Just for a moment, imagine the following effort of a well-meaning, God-fearing soul attempting to help out a friend who is dealing with problems in life. “How long do we have to put up with your attitude? Do you think God messed up? It’s your children’s own fault they died in the storm. God was punishing them for their sins. What you need to do is repent and pray. God would surely listen to you and restore you if you were not full of sin! You would have more than you did before! Why don’t you ask anyone who is older, since you think we are young and stupid. They will show you how wrong you are. Plants need water, and men need God. A hypocrite forgets this and suffers for it, thinking he can do just fine without God, but he will find out eventually how wrong he is. God will see to that! God does not punish anyone who does not deserve it, but He surely does punish all who do evil. So repent of your sin and you will be restored, and no one will have any reason to speak ill of you.” My friends, I submit to you that many Christians say very similar things in very similar ways on social media sites all the time. However, I did not simply make up these previous comments. I just paraphrased Job 8:1-22. After Job rejected and refuted Eliphaz’s argument indicating that his problems necessarily stemmed from personal sin, another friend, Bildad, took a turn attempting to persuade Job of his error, and this was how he chose to approach the issue.
It is true that the world’s emphasis on tolerance and non-judgmentalism has made its influence known in spiritual circles. A good number know Matthew 7:1 by heart, even if they could not find it in their Bibles. However, turning every biblical conversation into an argument whereby you accuse the other person of being a sinner heading for hell is not an improvement over tolerance. Bildad surely thought he was helping Job, but he based this on the erroneous assumption that he knew God’s will. In fact, he only exposed his ignorance. And this pattern emerges regularly today as well, including among Christians.
Civility has become practically non-existent in America today. Online comments are filled with vitriol and venom, political races now favor the best insult comic, and Christians high five one another over the best way to verbally slam a sinner. Everything has become a shouting match. Reason (Acts 19:8), meekness (1 Pet. 3:15), and good judgment (Phil. 1:9-11) are considered out of style. In all of this, people have lost sight of their purpose (Luke 19:10) in pursuing a power trip. Regardless of the topic under discussion, these tactics reveal either an inability or unwillingness to love others enough to use persuasion rather than brute force—even if only verbally. Are we so unsure of our position that we feel the necessity of supporting it with ugliness and disdain for others? It is true that you cannot reason with some people, but the reality is that few people actually try. Part of it may be the medium; part of it may be the age of instant gratification. But if this is how you approach relationships as a Christian, you’re not really helping here.