For the last 12 months, I have been preaching through the Gospel of Matthew. This past week, November 15, 2020, our passage was Matthew 7:1-12. The title of the sermon was “The Cure for Criticism,” and you can watch/listen here: https://vimeo.com/479884369
One of the points that didn’t make it into the sermon dealt with the negative impact of Christians attacking and insulting other people. Most of my thoughts were focused on what we see and experience on social media. However, I believe we are beginning to see people express themselves in person more and more as they do online. The following are some thoughts that were left on the cutting room floor once the sermon was finished.
With every insult and attack on someone who doesn’t know Christ, you do at least do negative things:
1. You misrepresent Christ
Jesus consistently found ways to confront sin, rebuke hypocrites, and even speak of hell without insulting or attacking others. As His follower, you are called to imitate Him.
Philippians 2:3–6 (CSB), “3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility consider others as more important than yourselves. 4 Everyone should look not to his own interests, but rather to the interests of others. 5 Adopt the same attitude as that of Christ Jesus, 6 who, existing in the form of God, did not consider equality with God as something to be exploited.”
Ephesians 4:1–3 (CSB), “Therefore I, the prisoner in the Lord, urge you to walk worthy of the calling you have received, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3 making every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.”
1 John 2:6 (CSB), 6 The one who says he remains in him should walk just as he walked.
Throughout the New Testament, you are called to pattern your way of life after the manner of Christ. In today’s hypercritical and slanderous culture, your voice must stand out. And it should stand out because it is like Christ, not because you provide the best insults or are willing to attack others. The world is filled with men and women who will say anything or do anything to others. What the world is missing is the gracious, merciful, and humble way of Jesus.
The world is missing the love of God on display through the words and actions of those who say they represent Him. Christians cannot separate who they are online from what people think about them in person. That may have been possible in some situations before the pandemic. But as the pandemic has pushed us online, our online personas are who we are to one another.
2. You make sure you aren’t the one God uses to bring them to Christ
Scripture is clear that God saves. He desires to save, and He has promised to save.
In 1 Timothy 2:3–4 (CSB), Paul writes confidently, “3 This is good, and it pleases God our Savior, 4 who wants everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”
As a Christian, your mindset should be that every person you interact with is one God has sent you to reach. Jesus said in Matthew 28 that we are all sent into the world to make disciples of all people. Practically that means all the people around you and that you know. It applies to all the people who see how you live, hear the words you say, and see the things you post.
If the “you” that others know is full of insults, name-calling, and personal attacks, then the people you are sent to reach aren’t going to listen when you talk about Jesus. If the friends you make online scroll through your social media posts and see you mixing scripture and praise with attacks and insults, it’s confusing at best and a horrible witness of Christ.
The Bible says that love and God’s grace will define the church. Unfortunately, it is increasingly identified by hatred and animosity toward those who don’t believe. Based on his observations of the growing insults and attacks aimed at the world, Carey Nieuwhof asked, “If God so loved the world, who gave Christians permission to hate it?”
“If God so loved the world, who gave Christians permission to hate it?” – Carey Nieuwhof
Brother or sister, there is a way to address the moral, ethical, and even political issues of the world without insulting or attacking. It may take more time, patience, and care with your words, but it can be done. Remember, Jesus confronted sinners, and they still wanted to spend time with Him. He rebuked the hypocrites, and they kept coming back to listen to Him. The Gospel is offensive enough; we don’t need to add to it with insults and attacks.
To the church in Corinth, Paul writes, “18 For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but it is the power of God to us who are being saved.” (1 Corinthians 1:18 CSB) The word “foolishness” is akin to an offense, as is the phrase, “stumbling block in verse 23, “23 but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to the Jews and foolishness to the Gentiles. 24 Yet to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God.” (1 Corinthians 1:23–24 CSB)
Remember that God is saving people, and He will use you in that effort.
Matthew 9:37–38 (CSB) says, “The harvest is abundant, but the workers are few. 38 Therefore, pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into his harvest.”
Jesus said in Matthew 5:16 (CSB), “16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.”
Instead of insults, attacks, name-calling, and hyper-criticism, let us be people who love even our enemies in ways that are pleasing to Christ.
As I said near the end of the sermon:
- Love is constructive, not critical.
2. Love is humble, not hypocritical.
3. Love is prudent, not impatient.