Speaking Challenge: Gossip, Political, Religious, Slander, etc.

If you have not shared a meal with someone, don’t share an opinion about them.

Dear random stranger on the internet. We have not met. I know nothing about you. Therefore you can pass along without judgement.

Hello sports star or celebrity. You haven’t been in my house. I don’t have any inside or personal first hand information from you. To ponder any further beyond my lack of knowledge and experience concerning you would be very silly.

Greetings politician. I’m not on your staff. I wasn’t with you in college. I haven’t see you on dates with your loved one, how you treat your children, or how you drive in traffic. I don’t know what pain goes into your decisions or how much effort you exert to make things right. I may have seen you in a suite… but I’ve never touched your heart. I will not claim to know your motives or feelings.

Teenagers, classmates, and colleagues… You look different than I do. You act different. You eat different foods, listen to different music, dress differently… Instead of pointing out how different YOU look, I’ll agree that I don’t look like you either. We both look different. And isn’t it a good thing that in a world this big we all can work together to cover all the hobbies, careers, and necessities of so many people?

Sorry coach. I may have made a different decision than you… maybe. With that pressure, those circumstances, those players, your bosses, your home life, and all the unknown things that happened on the sideline and in the locker room and shared from other scouts and coaching staff that the world wasn’t privy to… I might have made a different choice then… but I would have blown it somewhere else. Because I’m not claiming to be perfect and I don’t expect you to be either.

Lets set the bar low. I’m not asking you to stop gossiping, complaining, or even armchair quarterbacking… I’m asking you to attempt one simple rule over your speech. If you haven’t shared a meal with someone… don’t share your opinion about them. Teach your brain to remember what it already knows… We make exceptions for ourselves everyday for one simple reason: We know all the details and surrounding circumstances and internal factors that made our reasoning acceptable.

If we are going to put the spotlight on others and demand perfection from them… they should at least get the chance to share with us, personally, what their exception was based in. This information does not come from biased media, slanted hearsay, or third party reports… it only comes from getting to know an individual as the human they are.

You can still vote with your wallet, check your conscience on the ballet, and boo from the stands… but do not “let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” Ephesians 4:29.

The Devil’s Roll Call

I’m starting to see certain issues as red flags.  And this is an improvement for me as it gives me a chance to slow down and proceed with caution.  With any luck, I’ll avoid making the mistakes of my past.

Social media is one of those places.  I’ve noticed a trend.

Gun violence occurs over the weekend, Monday morning the blogs and comments roll out about gun control.

Terrorist attack over the weekend, Monday morning the blogs and Facebook posts roll out on immigration.

Wherever you stand on these issues, these aren’t the issues that Jesus was worried about.  They tried to corner Him politically by asking a tax question, and He replied with the famous, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and give to God what belongs to God”.  He had no interest in the quibbles of the day.  He was on an eternal soul mission, which to God, was much more important.

So, if you are the enemy, and you have already lost, what can you do to try and bring down as many people with you as possible?  My guess is to keep people off track.  Off mission.  Jesus said, “I have to be about my Father’s business”.  And so should we.  But if we can get sidetracked, especially over issues that divide, then we become easy pickings for the Devil.

It’s OK to give him the credit, he is incredibly smart (conniving).  In my mind social media has become the roll call of the Devil.  He wants to see how many people he has steered off track.  How many people he has taken away from the Father.  And so after every event, he watches.  What will they post about?

Will they post about God and His forgiveness?  Will they talk about love and salvation?  Will they build each other up and focus on the hope the world has?  Or will they go back to gun control, immigration, taxes, foreign policy, racial tensions, etc, etc, etc.  Hand up , hand up, slowly raised hand up.  It’s a temptation just like any other.

To fire up the log-in page, cracking knuckles and salivating at what argument you have prepared… that is falling into the trap.  It’s no different than passing by the adult book store, the drug dealer, or the bookie.  You have a choice to act on the feelings you get.  And you will act on them.  The question is, in what way will you act.  Will you pass by and pray and continue to work through whatever addiction you face.  Or will you give in and raise that hand for the devil?

Some of you may be thinking that I’m advocating we can’t ever discuss politics.  That is not my intention.  My point is that Christians should be known for Christ.  Not political stances.  If you have a political blog, that is the perfect place to post about politics.  But many of us are blurring that line between God and Caesar.  We use our religious platforms to share political spin.

I’m reminded of the Bible story of the man who wanted to go to Heaven.  He confronted Jesus and told of all he had done.  It was an impressive list of sacrifice, worship, and honoring God.  He asked what else can I do?  Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” (Matthew 19) After hearing Jesus’ answer, the man became sad and walked away because he was rich. 

He wanted both.  He wanted to blur the line.  He wanted a foot in heaven and one in the world.  Jesus basically said, I need you all in.  I need all of you.  But the man wanted to keep his possessions.  For those trying to minister somehow in social media… God wants all of you.  We can’t leave one foot in political turmoil and then try and share the story of peace and hope while bickering amongst ourselves.

Jesus prayed for unity for us.  He knew the world would face fear and uncertainty and when they turned to look at those who called themselves “like Christ” He wanted them to see a united front pointing to the Savior.  How does that look when some of us are using the pulpit to sway votes, or counter unrelated arguments?  I find it equally offensive when someone from Hollywood uses the entertainment stage as when someone from the church uses the religious stage.  Outside messages don’t belong in either place.

I love talking politics with the correct minded individual.  (just like me?  no?  but able to calmly discuss views that might not be our own).  I can’t do that with strangers on the internet.  Tone can’t be inflected, facial features can’t be portrayed.  And no matter how many words I choose to try and drill down the point, someone will always miss it (most of the time its my fault).  So, like Jesus, I save politics for when its kosher to do so.  And the rest of my public life… I pray I’m always about the Father’s business.

What if, when the next disaster strikes, we see the red flag and avoid that topic altogether?  Instead, we pointed to the King who can get us through anything.  What if we helped people past their fears and gave them hope?  Many of us get these two issues backwards.  We worship in secret and the whole world knows our political stances.  There is a reason they put the curtain on the election booths.  I believe we should vote in secrecy, contact your representatives, write to law makers, donate as you see fit, etc.  But all of that can be done without a single person knowing.  Then let the whole world see Jesus.


The High Table

17 seconds. That is how long it took for me to find something “offensive” on Facebook from someone I love. It comes much faster from the faceless, nameless, and anonymous. What concerns me is not that we are offensive. Jesus was considered offensive to most and I’m very proud when I can offend the way He did.

My concern is that we are not fighting His battles. With dust fully settled in our own eyes, we fight the battles that do not belong to us, hoping to cure others of their blurred vision. Jesus offended others because He pointed to God. Are you so in tuned with the image of God that the self righteous hate you? Or, is it just that you hold different world views?

Biblical examples are difficult to bring up. They didn’t solve issues by social majority or by social repetition. They compared their issues to the word of God. They compared themselves to the image of God. They compared their leaders to the chosen of God.

I think everyone is able to step back and perform two simple life checks. Paramedics check for pulse and breathing when they approach a body in need. We should do this too. As we approach the hungry, lost, confused, thirsty, homeless, widowed, etc (the people Jesus challenged us to take care of). As we approach them, how much time runs off the clock before we offend them? There is no question to us, that we do love them. But from their battle hardened eyes, what do we reflect to them?

Do they see Jesus? Or do they get a lecture? Do they receive love, or do we yield judgement? You don’t have to change your political or philosophical beliefs. You don’t have to change your vote or which parties you align with. But before you engage, can you check to make sure you are spreading God’s love and the name of Christ to the lost in the world?

Secondly, check which table you are at before you start speaking. There is a table at the far left and there is a table at the far right. They are both full and extremely loud. This is where most of the talking occurs. Talking, blaming, shaming, name calling, yelling. It all comes from these two tables. There is a third table in the middle. Sadly, this one sits empty. No one wants to leave the safety of their own biases and beliefs to meet in the middle.

The middle table is where compromise, communication, and decent business would happen… should anyone dare to meet there. But the fourth table is the one I need you to be at. This is the Father’s table. This one doesn’t look like the left or the right. It doesn’t seek out to solve the issues of the middle either, however noble those may be. Lets call this the high table. This is where we belong. When we speak from the wrong table, we offend for all the wrong reasons. Invite others to the high table. Its not about solving the issues of the right or left. Its about sharing the love of God.

Jesus offended people by pointing to God. If you set out to not offend ANYONE, you will have to compromise the word of God to accomplish that task. It is a fact that we have to accept, that not everyone will receive God. It is our job to try and get that message to them, not to make it palpable. They will discern for themselves whether to accept it or not. Offended or not, we must move on and share with the next.

Two checks that Christians need to make. First, we need to make sure that we speak the truth with love. The truth will offend. We have to accept that. But that leads to the second check. Which battles are we fighting? Our own? Societies? or God’s? That will determine who we offend and how. 17 seconds is all it took when someone I love decided to fight a battle that God hasn’t called us to fight. What message do we give the world when we fight the wrong battles? The world needs a paramedic. Lets give it breath and a pulse by sharing the word of God with love. Lets approach them from the only table that can heal and restore.