For the last few weeks I’ve been travelling slowly through the book of James. Its a fantastically practical book, a long way from comfortable but as directly relevant today as the day it was written.
In Chapter 3 from v 13-18 James talks about what Godly wisdom looks like practically, and in particular how this affects our interactions with other people. He starts by saying if you are wise and understand God’s ways, prove it by living an honourable life, doing good works with the humility that comes from wisdom. He describes this wisdom as being pure, having no taint of selfishness, self interest or wrong motive. It is peace loving, gentle at all times and willing to yield to others.
So what has this got to do with social media? In the early 2000’s I was very bored in my job in the banking industry and spent a lot more time than I should have on a rugby chat forum. One thing that struck me was that people were happy to be a lot more forthright and strident in their opinions online than they would usually be, face to face with people they barely knew. Little about that observation has changed in the last 18 yrs. People still routinely slate, caricaturize and lampoon others with different views in a manner they would be unlikely to do to the persons face.
James speaks directly into this. He challenges those who are followers of Jesus, those who are being transformed to be like Jesus, to think about and speak about others as Jesus did. Let your first instinct be toward loving and peaceful interaction with others, being gentle and willing to yield to them.
Those who have a different opinion to me are not idiots, dimwits or buffoons. They are those also made in God’s image who have a different opinion. Even where their opinions are factually incorrect of just wrong (racist for example) I still have a responsibility to only say what the Father is saying and to say it how he would say it. As a follower of Jesus I exist to reveal God the Father in all my interactions with others.
I love the diversity of living in a great city like London. I love the different perspectives on life I gain from listening to people from different backgrounds with different views and insights. I still believe in absolute truth, being the person of Jesus, but I am slowly learning to treat every person with the value Jesus assigns to them.
My appeal to all for 2019 is this. We live in an extremely divided society and the political events of the last few years have highlighted and exacerbated those divisions. Followers of Christ are called to be peacemakers in this situation, not inflaming arguments but soothing them.
James promises that those who are peacemakers will plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of righteousness.
By all means, hold your opinions, political, social or otherwise. State them publicly. Don’t be ashamed of what you believe in. But don’t tear a strip off those of a different opinion, at least not if you claim to be a follower of Jesus.