Anger and offense are big problems in the world today — sadly, even among Christians. I can find myself getting easily irritated by this world, even though I know Christ asks me to live with patience and kindness. Do you often find yourself easily irritated, too?
When we’re angry, how quickly do we go on the attack? Is this how God wants us to respond to one another? No. There’s a better way. His way.
Responding like Jesus should be our daily intention.
Responding in Attack Mode
Rheumatoid arthritis, Lupus, Inflammatory bowel disease, Multiple sclerosis. While these diseases are all different, they share a common thread, a similar root cause. They’re triggered when our bodies attack themselves. Our immune system goes haywire. Instead of protecting us like it’s designed to, it attacks us. It intentionally destroys healthy cells.
I think the same thing can happen in our relationships. We declare war on our relationships when we allow jealousy, conceit, pride, anger, and selfishness to take over. As we nurse our hurts and wounds, we find ourselves tearing each other down, rather than building each other up. In His Word, God repeatedly cautions us against this. He knows these actions only bring pain and suffering into our lives.
Some of us are our worst on social media. We can find ourselves saying things we’d never say to someone’s face. Words we can’t take back. Even if the post gets deleted, we leave hurt and brokenness behind.
Deep down we know that these thoughts and behaviors hurt God’s heart. And we know that our unChristlike behavior limits our influence to point others to Him. We need to do better.
Responding Like Christ
So what can we do about this? We can set Christ-honoring habits that help us to respond like Him, even when we’re hurt, angry, or cranky. God wants us to respond rightly even when we’ve not gotten enough sleep, or not nurtured our hearts and minds with His Word. We need to look to Him to have the mental, physical, and spiritual strength to better reflect Jesus.
Here are four steps we can take before we post to ensure we respond with grace online:
- Identification. We are to purposefully see others as created in the image of God, whether we agree with them or not. God created us all in His image. This means everyone deserves our respect. As John Calvin, French theologian, pastor, and leader of the Protestant Reformation remind us: “We are not to reflect on the wickedness of men but to look to the image of God in them, an image which, covering and obliterating their faults, an image which, by its beauty and dignity, should allure us to love and embrace them.”
Tip: Remember, when we hurt another person, we also hurt ourselves.
- Motivations. Is our motive to be like Jesus when we add our post or comment? Will our words lift others up, or tear them down? Philippians 2:3-4 tells us to do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. We are to humbly value others.
Tip: Remember, since Jesus humbled Himself, we need to follow His lead.
- Assumptions. What thoughts do we have about others? Do we presume to know their motives? Do we give them the benefit of the doubt, or do we immediately assume the negative? As Ecclesiastes 10:13 teaches us, we are foolish when we make assumptions and jump to conclusions. It’s too easy to judge others when we do.
Tip: Remember, be quick to give people the benefit of the doubt and not jump to conclusions.
- Restoration. What do we do when we recognize that we’ve hurt someone with our words or actions? When we sin, God asks us to choose forgiveness and restoration. I focused on this point in detail in this earlier post.
Tip: Remember, if Jesus was willing to give His life to restore us, we need to be willing to offer restoration, too.
Loving Like Christ
How do we go about restoring a damaged relationship with someone? We start by softening our heart and responses. God has provided a three-step approach, which we find in 2 John 1:3. These action steps help us to get back on track when we’ve derailed:
- Grace. Just as God has given us grace; we need to show grace. God’s grace is His total forgiveness in and through Jesus. God receives and embraces us, despite our worst sin against Him. We need to model this same grace to others. God has given us what we don’t deserve; we should do likewise with others.
This prayer might help: “Dear God, empower me to overlook insults. And give me a tender heart to see life from another’s perspective.” Imagine living that life!
- Mercy. Just as God has given us mercy, we need to show mercy. Because of Christ, we are reprieved from what we truly deserve: separation from God. As Jesus has held back punishment and condemnation, we need to be willing to show grace to others. Instead of lashing out, let’s hold back. Is this hard? Absolutely. But as we live with the intention to be like Christ, we can develop this habit.
- Peace. Just as God has given us peace, we need to show peace. We were separated, out of joint with God. But He took action to repair the rift; He sent Christ to restore our relationship with Himself. Peace often starts with forgiveness.
There is so much power in forgiveness. Peter received unmerited forgiveness from Christ after he denied knowing Jesus not once, but THREE times on the night Jesus was arrested. This powerful lesson taught Peter that loving like Christ covers a multitude of sins (1 Peter 4:8). The bottom line: There is nothing we can’t forgive, if we remember how deeply we’ve been forgiven.
Looking Like Christ
Reconciliation and restoration are NOT always easy. Especially for a hard-headed, self-righteous Believer like myself! I’ve just gone through an agonizing 17-month process, during which I held a grudge against someone who hurt my family. This person was clearly in the wrong, but in my moral superiority I held them in contempt. I focused all my energy on punishing them.
As I prepared for Easter, however, I saw afresh the grace, mercy, and peace that God paid for ME, a sinner. A radical thought came to me: Christ’s resurrection isn’t supposed to make me feel comfortable. It’s supposed to get my attention, even punch me in the gut! My resurrected Savior is more powerful than death. Therefore, His power in me should override my desire for righteous indignation toward others.
I immediately acknowledged my hard-heartedness to Christ, and humbly sought His forgiveness. My next step was to seek restoration with the person I was punishing.
Seeking restoration doesn’t always lead to restoration. But Romans 12:18 teaches us to do our best to live in peace with everyone. It’s not our job to force an outcome, only to be obedient. As I offered forgiveness, freely giving up my right to judge and hold a grudge, my inner peace returned.
Let me ask you to ponder this question: In a world looking for evidence about the truth of Jesus, what can be more convincing than our looking like Jesus in how we treat others? In how quickly we drop our anger. In how quickly we drop our self-righteousness. In how quickly we offer forgiveness.
There’s nothing worse than an unkind, unloving, unforgiving Christian. So let’s not be one! Especially online, where offenses can so quickly escalate. Let us live with the daily intention that our words and actions help people to see the beauty of Jesus. Amen!
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