I quickly grabbed my phone and texted a friend:
Hey, are you okay?
While I waited for her response, I flipped back to Facebook to keep reading a stream of vitriol against this woman for a comment she recently made. Yes, her post had been political, and I won’t even mention what she wrote. I personally didn’t see anything wrong with it though. She hadn’t insulted anyone or used condescending language. She was merely expressing lament and frustration with recent events. But her fellow Facebook “friends” were telling her they were not okay with her view.
Even worse, people were making it clear that statements like hers made her a deserving target for verbal attacks.
Reading hate-filled comments on social media always feels like a punch in the gut. But what shook me to my core was the fact that this woman was a Christian and the majority of aggressive responses were by Christians too. You’ve probably seen things like this unfold in your corner of the media-verse. Perhaps you’ve even been the recipient and victim of these attacks. I have, and it’s never fun.
It’s moments like these in which social media pulls back the curtains to show the ways that fellow Christians sling mud at each other without a hint of remorse or consciousness to their own hate. We can have such little love for one another, and the things that happen on Facebook and Twitter are just a microcosm of similar fights happening in the church and in our own homes. We’re nothing if not divided, and many of us now carry the wounds these fights have inflicted.
This is not the life of believers that Jesus envisioned. In fact, He called His disciples to live exactly opposite to a world of hate. In John 13:34-35, He says, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
These are such simple but powerful words. I think many of us know we’re supposed to love each other, but we don’t all live it out well in our day-to-day lives. The practice of love is complex, and if we are to embrace and model it in our own lives, we need to understand what Jesus meant in these two short verses.
First, Jesus tells His disciples, “As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” We are to love others because God first loved us. There is chronology at work here but also an important worldview. We are supposed to live our lives with a constant recognition and gratitude for God’s love for us. We are to thank God for His saving, merciful love on us that is new each and every day. We are to remember the cross and remember what Christ has done on our behalf. We are to see God’s love for us as humans over and over again in Scripture until it’s ingrained in our minds, and we can never forget the all-encompassing reality of God’s love for us every second of every day. It is only when we are living in this truth that we can become so saturated with the love of God that it will flow through us and out of us and onto everyone around us.
Second, it is the love of God flowing through us that bears witness of who we are to the world. It is through love that we put Christ on display in our lives. As Jesus says, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
And this should convict us all. Because Jesus is saying that people will only know that we are Christians if we love — not how much knowledge we have, not have many arguments we win, not how pretty our Instagram page is, not how many books we write or how many social justice causes we take part in or what ministries we are a part of. Your measure as a Christian is in your love.
I’m not saying we can’t disagree with each other. We can, and we will, because God made us all so different, but we can disagree with each other in love.
So, the next time we’re scrolling on social media and we read an inflammatory comment, let’s choose love. Maybe that means choosing not to respond at all. Maybe that means asking the person to clarify their statement because it sounded attacking, but you want to give them the benefit of the doubt. Maybe it means that you just personally message the person and express your hurt, and you choose to have a private discussion instead of a heated public one.
And these same approaches can be used in person too. Loving a family member with a different political view or someone in your church who is constantly criticizing or that coworker who always has something unkind to say about you is no easy task. But we can choose to let love win. We can choose to lean into Christ, to pray for God to remind us of His love for us, and carefully, prayerfully, decide what words, if any, need to be spoken. Love loves — always.
We can disagree with each other and we will, because God made us all so different, but we can disagree with each other in love. -@drmichellereyes: Click To Tweet