Spiritual growth depends on our capacity for following the instructions of the Word of God.
In the following verses of scripture, we are being admonished to desire the sincere milk of the Word, which is the most basic level of growth, attributed to new-born babes in Christ, as the foundational level for the believer.
1 Peter 1:25-2:3 The word of the LORD endures forever. Now this is the word which by the gospel was preached to you. Therefore, laying aside all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all evil speaking, as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby, if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious.
Peter tells us we have to lay aside the traits of the carnal, which he considers to be malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy and all evil speaking.
Malice is ill-will, or the desire to injure. We are being told to lay aside all malice, every desire to cause injury to others, friend or foe. It is one thing to test every spirit whether it is of God, but quite another to do so with an attitude of ill-will or with a desire to injure the person we are assessing. This Peter considers to be carnal.
This can and should also be applied to the new world of the internet and the way in which we are empowered to communicate across borders and cultures.
Blogging is a very recent discipline, and there are a great many sites where commentary allows a certain freedom of expression not found anywhere else in civilised society, and can often create a heated environment where people say things under the guise of anonymity that they would not normally say to another person’s face.
I have come to realise over time that we, as Christians, still have a level of responsibility for what we say and do even though we are enabled to put on a mask if we so desire on these kinds of public forum.
I have had to change some of my thinking, over time, about how to go about pointing out error, or whatever it is I think needs to be addressed at that moment, and have repented of some of the ways in which I have communicated, even though I was, occasionally, completely convinced that I was right.
Repentance and change is surely, for the Christian, part of growing up in Christ.
Being right about things is one thing, but the way in which we communicate our side of an argument is another. I have been caught up in the past in some discussions and debates which became very heated online. I don’t think there is anything wrong with this, and we often learn by discussion with others because we’re not always right or correct about things and there is always an alternative viewpoint we should listen to, but it crosses the line when we begin to treat those we are debating as the adversary in a negative or malicious way, or become accusative. That attitude is wrong.
When we start saying that people with a different viewpoint are the enemy of some kind we are entering the world of the immature and divisive. I understand that there are actually some people who are adversarial, who really do hate what we stand for, but we are supposed to live at a higher level of maturity than this, and to learn how to discuss issues such as Christian doctrine, culture or methodology without being accusative, judgmental or derisive of those with whom we discuss issues.
Crossing the line
Some of the sites we have reviewed here have a tendency to step over the lines of decency at times, and the level of maturity displayed by supporters of these sites have shown a lack of understanding of Christian principles. The thing is, and it’s a great dilemma, do we expose these things and present them on a counter blog, or is this merely doing the same thing as those we are declaring to be hypocritical?
I have had to ask myself this question many times. I rarely name people, and usually confront the issue at hand, but is it acceptable to even put up a satirical argument that exposes a malicious accusation on a public forum?
The lines have shifted for the Christian populace. We have entered a global communications arena. We will ultimately have to adjust the way in which we approach ministry, because there are gathering voices against the things most of us stand for in our ministries. The gospel of Christ is the one constant we need to cling to as we venture deeper into this growing expansive environment of change.
Opponents will aways present themselves, and they will, sadly, also be numbered amongst those who purport to be on the same side of the line of righteousness before God. How we conduct ourselves and present God’s eternal message of hope to the world will need to be rethought.
In some ways the opposition is a God-send because we will have to be very circumspect regarding the doctrine we minister, the way we deliver the good news, the fidelity of our own intentions and the attitude we present to those who are averse to our cause.
These are, then, exciting times, really, if we are prepared to reexamine the way in which we present the message with which God has entrusted us.
It’s not time to back off from our assignment, or be afraid of what the critics might say about us, or the kinds of claims they make about our ministry. It’s a time to reassess the clarity of our message so that we do all we can to walk in righteousness as we go about our daily lives.
Critics will always find something to criticise, and we, being the frail humans we are, will probably give them something to gossip about at some juncture in our walk. The Bible is a book of the inadequacies of the heroes of the faith as much as their victories in God. It is a warts and all account of the way in which God took the weak, base, foolish and despised and turned them into world-changers that glorified His name.
Only let us go about our work in the Lord without malice, without hypocrisy, and without the levels of maturity that will be thrown at us by anonymous habitual critics.