I recently came across some hurtful comments directed at Christians and my initial response was anger. I began spouting off spiteful remarks as I discussed the matter with my mum.
But as I contemplated whether I should put a message out on Instagram, this thought came to mind: It’s okay if I offend others because I speak the truth. However, it’s not okay if I offend them because of my self-righteousness and lack of control over my emotions.
I didn’t want to start a fight or stumble others by my impulsive behaviour. And so I sat on it.
Two days later, however, another conversation with my mum convicted me to the core. “You can’t be angry forever and not speak up,” she said.
As I thought about it, I realised that it was true that I had subconsciously and conveniently bought into the excuse that just because I was angry, I shouldn’t say anything.
Learn to disagree without being disagreeable.
While I’m not suggesting that we should respond to mean comments in rage, I began to see how this was an opportunity for me to rely on God, and learn how to exercise self-control and reflect the love of Jesus in my words and actions.
I was also reminded of an online talk that I recently attended, where Max Jeganathan, the Asia-Pacific Regional Director of Ravi Zacharias International Ministries, shared about the need for believers to learn to disagree without being disagreeable – because the way we disagree reveals Who we belong to.
He also talked about differentiating between an ideal and how that ideal is actualised.
This is something that we can apply in our lives. While we may have the right godly intentions, we sometimes employ the wrong forms in carrying it out, which fail to glorify God.
And so I took an entire day to draft out my message and even asked my mum to proofread it twice.
After looking at my first draft, God led me to identify certain words that needed to be changed, reminding me that the purpose of this post wasn’t to attack the cyberbullies. Rather, it was to defend my brothers and sisters in Christ who were being misunderstood and to present the truth.
God also led me to a place of humble surrender. To admit my own inability to convey the truth in love because of my human nature that is selfish and biased. This led me to call upon the Holy Spirit to guide me.
I remembered something that my pastor said when he preached on being a yielded vessel of the Spirit instead of allowing our fleshly desires to consume us.
He said: “The holy anger of the Lord is controlled. When it comes upon your heart, your mind can still think clearly. But when your own rage takes over you, your thoughts become illogical.”
Using Acts 7:51-60 to illustrate this point, he referred to how Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, rebuked the religious leaders from a place of righteous anger. The Spirit had filled him with such boldness in that moment that he did not fear man as he recounted the history of Israel and addressed how the people had disobeyed God.
The religious leaders, on the other hand, were fuelled by unholy anger, which explains how the situation quickly escalated into the stoning of Stephen as their fury turned into murderous behaviour.
That’s not to say that Christians don’t make mistakes. I’ve seen instances where believers have said insensitive things. As such, it’s always important to refrain from jumping in and blindly defending our fellow brothers and sisters without first making sense of the issue.
Knowing that the battles we are fighting – now so often on social media – are not against flesh and blood but spiritual forces (Ephesians 6:12), I believe it’s important to pray for discernment and godly wisdom, and be Spirit-led in our responses (Galatians 6:1).
Sometimes that means waiting it out, or not saying anything at all. Jesus fiercely rebuked at times (Matthew 22:18), and yet remained silent in the face of accusations on other occasions (Matthew 26:63).
A word of caution: Just be sure that any responses of silence are directed by God and not born out of a fear of man.
And above all, let us speak truth without forgetting to love. For without love, we are nothing.
THINK + TALK
- Are your thoughts and actions driven by the fear of the Lord or the fear of man?
- Can you think of any context where God may be convicting you to speak the truth?
- How can you do so in a way that best reflects His love?