The basic rules of conduct, or the Golden Rule are there, spelled out in nearly every religion. Jesus, in Matthew 7.12, reminds us to act accordingly: “In everything do to others as you would have them do to you.”
And my goodness, we try.
After all, we know that if we treat someone badly, we will ourselves be known as hurtful; whether it’s by thought, word, or deed. And we don’t want to be known as being hurtful.
So… what about the church? Do we treat the church the same way we treat other people? Because the impact is the same—other people will view us as hurtful if we treat the church badly—in thought, word, or deed.
And it’s not just limited to in-person communications anymore. We know that if we head to brunch after church and trash-talk the person from the next pew, other brunch-ers may hear and recognise the church to be a place of hypocrisy, judgement, gossip, what have you. So we don’t do that. (Right? We don’t do that.)
However, our presence online is normal these days—there are very few people I know who do not have some form of online presence. Our reach through social media is far greater than our reach in person, on the average day. One negative comment overheard at brunch can cast a harsh impression to those at the neighbouring table; one negative tweet or Facebook post may be seen by our friends and our friends’ friends—and as comments continue it might be reposted to people we’ve never even met.
Sadly, this seems to be the new place to vent frustrations and grievances against the church. Didn’t like the sermon? Tweet your displeasure. Couldn’t hear the reading? Complain in a Facebook post. Object to the style of music? Blog about it.
Let the whole online world know just how upset you are with things at the church.
Instead, address the issues in person, working together for solutions to the problem. Ask the preacher for a chat later in the week to discuss the content of the sermon. Seek out someone who knows about the sound system to see if improvements can be made for the next week. Spend coffee hour with the music director and ask if s/he accepts suggestions—or even join the choir yourself. The results may not be exactly what/when/how you want, but at least they’re now known by the folks who can respond.
It’s potentially more difficult or awkward, conversing face to face instead of typing from the comfort of home—but it’s the more loving thing to do. No one wants to read a bad review about themselves online or through friends; no church wants to see hurtful comments being declared over social media – especially by one of the family.
John 13.35 (By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.’) was made popular in the hymn “They will know we are Christians by our love”—so it becomes our duty to show this love. In our words, in our actions, and even in our social media posts.
See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil. And tweet no Evil, for the love of the church