When it comes to extending Christlike kindness to others, there is one area in which we are sorely missing the mark as believers. That area is the online sphere. Being kind online shouldn't be hard, but it tends to be one of the most aggressive places on earth. I tend to avoid Facebook, for example, all together (particularly during an election cycle!) simply because of the vitriol, personal attacks, and name calling which are all too common on that social media platform.
We have all seen it - Christians getting into debates with one another over who the best candidate is, what parenting method is best, or how a Christian parent ought to educate their child. The problem is, in the process, we are forgetting our witness. We are placing more emphasis on who's "right" than we are on loving others. And we are spending all our time in debates over topics that won't even matter at the end of time, while the all-important topic of the good news of the gospel gets lost in the fray.
I want to encourage you, my fellow sisters in Christ, to rise up and be a part of the change, a part of the clarion call back to Christlike kindness, dignity, and respect in the online arena. Here are four Biblical principles to get us started:
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1) Remember that everyone online is a fellow image bearer of God
...whether they are people with whom you agree or not!
I'll never forget the day I had Dr. Rosaria Butterfield on my podcast and she said these words, "Everyone you meet is an image bearer of God, and that deserves a little respect." How would our online interactions with one another change if we remembered this?
What if we began intentionally viewing everyone with whom we come into contact online as an image bearer of God (see Genesis 1:27) and therefore deserving of honor and respect? It would change everything, wouldn't it? I encourage you to keep this in mind the next time you log into your favorite social media platform or engage with someone in the comments section of a news article.
2) Remember the "Golden Rule".
"Do unto others as you would have others do unto you" (Luke 6:31), "Love your neighbor as yourself" (Matthew 22:39) - both admonitions from Christ for how we ought to treat one another. Jesus even said that the world would know we are His disciples by the love we have for one another (see John 15). How crucial it is then to our witness for Him that we treat one another with the kind of compassionate consideration and kindness that God has called us to be characterized by as His followers!
3) Be slow to speak.
James 1:19 calls us to be "slow to speak". How rare this is on the internet! Everyone is shouting over everyone else in any given debate, fighting to "win" and be proven "right". But what if we instead chose to intentionally be slow to speak? What if we, in kindness and love, kept our mouths shut a little more and considered what others have to say as being more important than what we have to say? What if we earnestly desired to hear what the other person had to say? I venture a guess that this would dramatically improve the atmosphere of the online space!
4) Be quick to listen.
Along with being "slow to speak", James also encourages us to be "quick to listen". It isn't enough to simply be slow to speak and, instead of speaking, turn a deaf ear to those attempting to speak or ignore them altogether. Instead, we are to earnestly and actively listen, desiring to come to a better understanding of where the other person is coming from.
Doing so prevents us from being able to demonize them as we regularly do those with whom we disagree. We regularly assume that if someone is on the opposite end of the spectrum from us, that they must be horrible people, real monsters at heart. But, when we instead intentionally seek to listen and understand where others are coming from, giving them the chance to share their stories and their thoughts, it goes a long way towards our being able to see that other people have legitimate reasons for believing what they do - even if we disagree with their stances.
Navigating the online space can be a tricky one and is an endeavor which our foremothers never had to deal with. But we are not left to our own devices to attempt to figure out how to shine the light and love of Christ even into the online space. If we intentionally purpose in our hearts to live out these four principles in any and every conversation we engage in on the internet, we will be doing our part to spread kindness - even on social media!
You don't have to wait until kids are older to start teaching kindness online. Using the Kindness Coloring Pages and having a conversation about being kind online is a wonderful place to start!
Being Kind Online
There are a few steps we can take when being kind online. Practice these this week and see how radically different your online experience is!
1) Message your favorite blogger, writer, podcaster, or person to follow online and tell them how grateful you are for what they do.
2) Seek to diffuse a heated debate you stumble across online. Spread the light and love of Jesus.
3) Refuse to get into a debate with another person online. Instead, bless them with love, kindness, and Christlike words.
A Little More About Rebekah
Rebekah Hargraves is a wife, mama of two littles, blogger, podcaster, and author whose passion is to edify, equip, and encourage women in their journey of Biblical womanhood, particularly with an emphasis on the gospel and its implications for everyday life.
Rebekah's first book, "Lies Moms Believe (And How the Gospel Refutes Them)" released the fall of 2017, and the "Lies Moms Believe" Companion Bible Study came out March 30, 2018.
You can find Rebekah on her website, Hargraves Home and Hearth, on Instagram, or on iTunes via The Home and Hearth podcast.