If we disagree with someone often, we can simply delete or not read their messages. That is not the same as completely shutting them out or cutting them off. They are our family, Christ’s family. How can we even contemplate such unkind, thoughtless, and rude treatment of one Christ loved and died for as He has for us?
Today, Christians deal with many challenges never imagined by those believers who lived in the past. For one, there are many ideologies infiltrating churches that undermine biblical principles and teachings. Yet they are somewhat subtle and sentimentally popular in the world that they receive a fair share of sympathy and acceptance by Christians who have not quite or yet conquered biblical apologetics that reveal the falsehoods inherent in them.
However, and most unfortunately, there is another challenge that might be as equal in detriment to Christian testimony related to love and unity to that of false ideologies. That challenge is social media. Social media includes the proliferation of Facebook, blogs, e-mail, and more. They also involve interactions, discussions, and debates. Just as society has been affected by a coarseness and rudeness in interrelations, so social media has also been greatly affected. The world around us is less friendly and tolerant of disagreements. And some of the reactions and responses represent coarseness and rudeness that involve name calling, vulgar language, malice, sarcasm, and even viciousness. But a more subtle reaction is to block, unfriend, or reject any communications from one another.
I can’t say I’ve seen any Christian respond with vulgar language, malice or viciousness, but I’ve seen and even experienced being blocked, unfriended, or all communications being rejected. What does this say about Christians who completely cut off other Christians from any communications? It is impossible to see any of these as positive responses to Christ’s command, “Love one another as I have loved you.”
Such actions are done abruptly to some without any explanation. Was there something said or done that caused such a reaction? If so, wouldn’t it be more in keeping with God’s Word to communicate any such concern that caused one to react in such a radical manner to cut off all communication with another believer? Wouldn’t that allow for perhaps an apology, a change of heart, repentance, and reconciliation? Was some unforgivable offense committed? If this is the case, do we remember how much we have been forgiven by our heavenly Father through Christ? Can we recognize that completely cutting off communication with another believer is indicative of some terrible offense? The question is in such a case, which is the greater offense and who is the true offender? Could the greater offense and real offender be the one who fails to love another Christian as Christ commanded us to love them?
I recently read where some Africans questioned African Christians why they should become Christians when they didn’t treat other African Christians Christianly? It caught my attention, as it goes beyond Africa. Blocking, unfriending, and cutting people off abruptly and completely is happening among American Christians. What a poor testimony to the world!
Remember the song, “They Will Know We Are Christians by Our Love?” How we treat one another is revealing to the world around us. The Apostle Peter clearly states what we should be known for:
“Since you have purified your souls in obedience to the truth fora sincere love of the brothers and sisters, fervently love oneanother from the heart, for you have been born again not ofseed which is perishable, but imperishable, that is, throughhe living and enduring word of God.” 1 Peter 1: 22-23
Cutting people off or shutting them out contradictorily relates to “fervently love one another from the heart.”
In another passage, Jesus states: “But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return . . .” How can one love one’s enemies when one fails to love fellow believers by cutting off any and all communication?
As Christians, our standards come from above and not from social media or the world. There is never a need to completely block, unfriend, or reject communications from another believer, even if we cannot totally agree with them. We must also resist any possible envy of the well-acceptance of believers to others we might not experience. If we disagree with someone often, we can simply delete or not read their messages. That is not the same as completely shutting them out or cutting them off. They are our family, Christ’s family. How can we even contemplate such unkind, thoughtless, and rude treatment of one Christ loved and died for as He has for us?
Perhaps it’s necessary to address pastors who receive communications from their congregants. Do you remain open to all in your flock? Hopefully, you do. They need to know you care about them as their shepherd. Even Judas was not cut off or shut out by Jesus. What a lesson for all shepherds.
We’re living in a different world today from yesterday. As Christians, our home is elsewhere, and we are just passing through. The laws of God are higher than the laws of the lands and societies we pass through. To the natural heart, mind, and spirit, it’s impossible to keep those higher laws. But God the Holy Spirit is here with us in our trekking through social difficulties. He fills us with the fruit of the Spirit, which is “love, joy, peace, patience. kindness, faithfulness, goodness, gentleness, self-control . . .” (Galatians 5: 22,23) Possessing His fruit is what enables us to never give up on one another and to “fervently love one another from the heart.”
Let’s obey Christ’s second great commandment to love one another as He has loved us and never allow social media to affect or diminish our Christian behavior either technically or spiritually.
Helen Louise Herndon is a member of Central Presbyterian Church (EPC) in St. Louis, Missouri. She is freelance writer and served as a missionary to the Arab/Muslim world in France and North Africa.