My finger hovered over the “post” button. As much as I felt like I had something to say, something held me back. Finally, I deleted what I’d written and closed down the browser on my computer.
This wasn’t the first time I’d bitten my tongue on social media in recent months. With opinions flying about everything from politics to social issues, it had been tempting to engage in the many “discussions” happening online. But when I saw the division some of these opinions were causing—even between believers—it made me think twice about adding in my two cents.
I’ve noticed that social media seems to provoke quick judgment and the airing of one’s opinion. Whether theological, political or personal, we feel deeply entitled to our opinions (and our right to share them!). Someone in the public eye says or does something potentially offensive, and it receives a giant backlash. Even if the person’s name is eventually cleared, the vitriol has been unleashed and the damage done.
Maybe you can think of a time when you shared your opinion too quickly and later regretted it. I know I can. Certain issues bring out strong feelings that compel us to share our opinion without much thought about the potential fallout. How will our words impact those who read them? Will they divide or unite? Will they further the cause of Christ or damage it?
I suspect that many of the “rants” I see on social media are not the result of careful consideration of the aforementioned questions. I’m reminded of Proverbs 29:11, which all my life I have known as, “Fools give full vent to their rage” (NIV). But listen to how the ESV translates this verse: “A fool gives full vent to his spirit, but a wise man quietly holds it back.” My spirit is where I feel things deeply—passion, excitement, anger (both righteous and unrighteous), fear. A wise person quietly holds his spirit back.
That action requires a lot of self-control. Holding back my opinion when I feel strongly about something is hard to do, and yet this verse says it is wise. Here is one of the reasons I think this is true: When we elevate expressing our opinion above obeying the commands of Christ, such as loving our neighbor as ourself, serving others, and promoting peace as much as possible, we make our own opinion an idol and a liability to the cause of Christ.
Not all opinions are beneficial, and not all opinions turn out to be correct. Like me, you’ve probably seen two Christians you respect take opposite sides on an issue. It can be hard to discern which one is in the right. When we express our opinions in ways that tear others down, we alienate people who otherwise might want to hear the gospel—sometimes over statements that aren’t even true.
When Paul is discussing issues of marriage in 1 Corinthians 7:12, he says, “To the rest I say (I, not the Lord) that if any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, he should not divorce her.” I have always been intrigued by this verse, because Paul goes to great lengths to make it clear that what he is saying is his own opinion, not a directive from God.
Am I vigilant to offer such clarification when I feel justified in my opinion? I may feel very passionately about something and believe whole-heartedly that God stands with me in my conviction, but if it is not addressed directly in Scripture, it is still my opinion. And wisdom requires that I be cautious and humble in how I share those thoughts.
The benefits of laying aside my own opinion are many. I may avoid needlessly offending someone who desperately needs Christ. I may create an opportunity to inspire and motivate fellow believers to action rather than divide them. I may leave the door open for sharing the gospel with, or encouraging in the faith, someone with whom I disagree. Not to mention, if I later discover that I was mistaken, I don’t have to back-pedal with the people in my life to try to regain credibility.
Next time you feel provoked to put your opinion out there, whether on social media or in person, think about the potential outcomes. Will people be drawn to Christ through your words or will they cause division? It’s not wrong to have an opinion, but we must use our convictions to build up the body of Christ and break down barriers for those who do not yet know Him. Sometimes that requires sacrificing my right to share my opinion and trusting the Holy Spirit to reveal the truth of the matter in a way only He can.
Copyright 2016 Suzanne Hadley Gosselin. All rights reserved.