We have all been there. Someone says something on Facebook that feels like a slap in the face, like a deliberate attack on the principals you have built your life on and it makes your blood boil. As Christians, it is not our job to defend Christ’s character. He is God. His words are eternal. He does not need our help. One day truth will win no matter how a Facebook conversation thread plays out.
However, it is our job and privilege to identify ourselves as followers of Christ and be witnesses to the hope we have in Him. Sometimes that means boldly speaking truth in hostile environments. But how do we do this without giving into our flesh? How do we keep ourselves from getting snarky, hot-tempered, and defensive? Here are a few helpful tips to consider when responding to sincere and hostile conversations on Facebook.
Remember the real enemy.
Ephesians 6:12 says, “For our battle is not against flesh and blood but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”
Though it may not feel like it at the time, the person you are debating is not actually your enemy. They may have an opposing worldview, but that does not make them your opponent. Your real enemy is the devil. He is a deceiver and the father of all lies. They are simply the deceived. They are blind, brokenhearted, and captive. They are the ones Jesus came to save. It should be our goal to proclaim the good news to them using whatever tools and methods at our disposal so that by all possible means they might receive salvation.
Check your pride at the door.
I am guilty. Sometimes I am quick to throw a blanket statement out there, slap a verse on it, and feel satisfied that I made my point. But for every moment I spend gloating over being right, I am wasting an opportunity to humbly demonstrate love to someone who needs Jesus. If you really want unbelieving friends to listen, humility is key. Tell them about your doubts and failures and how Christ helps you overcome them. This will make you relatable, and suddenly you might find they are actually listening.
This doesn’t mean that you can’t still present your case using logic, persuasion, wit, and whatever other tools and techniques may be helpful. But as Colossians 4:6 says, every word should be “full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” Before you post something, ask yourself if it is an adequate representation of the love of Christ.
Scripture says we should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry. When we feel angry on social media, we often wind up doing all the talking. Instead, ask your unbelieving friends questions. Probe their worldview and ask them how they came to their conclusions. Often you will find something painful in their past caused them to arrive at their current perspective or belief system. This is a wide open door to share the love of Jesus.
If you look closely, Jesus does this all the time in the gospels. He constantly responds to people’s traps, insults, and indignant questions with a question of his own.
Do not pretend to be an expert.
Often I feel inadequate to properly defend my viewpoints because I do not have research, articles, and examples readily available at my fingertips. While it is an excellent idea to study up on why you believe what you believe, I do not think it is necessary to spend hours researching a topic just to enter a conversation. Speak from your heart because typically these are heart matters anyway.
If you use research to defend a point you are making, make sure it is sound and in context. Be humble enough to admit when you do not know all the details but brave enough to proclaim what you do know to be true.
Use God’s Word appropriately and often.
Slapping an out-of-context verse onto your point will do you no good in a debate. (So using Nehemiah 8:10 to defend a quick trip to McDonalds is a no-no.) Applying God’s word appropriately to a situation is always a good idea, especially if you take the time to explain it. Even if the person you are debating with does not see Scripture as inspired and infallible, you will still make a point that your beliefs are founded on something you believe is solid and unchanging. They might not believe in the Bible, but they will be confronted with a powerful force that is hard to ignore; even if they seem to throw it away. Scripture has a way of cutting to the heart and convicting behind the scenes. In fact, Isaiah 55:11 says that God’s Word never returns void. Every time it is spoken, it is useful.
Be bold and courageous.
While points 1-5 might make you think it is better to give up and not get involved in these controversial conversations, remember that sometimes God has created an opportunity for you to speak truth into the chaos. Often, as Christians, we check out of these conversations because we know the firestorm they can cause and do not want to spend the time and energy it takes to convey our worldview.
Though there are times when it is best to say nothing, there are also times to speak. The Holy Spirit will help you figure out the difference if you listen to Him carefully. But when it is time to speak, you cannot worry about what people think. You cannot be afraid of losing friends. You have to stand on Christ, dig in your heels, and proclaim truth boldly.
Let love rule in your heart.
Keep an eternal perspective in mind. You already have victory in Christ because ultimately we know how the story ends. One day Christ will rule and reign over every dominion and power. Truth will be proclaimed.
The only thing at stake in this conversation is actually a who, and it is the eternal soul of the person you are debating. Let the love of God so rule in your heart that it overflows into the words you type, covering your pride and desire to be proven right, and penetrating the hearts of the lost and hurting. And pray, pray, pray for God to open their eyes. He is ultimately the only One who can change hearts and minds.