It’s not that hard to find a pile-on these days and if we’re honest, the attraction to join the fray is seductive. Schoolyard fights draw a crowd, highway accidents draw gapers, and Twitter mobs draw the curious, trolls, and warriors—all eager to trounce whoever happens to be tagged villain today.
Disturbingly, Christian social media produces a slightly sanitized version of this reality. Find anyone sharing their thoughts on race or the president and you’ll find a swarm of piranhas close behind. If society broke the barrier of respectability and people behaved like we post and comment, we would fear leaving our homes for the mob beatings and vigilantism. But the gospel demands more from the people of God.
Where can we find complete courtesy?
Titus 3 instructs us to be the best kind of citizens: submissive, obedient, ready for every good work. But we are also to be healing agents who oppose the fragmenting tendencies latent in fallen humanity. We are to avoid slandering, to engage with gentleness and, strikingly, to show “complete courtesy to all people.”
Pause momentarily. Catch the echo of that radical little clause. Do you see “complete courtesy” in contemporary civil discourse? How about Facebook conversations? I sure don’t. It is a potent and provocative gospel-application we are called to embrace.
Yet, how can we do this? It’s no mistake that the charge is grounded in the gospel, because it is impossible as mere etiquette. This exhortation calls for an unmanufactured calmness that is free to submit; free to respond gently. The seven qualities of Titus 3:1–2 are not sustainable if superficial, and they are not possible when pretended. They exist only when the soul gladly discovers it is anchored to the Rock of Ages, unaffected by the undying assault of the waves.
Paul takes our faces in his hands and turns our gaze backward. And there we see painted, in bold type, the words “Never Forget.” This banner stirs neither patriotism nor pride, but the pathetic humiliation of just how lost we were. Words like “foolish,” “disobedient,” “enslaved to passions” don’t leave us with much to feel good about. But that’s the point. We were in bad shape when we went it alone. It’s no wonder that Twitter is a frightening world filled with trolls. Our world is a frightening world filled with sinners—of which I am the chief.
So Paul implores us to remember: remember the damage we caused; remember the flawed inner-logic that drove those damaging choices; remember how much we needed the grace of God to break in and break our world apart. “Those people” we want to #beatdown need the same mercy we have already gotten. They may have it too.
Remember our history meets forgetting cultural dominance.
Of course, looking back can only accentuate the relief and freedom of the present. What we were illuminates the wonder of what we are. We were pulled from the darkness, bloodied and scarred, and were washed, dressed, and embraced. We were given a new name, having received the verdict of righteousness. And now brought into the home of our elder Brother, we are learning the household rules of heaven, and we see that they heal and make whole.
None of this suggests that the Christian is called to passivity. There are hills for dying on. There are fights to have. There is truth to be spoken—even on social media. But we are liberated from the desperate scramble for cultural dominance because we now know that Jesus is Lord, and nobody is changing the end to his story.
If social media reveals our most transparent selves, then on social media Jesus’ people should be most transparent in their redemption. The world burns brightly with the glow of its self-consuming dumpster fire. It does not need more fuel; it needs those who rebel against the smoke and haze with the absorbing gentleness and courtesy created by the clear light of Christ.
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