If ever there was a time in which one would need a plan for actively avoiding being utterly sucked into a twisted and caustic atmosphere of hate, the time is now. The malignancy of unrestrained animosity as well as our collective inability to even pretend to be able to enter into civil discourse with one another is catastrophic in our society’s slide into greater and viler strife.
If you’re not yet convinced, then you are yourself either an agent of such strife (unwittingly, perhaps) or you simply are “tuned out” in regard to media, (anti)social media especially.
If you are a Christian, be advised that you are not created nor redeemed by Jesus in order to stoop to participating in the mudslinging spectacle which is blowing up Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook, nor even the “legitimate” media moguls who are anything but legitimate in their agendas and methodologies. You are, in fact, an agent to counter that cultural flow, an ambassador of God’s own Kingdom and messenger of His will, Word and ways.
If you are a Christian and are understandably feeling overwhelmed or are tempted to feel despair over how not to be a part of the problem, and not knowing how to be a part of the solution, let me share with you five facets of foiling today’s foolishness.
The first step is to start filtering our newsfeeds. This means we must learn to be discerning as to what you believe and, consequently, what you act on. Keep in mind that the world at large is not in tune with God’s “big picture take” on world events. In fact, we are admonished in Ephesians 4:17 and 18 to not walk as those in the world do “in the futility of their minds. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart.”
Knowing that the summation of attitudes, plans and ambitions which don’t take God’s will into account are futile (wasted and pointless) should energize us sufficiently to heed the counsel of 1 Thessalonians 5:21 and 1 John 4:1 which tell us to “test” what we hear and are told. In other words, don’t believe something just because you’ve been told it. Even “credible” news stories should be taken with a grain of salt. To carry that further, it probably is a good idea to wait a little while before responding to “news” (a day or so at least) so that there is more time for real facts to come to light and to allow yourself to do something more than an ugly emotional response which you later come to regret.
Even when something is “proven” to be true, something that is outrageous and unjust, the second facet to foiling the foolishness around us the that we flee hatred and hateful responses – yes, even towards haters. As a Christian, you cannot live in a state of hatred towards another. It is against the nature of the Spirit of God Who lives within the hearts of Believers. “Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness. Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling. But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes” (1 John 2:9-11 ESV).
As part of a part of fleeing hatred, we must incorporate the practice of actively forgiving others. “If you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matthew 6:14 ESV). Forgiveness is not up for debate. If we do not forgive others (releasing them from our need to make them pay), we have forfeited the opportunity to enter into the power of God’s forgiveness without which we are lost.
A third facet in our strategy for fending off such foolishness is the flinging of our burdens into God’s care. Fear, worry and uncertainty have a way of fueling frenzies that we see almost every day. We are invited, in God’s Word, to shed our burdens, release our troubles, and lose our fears, knowing that what we were never designed (nor expected) to solve, He can… and will if only we will release our hold on them into His hands. “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time He may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on Him, because He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7 ESV).
The fourth facet is to fill our minds with the positive things of God. One cannot simply “empty his head” of the garbage constantly inundating him. A vacuum will be filled. He must fill it preemptively with “Kingdom things”. We need to constantly be filled with (taught and reminded of) what matters, Who’s in charge, and the promises that keep us, as God’s children, secure. “Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you” (Philippians 4:8-9 ESV). A constant inflow of negativity into your life cannot help but overflow that negativity to others. Conversely, a pouring into your heart and mind the powerful promises of God will unleash through you wellsprings of hope and transformation – not only for you, but for others whose lives connect with yours.
The fifth and final facet is simply that we flesh out acts of love. Whatever our words may say, our actions speak louder. In fact, unless our actions demonstrate love and integrity, our words mean very little except to serve as ammunition for those who would ridicule and the God we say we serve. “By this we know love, that He (Jesus) laid down His life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth” (1 John 3:16-18 ESV).
These are confusing and difficult times, but as Christians we can be catalysts for hope and change. Never compromise the principles of the Kingdom in order to advance a cause no matter how noble it may be. The long road to real and lasting change for the better is worth our being patient, loving, wise and faithful here and now.
(Thom Mollohan and his family have ministered in southern Ohio the past 23 ½ years, is the author of The Fairy Tale Parables, Crimson Harvest, and A Heart at Home with God. He blogs at “unfurledsails.wordpress.com”. Pastor Thom leads Pathway Community Church and may be reached for comments or questions by email at firstname.lastname@example.org).