Thursday, April 28, 2011

Religious Intolerance on Facebook?

Over the past few weeks I have had multiple people tell me (without me asking) that they have witnessed some level of resistance or even hostility from others on Facebook and other social networking sites to Christian content. A couple of the people simply mentioned that there were comments to the effect that people shouldn’t use the site as a platform for proselytizing. One person showed me a post by someone who was getting people to support the idea that religious expression be banned from the site. Another person even shared with me some very hostile comments to their attempts to share Christian ideas resulting in this brother feeling the need to explain his purpose in doing so. 

Believers should not be surprised that others get agitated by the posting of Christian content. The Gospel of Jesus is an offense and unless the Holy Spirit opens the eyes and hearts of those who have rejected Christ they cannot begin to understand why that message is so important and precious to us. Paul explains to the Christians in Corinth that “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.” (1 Cor. 2:14) Notice that this isn’t just a reluctance to accept spiritual things it is actually an inability.

In our natural state we want to be the ruler of our own lives and our hardness and sinful rejection of God is so great that we literally have a moral inability to understand or accept spiritual truths. It is only by the grace of God through the preaching of the Word that anyone can submit themselves to the Lord. Those who are not submitting themselves to the Lord, recognizing their own depravity and relying upon Christ to be their only righteousness do not want to be confronted with the things of God and would much rather avoid them. Jesus said “This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.”(John 3:19-20)

Paul explains that those who minister the Gospel are bearers of life to those who believe but are bearers of death to those who reject the message. “But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place. For we are a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing; to the one an aroma from death to death, to the other an aroma from life to life And who is adequate for these things?” (2 Cor. 2:14-16) The words of the scripture are not a comfort to those who are resisting God. The words of God require a response and the weight of such things is more than most people want to deal with. We are breezy and light people and do not wish to be confronted with such serious and penetrating questions. The problem with God is that He doesn’t leave you with escape routes. Ultimately you must either submit to Him or continue in rebellion. He leaves no middle ground.

As a result the concept that expressions of our beliefs could ever be banned from Facebook or any other place demonstrates a fundamental misunderstanding of us on the part of those who are unbelievers. For those who are truly believers there is simply no area of our thinking that isn’t predicated upon God’s Word (or so it is our desire). Every expression of the believer, whether social, economic, political, etc. is an expression of our faith. Although we may have much in common with non-Christian friends on the surface the reality is that we are living in two completely different worlds. As we learn more about one another we will quickly begin to see that our experience of the world around us overlaps very little. The deeper we go the more it becomes apparent that those who are in Christ are different on a fundamental level. Christianity is the ultimate meta-narrative that requires all other experiences to conform to its Truth. Accepting Christ fundamentally changes the very way you think and experience the world. The transformation is not immediate in its comprehensiveness but it is sufficiently profound to be described as a new birth. Spiritually the person you were is dead and a new creation takes its place. This new creation is being transformed into the very image of Christ.

Despite this the one thing we know that we do have in common with those who are agitated by our faith is that we too are sinners. We too have a natural tendency to resist God in our old nature. It is only by His grace that we have come to understand and to be filled with the love of Christ. Indeed we are example enough that there is no sinner who God cannot save. We are set apart simply on the basis of what He has done and there is nothing inherent in us that make us different from them. They may not understand it but we know it is an act of love on our part to witness to them in the hope that God would save them. The Lord has said that He will in no way cast out any who come to Him and Paul reminds us that they cannot come unless someone preaches to them. We must have a sense of urgency about our faith. We must believe that it is in the power of God to overcome resistance and to cause even the most stubborn sinners to be born again. We must love our neighbors enough to tell them that the house is on fire and that they must wake up or perish!

Social networking sites are offering new ways for people to interact that are allowing some of the compartmentalization of our lives to be broken down. We can often see what people are thinking about things we say or do in ways that before might not have been as obvious. The nature of people, however, has not changed. Unfortunately most of the Christian content on these sites is fairly trite but occasionally someone will put their heart out there or share the Word of God. In those cases we can expect some flack and that is OK. Let us remember the words of our Lord, “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours.” (John 15:18-20) and like Paul let us be encouraged by the power of the word being able to honestly say along with him that we are not ashamed of the Gospel because it is the power of God for salvation for all who believe.

I pray for the encouragement of all of you who are sharing the Word through Facebook and other similar sites. I pray that your ministering in that way would glorify Christ recalling that “the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy and the seed whose fruit is righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.” (James 3:17-18). I pray also that there would be many who would come to hear the Word and believe as a result of what you do.

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