Gentleness and Respect
“Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect”
See 1 Peter 3:15
We live in a world of social media. It’s very sad, but some people, even Christians, are looking for an opportunity to pounce on others online.
“You’re an idiot and should know better.”
“God is a police officer and you’re just looking to hide sins from Him!”
“You have no right to be speaking about God. You need to study yourself approved! Reach out for wise counsel from a godly man!”
“Well my Bible says this!”
Rude, aggressive, insensitive comments can even come from those who have a Bible verse at the top of their page. It’s no wonder why the body of Christ has such a bad reputation. It’s because we aren’t expressing Him like we should.
As believers, the worse thing we can do is attack people for their beliefs or act like a know-it-all jerk toward those who are still learning the basics of Christ crucified. Sometimes, even when we know we’re right, the best thing we can do is respond softly or be quiet in response to hateful remarks. No matter if those remarks are coming from contentious unbelievers or legalistic Christians we decide how we’ll react.
Regrettably, there are even some people who’ve become legalistic about the New Covenant. Information, information, information–“Shut up and listen,” guised by a delicate tone, is all they want to give others. Refusing to express any type of vulnerability or relatability, their attitude is, “These are the facts, deal with it. I have no interest in what you think. I’m right. You’re wrong. Here’s why.”
Others have become bodyguards for pastors, “He’s my hero!” they bark.
“I thought Jesus was your hero?”
“Don’t worry about me. Get in line and learn what you need to learn. Don’t ever post, write, or say anything which sounds like my hero. God’s grace affords me to tell you this. You’ll only hear from me when I want something from you or when I need to correct your theology, and it will be via text or messenger. I’m not calling you.”
Pastoral gatekeepers who act as if their minister is Christ Himself. Even those who fully understand the foundations of the New Covenant are doing this. What they fail to grasp is their pastor learned from another pastor before them. And those pastors before them. And maybe they didn’t even learn the New Covenant truths from a pastor but from a regular person like me.
Who knows? Who cares? Ultimately it is the Spirit who reveals all truths, no matter who’s expressing His message. Some need to step down from their high-horse and stop acting like a single person is God’s gift to mankind. Jesus holds that title.
Placing one man’s gifts higher than all things and all people? Protecting them with salty, uber-critical vigor? To me, that sounds cultish. Too far? Probably, but so what. That’s how I feel when someone lifts up a pastor higher than Christ, follows all your posts and stories, yet never comments unless it’s to correct you or point out how their hero came up with the same idea first.
No, friend, the gospel is much older than your hero. The Spirit is eternal. He lives in everyone who believes. Those were His ideas, first.
I never thought I would see it, but New Covenant cliques have formed. Count me out. Expressing legalism–not about Law, because they know we’re dead to the Law–but about the New Covenant. Many are quick to point out where someone is lacking in truth–brutally–just the same as those who mix Law and grace. It’s sanctimonious, just with a New Covenant hat on.
The issue is this:
THERE’S NO GENTLENESS OR RESPECT.
Peter said we should always be prepared to give an answer for the hope we have, but to do so gently and respectfully (see 1 Peter 3:15). Used to be, I’d go to war with anyone who was rude or aggressive, especially with a legalist or disrespectful unbeliever. But I dumped that immaturity a while back. If I find myself angry I won’t respond at all, and if I decide to I’ll wait a while and then come back. Most of the time I think nothing more about it. I move forward and enjoy my day.
I don’t even check to see who is my “friend” any longer, nor pay attention to who likes my posts. I refuse to be a slave to the opinion of others, even if they decide to electronically shut me out of their life. If I don’t see their posts or likes pop up any longer? “Oh well, I wish them the best,” is what I truly think.
It wasn’t always like this. I’d get upset if I was unfriended or blocked. I’d also stay up until the wee hours of the morning going back and forth, trying to prove my point to others. I’d miss a whole day of work attempting to convince someone they’re wrong and I’m right. Now, I don’t need to be right. I need to enjoy my peace. I’ll unfollow or even block a person if I see that my peace is in constant jeopardy. It’s just not worth it.
The Holy Spirit has taught me there’s plenty of people who actually want help and are searching for answers kindly. There are those who are willing to give me a chance to use my gifts to possibly steer them into the easiness of Christ. They are friends, and some aren’t even Christians. What a concept, right? Unbelieving friends? Who would’ve thought of such a thing?
Social media calls people friends but most are not. They’re contacts cloaked in a list of supposed friends. Really, it should be called a contact list, not a friends list. But Facebook can make more money and collect more information from people when they cause us to believe we’re gathering friends. Their frustrating algorithms don’t even let you see your real friend’s posts very often, but they sure as heck won’t stop suggesting people you’ve never met.
The reality is, I have several true friends who know more than I do–in a scholarly way–yet they treat me with the utmost respect and care; not like a professor whom I have to constantly impress with no returned praise, and not like the intern for that professor who grades his papers.
I shouldn’t be wasting my time, effort, thoughts, and energy on those who attack me or treat me like I’m some stupid Christian layman. I know what I need to know, right now, at this exact moment in my life, just the same as I knew what I needed to know, five years ago, at that exact moment in my life. I’m growing and maturing. We all are. None of us have made it to the peak of the Mountain of the Knowledge of God’s Grace. We’re not even supposed to be climbing it. We should be resting in the lush green pastures at the bottom of that mountain, in the valley with Jesus, being ourselves and enjoying our lives as saints.
Because Christ lives in me my knowledge is always good enough for God. He can use a donkey and illiterate fishermen to get his message out. He can use anyone or anything. I’m the first to admit that my grammar, spelling, punctuation, and theology isn’t perfect, but my spirit is. My God is. And I’m one with Him. So are you, Christian (see Hebrews 10:10,14, 1 Corinthians 6:17).
I refuse to shrink back and not be who I am, no matter the flaws in my actions, attitudes, and learnedness. I’m going to do the best I can, to be myself, while resting in grace. I will ignore all discouragement, no matter if it’s coming from Mosaic legalists or the New Covenant camp. I will set healthy boundaries to protect my mental well-being, confidence, and feelings.
My feelings are important, and so are yours, friend.
No matter where you’re at in your walk, you too are enough for God! You too can do amazing things! If someone tells you otherwise don’t believe it! Don’t let anyone sway you from the dreams you have within!
Believer or not, when someone disagrees with us and they aren’t attacking, we should consider engaging with them. After deciding to do this, for me, over the years, I’ve seen amazing results! Here’s what I’ve learned:
- Pause and listen. This seems simple, but God always leads us toward empathy and patience. If I find myself speeding up in order to make my point, this is a red flag to STOP. Expressing patience with others, and with ourself, is much more important than knee-jerk, gotta-be-right reactions. We have nothing to prove. We simply have truth and love to share, Jesus. There’s no pressure on us and life will go on even if we don’t convince someone about Him. Christ saves, not us, so let others finish what they have to say and take a break.
- Don’t tell people what to believe. Easy enough, right? With religion and politics, the unfollow and mute buttons have become very popular. Rightfully so. Our feeds should be enjoyable! When others are constantly pushing us to believe a certain way, snooze them or unfollow them altogether. Take a step back from the group. Juxtapose, with our evangelism, we don’t want to be like the Pharisees, severely disrespecting people. Those jerks even killed others for not believing like them.
- Be sensitive. Triple-check the things we post before we post it. What we put on social media is the same as putting it in the newspaper. Others will see it. Be sensitive to them, ourselves, and those whom we love. Before posting, ask yourself: Is this too personal? Will I feel the same tomorrow or next month? How will this impact my relationships, reputation, finances, and/or occupation? Am I dishonoring myself or someone who cares about me? Should I let my emotions calm down first?
- Express gentleness and respect. Again, 1 Peter 3:15 reminds us to be organic in our interactions. We’re not faking these traits. We are gentle, we are respectful, we are new creations! (See 2 Corinthians 5:17, Galatians 5:22,23).
- Keep scrolling. We don’t have to comment on everything we disagree with. There’s no peace in that. Let people express what’s important to them. Some self-described devout Christians post things about God and our President which make me want to say, “Really?” But the truth is, they’re allowed to have their own opinion and I’m allowed to ignore it. If it gets out of hand, I simply hit snooze, mute, or unfollow. People want to say what they want to say. I don’t have to butt-in or take offense all the time. We control what constantly shows up in our feeds by what we continually interact with. Nobody else does. So if our feeds and stories are splatter-blasters of crap, fear-mongering, and hate; if, once a month we post, “I’m done! I can’t stand what I see on social media any longer!” we have the power to change that. Keep scrolling away from that stuff and don’t engage with it. Begin interacting with gentle and respectful people and Pages! Your social media experience will change for the better!
A prayer for you: Heavenly Father, how amazing are the ideas you’ve given us for technology! The internet is allowing us to learn and grow on unprecedented levels! The days of needing to go stand in front of someone, once or twice a week to hear their opinion about you, is being exceeded from our own pockets! But at the same time, this technology can be hurtful and frustrating when we don’t let your Spirit work through it. Continue to teach us how to use what you’ve given us to express you properly. Right now, I lift up all who are reading this, directly to you. Help them to grow in your grace, and to be able to get their point across kindly. If there’s constant turmoil with their social media, let them know they have the capability to change this themselves. Teach us all how to spread the Good News without being combative. We want the world to see YOU through US. You are loving, patient, kind, gentle, and respectful. Amen.
This devotional is from my upcoming book, The Christian Identity, Volume 3. Check out my other bestselling books here!