You might be right about something, but it doesn’t mean you’re right.
Let’s set some ground rules and etiquette for “online arguments” when our passions collide.
1) Ask questions before making assumptions.
This is the number one problem in every single doctrinal debate in the blogosphere. We tend to publicly spout off right away on a bunch of false trumped up charges about what the “other side” represents, and the whole thing is derailed before it leaves the station.
Before you hit reblog with your helpful commentary, take five minutes to message someone with questions to clarify their points. Don’t be too quick to jump on the straw-man bandwagon.
Also ask yourself these questions before you take a stand on anything:
Is this really what I want to be known for?
Is there a better way I could say this?
Am I confusing anger for passion?
Am I earning the respect of my listeners?
Would I even listen to someone who is about to speak the way I am?
Do I have all the facts?
Am I inviting questions?
Can I accept disagreements?
Do I really love the people I’m addressing or am I just saying that to smooth over my agenda?
Should I take a nap first?
2) Don’t demonize.
Unless this guy is Hitler, he’s not Hitler.
The person you want to attack has the same dreams, hopes, ambitions, wounds, fears, and anxieties that all of us do. Keep in mind that this faceless blogger is a God-created human being with real feelings and a struggle and a destiny. He or she is not some single-layered un-conflicted stock character.
Your words once spoken can’t be undone by a simple willpower of the mind. Don’t be the grimy little hater. Don’t be a troll. Season yourself with grace.
3) No one has to agree with a word you say, and you need to be okay with that.
Have a thick skin. Getting attacked or rejected for your theology is going to happen. Accept disagreement and holster your weapon.
Please don’t be the guy who says, “You’re a wolf in sheep’s clothing if you don’t believe it exactly this way.” Would you listen to a guy who spoke like that? You don’t get to draw the line.
Snap out of Messiah mode. You can’t save anyone (and what would you be saving them to?). Love them, pray for them, and be the truth.
4) If you’re wrong about something, admit it and move on.
We’ve all heard: “You should read my original post” or “I guess you missed the part where I said –” and it turns into this messy meta-argument of circling a dead end. Often in my rush to be right, I try to prove that I’m right instead of the idea. I justify myself with dumb semantics and tiny course-corrections to say “what I really meant,” when really I know that I’m just dead wrong.
I’m realizing it’s okay to concede some weak points. It’s okay to say I spoke too quickly. It’s okay to apologize.
And hey: maybe your argument just sucks. Maybe your thinking is wrong. Can we be humble enough to let go of our darlings? To release the iron grip? Can we reconstruct our ideas together?
5) You can still be friends.
In the end, if neither of us are budging, we can leave it at that.
If you’re quick to criticize or dismiss someone because their personality or convictions look different than yours: please consider that God has a huge imagination, and He works through people as unique individuals in ways that our limited brain could never conceive. You don’t want to get between God and His chisel.
The body of Christ looks as different as every person in the world. It should, and that’s healthy. We ultimately unite on the core of Jesus. He is where we stand our ground. In a culture of so much division and polarization, let’s be where Jesus is.
If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus …
– Philippians 2:1-5