I've got "those" friends and so do you

Not a day goes by that I don't check up on what's happening on Facebook or Twitter. That doesn't mean that I post something all the time because I don't, but I do try to share at least one inspiring or funny thought or picture a day. That being said, there is rarely a time that I log off of my social media pages when I am not shaking my head at some of the crazy stuff I read online.

I have well over a thousand Facebook "friends" but in real life I hardly have that many. Nevertheless, I enjoy keeping up with long-time acquaintances and people I have become familiar with through mutual friends. While it's doubtful that even a fraction of these people will ever become an integral part of my daily life, I find that it can be beneficial and good to join them in their daily life via social media.

Most of the time.

I just can't stomach all of the rants, posts filled with disinformation, and outright keyboard hostility that I witness on a daily basis. The saying "The kitchen table is no place for talk of religion and politics" still rings true, it's just that the conversation has just moved to the internet and it is a free for all.

Now I'm certainly not against discussing personal beliefs on any level - it is what I do for a "living." But with the advent of social media, everyone is issued their own superhero power that they can use to be as obnoxious and inflammatory as they want without the fear of physical reprisal. In other words, we've become pretty tough behind our computer keyboards.

Just today I've been accosted with posts warning me about what I should and shouldn't believe, what is acceptable politically/socially/environmentally, and if I dare to disagree, how narrow-minded and deficient I am. All this without even posting anything to draw such ire. People have opinions - I get that - but social media (especially Facebook) have made them downright caustic.

Before I start fussing at the guilty I have to admit that I have been in that camp before and there's no guarantee that I won't slip again in the future. I've had to delete posts and blog entries before, and I am not proud of how I have handled some of my opinions in the past. As a result, I have set some parameters that I try to follow pretty strictly and I want to share them with all of you who regularly venture into the world of social media.

First, I know you have an opinion and you are absolutely entitled to that opinion, but that doesn't mean that the rest of the world needs to know your opinion.

Second, there is nothing manly or gracious about picking fights in a social media forum. If you aren't man or woman enough to sit across from someone and have the same exchange, then keep it off the internet. If something you have said is misinterpreted - and this does happen from time to time - take it to a private forum where you can discuss it with the offended party away from the maddening crowd (i.e., email, private messages, perhaps even a phone call or a conversation over coffee).

Third, please, please, please get your facts straight before you start bashing some political candidate or expressing your world view. Nothing is more frustrating than watching somebody melt down over faulty information.

The next few are specifically for my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ.

Fourth, by all means express your faith and defend it against falsehoods, but do so in a way that would honor Jesus. If you want to know how Jesus did that, read the New Testament. Yes, He could be downright pithy with the religious elite of His day but notice that He kept it contained in that context. He wasn't all about bashing those who did not know Him or follow his teachings - to them He extended grace. It was religious people that He called out and He did so in the proper forum. You aren't Jesus and I'm almost positive that He didn't use Facebook, so don't use social media as an excuse to engage people for your own religious agenda.

Fifth, ask yourself before you post something, "What is my goal here? What do I hope to accomplish with my words?" If your answer is not something like "I want to see peoples' lives changed for the glory of God and for the sake of the gospel of Jesus Christ," then perhaps your true motive is to prove how right you are or to make sure others realize just how wrong they are. If that's the case, then I can confidently categorize you as "one of those guys" and will happily unfriend you or block you altogether, and so will most of your "friends" eventually.

Finally, stand on truth and do not waver. The teachings of Jesus are pretty clear: Nowhere do we read that it's okay to condone sin. Nowhere do we read that it's okay to shirk our Christian responsibilities to care for "the least of these." If you are going to bash someone for holding to a belief that you believe is unbiblical, then you better check yourself first. Are you quick to throw stones at someone's theology while at the same time you are are not willing to dispense grace to those who need Jesus? There's a word for that - hypocrisy - and to be blunt, it sucks.

I realize that these points will not be popular with many, especially those who believe that they have every right to wield and swing the sword of the Lord at those who need to be smacked with it. But ask yourself this: Is picking a fight while hiding behind a keyboard with those who don't believe as you do the best way to show them that they ought to believe as you do? Instead of hiding behind a keyboard, bask in the shadow of the cross and build relationships with those who need to know the love and grace of Jesus Christ.

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