I read earlier this week that the social media platform, Instagram, is taking some pretty bold steps to create a healthier online community. Their co-founder, Kevin Systrom, put it this way on their blog:
“Starting today, Instagram will filter bullying comments intended to harass or upset people in the Instagram community…Last year we announced our offensive comment filter, which automatically hides toxic and divisive comments, particularly those aimed at at-risk groups. This new filter hides comments containing attacks on a person’s appearance or character, as well as threats to a person’s well-being or health…We also believe in promoting kindness — encouraging our community to support one another both on and off Instagram…Since Mike and I founded Instagram, it’s been our goal to make it a safe place for self-expression and to foster kindness within the community.”
My first thought after reading this was, good for Instagram. My second thought? Can we get one of those filters for the church?
I continue to be absolutely shocked at the careless way that we use our words as self-proclaimed followers of Jesus.
Proverbs 18:21 “The tongue has the power of life and death…”
Life and death. That’s a lot of power. And yet, most of us go through the day allowing our mouth to spew unchecked bitterness, hatred, judgment, and gossip without even thinking twice about it. And it’s not just the hateful, divisive, mean-spirited comments we spew on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook. It’s the damage we do behind the scenes with our mouth as well.
You know how the conversation goes:
“Did you hear about Fred?”
“No, I didn’t hear about Fred.”
“I probably shouldn’t say anything.” (That’s just code for: ask me and I’ll tell you everything.)
“Well, what about Fred?”
“Well, you know, I wasn’t going to say anything, but since you asked . . .”
Fred’s upside down financially.
Fred’s 18-year-old kid is on meth.
Fred’s sleeping in the wrong bed.
Fred’s got a gambling problem.
Then both Christians shake their head in mock horror, “Poor guy, we really should be praying for him” and you walk away leaving Fred’s reputation in a pile of cinder ash.
For what? Did you gain anything?
We slander and gossip for the sheer, perverse, and fleeting pleasure of making ourselves feel better about our own life by tearing somebody else down.
And I don’t think it’s enough for us just to ask ourselves who we need to stop gossiping and slandering about. There’s more to this.
The apostle Paul says, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”
That’s the goal right? And none of us are going to get this perfect, but what we’ve got to begin to see is that there is an element of power in our words and it’s not accidental. God shaped our hearts and souls to be impacted by the words of others. This is not by chance. It’s part of your design.
So I’ve got two questions for you:
- Who has God placed in your life?
- And what do they need to hear you say?
Someone needs to hear…
- I believe in you.
- I’m sorry.
- You’re beautiful.
- I love you.
- I forgive you.
- I’m proud of you.
I know speaking those kinds of words create a level of intimacy that some of you, for different reasons, are not comfortable with. I just think our choice of comfort over our choice of using our words for life is a tragic choice.
Who is one person in your life that desperately needs to hear something from you? Write that letter, text that message, pick up the phone and call them….now. Don’t put this one off.