Speaking Truth in Love on the Internet

By Stephanie Ismer

Back in college I was watching the Academy Awards with a few friends, and Gwyneth Paltrow came on the screen wearing a truly hideous dress. When a few of the girls and I began the obligatory laughing and mocking, a young man in the group said "if she was here, would you say that?"

That changed the way I look at celebrities forever. True, if Gwyneth was my friend, and came to my door wearing that dress, I'd have to say something about it. I couldn't let a friend go out in that. But I'd be a lot kinder to her face than I was to her image on the screen.

This story illustrates the tendency to take off the kindness filter when we're not face to face, and it speaks to an action most of us take on a daily basis: typing something that winds up on the internet.

I'm not one to say the internet is a tool of the devil — at least, not any more of a tool than the rest of the material world. Everything, including the words we say and the words we type, can be used to tempt or to bless, to hurt or to heal. But when a person is right in front of us, love comes a bit more easily, and truths come out a little more temperately.

Speaking the truth is absolutely good, honorable, and right. The Bible exhorts Christians to be bold, to not hide what is true, and to hold the truth up as a light. But when it comes to speaking truth to our opponents on the internet, we seem to think that the relative anonymity the medium affords gives us a free pass for abandoning sensitivity and ignoring passages like this one:
And the Lord's servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponentswith gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will. 2 Timothy 2:24-26
I am not denying that truth should be proclaimed, just that we should strive to proclaim it to a random handle in a chat room with as much gentleness as we would show an erring brother in our own congregation, or with the same sort of love and deference that Jesus showed to sinners.

Image Credit: Kate Ter Haar; "speak the truth"; Creative Commons

TagsBiblical-Truth  | Christian-Life  | Current-Issues

comments powered by Disqus
Published 1-31-12; Revised on 6-8-15