The Internet and the Law of Love

14 Aug

I believe most people would agree that the internet is a tool which may be used well and which may be used for destructive purposes. There are all sorts of horrible things online, from videos to articles to pictures, all of which can serve to darken our hearts. There are also great resources online, things that can help us grow spiritually and move forward in our life with God.

Where this gets insidious is when the purported “God resources” become places that darken our hearts. I am not talking about places where false teaching abounds. I am not talking about websites for cults or for health-wealth and prosperity teachers. I am talking about supposed evangelical websites which make it their aim to systematically deconstruct and, in some cases destroy, fellow Christians. I find most of the time the writers at these sites are involved in what Jeff Noblitt calls “extra biblical excess.” They are taking issues the Bible has not fully defined and which the Bible does not view as central and have made them both clearly defined and central to the gospel. Now I know that in the evangelical world there is much foolishness out there to criticize. And I know that sometimes power plays and big egos are barely concealed beneath spiritual cliches. And yes, there is a need to contend for and defend the truth. But people sure get obsessed with these sorts of things. So much energy is expended in these things. And so much hatred for fellow believers is expressed. I can hardly read the comment sections of many blogs and Christian websites because they are so full of vitriol from one professing believer to another. We are more concerned with winning an argument than with walking in the Spirit. And even when we win we lose every time when we win by stepping on the necks of fellow believers.

I think one of the problems is that we are too quick to label anyone who disagrees with us as a false teacher who doesn’t believe the gospel. Sometimes this is undoubtedly true but often it is not. More than likely we are not dealing with a false teacher, but with someone who trusts in Jesus, but has reached a different conclusion than we have on some issues. We are too quick to jump from, “he believes differently on issue x” or “she has a different methodology than I do” to “he or she must not believe the gospel.”

And maybe we don’t trust the sovereignty of God. I know we want to earnestly contend for the truth, but can we at least acknowledge that God uses a variety of means to accomplish His purposes in the world? And can we not at least acknowledge that God used John Calvin and John Wesley, in spite of their theological differences? And can we not acknowledge that though truth is a reality, God uses us in spite of our inability to understand truth perfectly?

I am not against anyone contending for the truth but I am against anyone contending for the truth in a way that cuts against the way of love. I know sometimes sharp language must be employed in the cause of love. But the kind of vindictive language I see in the blog world is not Pauline sarcasm, it is simply snarky, callous and out of line. A good case can be made for strong language in the defense of truth. But there is no place in our lives for this kind of online disdain toward our brothers and sisters in Christ, for we are to be marked by our love for one another, even in cyberspace.

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