For the longest time, I vowed I would never get on Facebook. It was one of those stubborn stances I was taking just because I didn’t want to be like everyone else. However, like most things that are driven purely by stubbornness, I finally looked at myself in the mirror and asked ‘Why?’ So I gave in. Several years ago, I created a Facebook account. It was not until the last couple of years that I noticed a slight shift in the way I use Facebook (and social media in general). In an effort to grow as a Christian, I stopped trying to find and befriend everyone with whom I’ve ever had the slightest contact. Instead, I started to surround myself with other Christians. I have “met” many Christians and preachers around the world. I have found and started listening to Christian podcasts and started reading blogs about Christian living. As a result, I’ve noticed a shift in the way I think and view the world, and I believe it’s a good shift.
Like many on Facebook, I am “friends” with several people that I have never met. We simply shared many of the same friends in common, so I agreed to add them as my friend. My hope was that we could help influence each other to grow in Christ even if we never meet face-to-face. Most of the time, that has worked out well and I have formed some friendships that way. However, not every result is as pleasant.
I’ve noticed a pattern beginning to emerge on Facebook by many who are members of the Lord’s Church, and it disturbs me. I am not writing this to call out any particular person (because I’ve seen many do this). I do, however, want to draw some attention to this matter and ask you to at least rethink your decision if you are tempted to do this.
Some of the individuals I am friends with on Facebook may post a simple Bible-related question once or twice a week. It tends to be a very vague question, and the intent is to start a conversation. For the most part, these conversations are very productive and can help the readers and responders to grow in Bible knowledge. However, I’m finding more and more individuals that are doing something that I consider to be much more sinister, and in my opinion wrong.
These individuals will ask a very general question. The question tends to be one that is somewhat controversial, knowing that there will be various answers to the question. However, instead of trying to start a conversation that will result in growth and edification, this person is setting a trap and waiting for some gullible soul to answer the question in what they consider the wrong way. Then the attack begins. The “Christian” will pounce and begin to personally attack the one who responded, proclaiming how ignorant or blind they are of the Scriptures. Then others will join in on the attack. If the poor soul tries to continue the conversation and discuss the matter, the attacks get worse. In a short amount of time, there are several people who will team on up this person to try and belittle him or her. It is very much a mob mentality.
We must keep in mind that this is all carried out in public for the world to see. This is damaging to the Lord’s Church, and it should not be happening. If you are tempted to do something like this, here are some things to think about first:
- Biblical error should not be overlooked. If someone in the Lord’s Church is teaching error and claiming it is in the name of Christ, this individual should be taught the proper way before a false doctrine is started or spread. However, there are examples in the Scripture of how this can and should be done. The best example is that of Aquilla and Priscilla. In Acts 18, they listened to Apollos preach a very powerful sermon in the synagogue, though he only knew and preached the baptism of John. This was no longer right, and Aquilla and Priscilla knew it. Instead of trying to make a fool out of Apollos and belittle him in front of everyone, they privately took him aside and “explained to him the way of God more perfectly.” (Acts 18:26) They corrected the error, and they did so immediately. However, they did it in a way that they all remained friends afterwards and the Lord’s Church was strengthened.
- It is true that Jesus had some very, shall we say, unpleasant run-ins with the Pharisees. In fact, the conversations ended many times with Jesus rebuking them and their teachings. You may think you are trying to follow in the footsteps of Jesus by pointing out the error in others. However, there is one very big difference. Jesus never went looking for the fight. He didn’t sit around with the disciples and think up questions they could ask the Pharisees in order to trap and discredit them. In fact, that’s exactly what the Pharisees were doing to Jesus (Matthew 22:15). His rebuke of them happened as a response to their questions. When you are asking a question with the hope of being able to attack someone who provides the wrong answer, you are playing the role of the Pharisee, not that of Jesus.
Is it wrong to correct someone who believes or is teaching error? Absolutely not. In fact, if I believe a false doctrine and am spreading error, I beg you to tell me. My salvation, and possibly those with whom I am talking, may be at stake. However, nowhere in Scripture do we find the concept of laying a trap to catch someone who believes false doctrine. Nowhere do we see the Christian looking for a fight. Nowhere do we find one group of Christians personally attacking the character and intelligence of another Christian who may believe something in error. Instead, we see these situations handled with gentleness and kindness, resulting in the correction of the error and edification of the individual.
If you are tempted to ask such a question, please think through how God would want us to handle such a situation. Is it productive or edifying to do so? Probably not. Does it cause more harm than good? More than likely. The correction of error should come, but it should be done with love.
“But avoid foolish and ignorant disputes, knowing that they generate strife. And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth…” – II Timothy 2:23-25