The world is an interesting place these days. Social media has given people an incredible brazeness, where thoughtless words and cruel remarks are thrown from behind the safety and anonymity of a computer.
It’s heartbreaking to watch. The pure poison that is encapsulated in 140 word tweets or status updates can leave people feeling shaken for merely sharing an opinion on a topic.
I think this breakdown in purely polite and thoughtful communication online has bled into relationships in general. In real life, people seem to, more frequently, say what they want, when they want, without regard to the feelings of another.
All of this turmoil has left many simply refusing to get into the discussion. And there is wisdom in not joining in every fight. We don’t have to comment on everything we see or get in on every controversial discussion. And certain topics are far better broached in person and in the context of relationship than online.
I also see that fear of conflict has caused thoughtful, wise Christians – and ultimately, the Church at large - to lose their voice in some of the most important topics of our day.
Because we are worried about being perceived as judgmental and afraid of the insults that will be hurled our way, we remain silent. It’s understandable. The onslaught that many believers have faced is vicious and unwarranted.
Satan loves nothing more than for that fear to render us silent – that the Church would be quiet in the face of the evil of our day because we are afraid of the unhealthy reactions we are facing or the ways that we may be misunderstood.
I’m reminded of one of the most quoted verses about fear, 2 Timothy 1:7:
“For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.”
Have you ever read the verses around verse 7? They provide an incredible context for the times we are living in. 2 Timothy 1:6 says,
“This is why I remind you to fan into flames the spiritual gift God gave you when I laid my hands on you.”
Each of us has spiritual gifts God has given us, that enables us to partner with God in bringing His Kingdom. Fear quenches the flames of this gift within us!
God has not called us to be fearful and timid! He has called us to walk in “power, love, and self-discipline.”
Power – we walk in the power of the Holy Spirit, which is far beyond our frail humanity.
Love – the love of God is the most important part of interacting with others. It’s what we’re to be known by and is especially crucial when dealing with those over a controversial topic.
Self-discipline – is what we need the most when choosing to engage in conversation with those who think so very differently than we do! Whether it’s other believers who we strongly disagree with or non-believers who believe our precious Cross to be foolishness, we MUST have self-discipline that keeps us from responding in our own flesh. It is learning to ask the Holy Spirit to work the fruit of self control in our lives. Then, when our buttons are pushed, we are able to respond in love rather than simply react in emotion.
Some versions translate self discipline as a sound mind. And we need that, too, don’t we? Not given to our own broken thinking, but allowing God to transform us by changing the way that we think – especially about others who hurt us or anger us with their words and opinions!
2 Timothy 1:8 is also crucial for us to understand.
“So never be ashamed to tell others about our Lord. And don’t be ashamed of me, either, even though I’m in prison for him. With the strength God gives you, be ready to suffer with me for the sake of the Good News.”
We must not ever be ashamed of our Lord, His Word, or the Kingdom principles He calls us to live by on this earth. We are His ambassadors, not called to hold people to rules, but inviting them to the wholeness and true freedom that life in God gives us.
There are leaders today, like Paul, who are imprisoned for their faith. And in our own country, there are people facing persecution for standing for righteousness – much of that persecution coming from social media. Are we standing, shoulder-to-shoulder, in support of the godly leaders who are fighting the battle on the front lines? They need our prayerful support!
But the last line of verse 8 is the kicker – we must be ready to suffer for the Gospel. That’s not a very popular idea right now. Taking a stand for the
will bring persecution with it. We MUST
come to terms with that. Kingdom of God
But we don’t suffer in our own strength. Paul is reminding us that it is God’s strength that enables us to face suffering for the sake of Gospel.
We have a culture that wants to run from what is uncomfortable, inconvenient or painful. And I will be honest – I want to run from those things, too. I crave peace in my life. But true peace is not the absence of conflict.
Jesus reminds us that most things in His Kingdom are contrary to our human thinking. In Matthew 5:10, Jesus says,
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake, for theirs is the
.” Kingdom of Heaven
Or as The Message version puts it,
“You’re blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution. The persecution drives you even deeper into God’s Kingdom.”
I don’t want to continue to walk comfortably in the kingdom of this world. I want to walk bravely, as an ambassador of God’s Kingdom, proclaiming true life and freedom in Him.
And when persecution comes – because it will – I will know that I am blessed, because that persecution causes me to lean more heavily on Him and rely on God for my identity and assurance.
Will you join me in prayer, asking the Lord to give us power, love and a sound mind as we engage the culture around us? God has so much for us to do – and He will give us the courage to do it, in Jesus’ mighty Name! Amen!