Published on March 4th, 2016 | by Christopher Witmer
5 Guidelines For a Godly Online Conversation
Here at The Rebelution we love conversations — if you haven’t noticed.
Our goal is to create a healthy and life-giving environment for young Christians to communicate with each other and participate in meaningful conversations.
A conversation is an exchange of ideas. As Christians, this is exactly what we want in order to sharpen our minds, increase our knowledge and our grasp on theology, build relationships, and become competent culture makers.
But, as we are well aware, the internet is a crazy, fun, dangerous place.
It magnifies human nature rather than diminishes it.
Thus, we are compelled all the more to work at promoting a healthy and life-giving environment within the Rebelutionary community.
In light of that, here are a few guidelines to keep in mind when participating in an “exchange of ideas.”
1. Converse with Humility
This is the first attribute we should adopt when conversing online, whether on Facebook, Disqus, or Twitter — or even in real life.
Few things are as distasteful as conversing with an arrogant person. A good question to ask before posting a comment is “How would I feel if the other person said this to me?”
Remember, if you truly want to have a meaningful exchange of ideas, you must adorn your words with humility. If you speak with condescending language, belittling terms, or verbose jargon, it is unlikely the person will receive what you say, regardless of how true it may be.
Rather, they will be turned off by your arrogance and defensive against your attack. Instead of exchanging ideas, you will very likely butt heads, potentially devolving into argument.
Scriptures to consider: Proverbs 16:24; Prov. 18:21; Prov. 26:12; Prov. 29:20; Colossians 4:6; Galatians 6:3; 1 Peter 5:5
2. Write Clearly
Again, your goal in conversing is to have a meaningful and Christ-honoring exchange of ideas. Therefore, if you want people to understand your ideas and give them legitimate consideration, you must present them clearly.
This means deconstructing convoluted sentences as much as your ascendancy allows you to. In other words: write in a straightforward manner with proper, uncomplicated English.
Remember to write your ideas in an orderly manner. If you are like me, your first draft is usually a mess of thoughts. Even though the content itself may be simple, the messiness makes it hard to follow.
Simple language is really part of conversing with humility.
It is tempting to use big words, complicated ideas, or deep quotes. Don’t do it unless it is essential to unpacking your idea. Nobody cares about how much you know: they just want to have a normal conversation.
Organize your thoughts: make one point at a time, use straightforward sentences and words, and divide them into paragraphs! (In general, multiple paragraphs are easier to follow than massive chunks of writing.)
3. Consider New Ideas
No one will ever intellectually, emotionally, or theologically arrive at perfection, therefore, we must always be willing to consider new ideas that we may disagree with.
Truth will not fall apart, no matter how hard people shake it. So don’t be afraid to shake it a little bit. Remain humble and submitted before God. Remember, He created the intellect, so honest evaluation of ideas will lead toward a greater understanding of truth.
Don’t be threatened when people disagree with you. If you are right, you have nothing to fear and an honest evaluation will only solidify your conviction. Whereas, if you are wrong, you should want to discover the truth.
Filter new ideas through Scripture, discuss them with your parents, pastors, and mentors, and surrender your intellect to the authority of Christ.
If you want others to consider your ideas, be willing to honestly consider theirs as well.
Scriptures to consider: Psalms 119:66; Prov. 1:5,7; Prov. 12:1; Prov. 18:15; Hosea 6:6; 2 Timothy 2:15
4. Honor Others
You can never go wrong with honor. The person you are conversing with is a human individual made in the image of God. Honor them and they will be much more receptive to what you have to say.
Very few people are mature enough to receive truth that is presented with arrogance and disrespect. Care about the other person and how your words make them feel. Otherwise you’ll have little to no influence on your readers.
This is not an issue of substance, but of presentation.
For example, compare Statement A with Statement B:
Statement A: “You clearly don’t grasp the theology behind that verse.”
This statement comes through as condescending and arrogant. Its only value is to puff you up and make the other person feel dumb (whether you mean to or not — I’ve done this plenty of times without meaning to!).
Furthermore, it may not even be true. Many God-fearing, Bible-believing, humble theologians disagree with each other on matters of interpreting and applying the Bible.
Statement B: “I see what you are saying, but I respectfully disagree because I interpret this verse to mean [such-and-such] because of [such-and-such].”
This is a much more respectful statement that likely won’t make the other person defensive. In addition, it is sometimes helpful to repeat their opinion back to them to let them know that you understand their position.
Scriptures to consider: Philippians 2:3; 1 Peter 2:17
5. Act Like Jesus
This should sum up the entire narrative of our lives and the tenor of our conversations.
Converse with humility, clarity, openness, honor, and most of all, with love.
Love motivated everything Jesus did — love for His Father and for the world. Because of love, He humbled Himself even to the point of death on a Cross. Because of love, He supped with sinners. Love was what fueled His intensity toward the money-changers in the temple because they were misrepresenting God.
Without love in our articles and conversations, we are just making a terrible racket and adding to the confusion in the world.
Perhaps there is still value in the old cliche, “What would Jesus do?” Only for our purposes, let’s rephrase it and ask, “What would Jesus say and how would He say it?”
Scriptures to consider: John 13:15; Gal. 2:20; 1 John. 2:6
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