagine that I’m talking in a very soft voice. There’s enough yelling going on out there, don’t you think?

The Christian corner of the Internet is getting a bit too loud and brash for me, despite the fact that I am not one to shy away from confrontation. I don’t go looking for it, but I’m not afraid of it, either.

Many years ago (and I’m still whispering, here) Jesus gave us (and by “us” I mean people who have decided to try to follow his example) clear instructions, telling us how to respond to one another when we think we see someone doing something that doesn’t sit well with our interpretation of what it means to follow Jesus. I think Jesus was on to something. Here’s what he said, as recorded in Matthew 18:15: “If a fellow believer hurts you, go and tell him—work it out between the two of you.”

I’m still whispering, and I’ve given consideration to the fact that you may think I’m stretching things here. But, I believe the principle of what I’m about to say has merit, and what I have to say is about the between the two of you part of that verse.

I think it might behoove us (and I’m still talking about the same “us” as before) to make better use of the Direct- and Private-Messaging functions on our social media platforms. Or, maybe we can consider email. Or a phone call. Or even an invitation to tea. I believe Jesus knew we’d do and say things that might offend or alarm or disappoint or even scare each other. I think he knew there’d be times where we might disagree with one another. I also think he meant for us (that same “us”) to find a way to live together as a witness to the world of what love really looks like, because, without love, we’re nothing more than the creaking of a rusty gate. It’s a good thing the bible often uses images of oil to represent the presence and power of the Holy Spirit.

The world is watching us (still whispering, here). It’s watching when we tear each other apart, even when we mean well, and when we are passionate, and when our hearts break for what we believe to be a wrong done and a grave offense committed. But what if we are crossing the line with our public oppositions and corrections and justifications? What would change if we took a step back and heeded Jesus’ instruction to work it out between the two of you rather than as a public display?

And here I’d like to quietly raise a glass to many of you on the receiving end. I’ve seen great things accomplished when grace governs the moment. I have seen the beauty of people of faith rising above the temptation to respond in kind when being berated in public forums for all the world to see. God’s grace is sufficient, indeed.

As people of faith, we are charged to lead in a more excellent way. Let’s whisper more often. Let’s pray first and act later. Let’s honor God by working out our differences just between the two of us, rather than in the arena of public opinion. Let’s let love hope the best in each other and for each other. Let’s invite the Holy Spirit to oil our rusty creaking and cover us with grace. We are a light, set on a hill. We are the salt of the earth. The world is watching. Let’s be worthy of that.

Some questions for you: Have you ever been involved in a public, online argument? What was that like? What did you learn from that experience? Do you think I’ve lost my marbles, here? What difference might it make to talk with one another, one-on-one and in private, rather than in public, on the Internet, when we disagree?

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