I am now in my sixth year of blogging – in blogger years that is ancient. I have been involved in discussions of baptism and private prayer language, opined on the Wade Burleson/IMB saga, crossed swords with several in both the BI camps and moderates. I was a commenter, then had my own blog (which no one read), a contributor at a great blog called sbcIMPACT, then became part of the team here at SBC Voices.
In all that time, I have been as much interested and concerned with the process of blogging as with the subjects we discuss. I believe God cares as much about the means as he does the end. Those of you who are newer to blogging may have trouble believing this, but blogging is far calmer than it was back in those “wild,wild west” days of 2006. Just ask any of the old timers. But I have watched Baptists discuss spiritual and biblical topics in ways that simply made my heart sink. And, before anyone else goes back into the archives, I plead guilty to being ashamed of myself after several exchanges in which I lost my cool and wrote angry words.
Here is my premise: I think God cares just as much about how we say what we say as he does about what we say. The end does not justify the means. If what I say is biblical and true, but I state my points in ungodly ways, I am not glorifying God and what I am doing is not right. We cannot speak evil in the pursuit of good.
So, anyway, with apologies to Jack Sparrow, I am offering my “Blogger’s Code” of rules for blogging. No, “those who fall behind are left behind” is not among them.
1) Check your fruit.
We blog about our differences and disagreements, so there is always a tendency for us to allow our fleshly behavior to move to the forefront. I’ve done it and so have you. We need to fight that tendency. Look at the two lists of behaviors in Galatians 5. One is the list of the works of the flesh – behaviors which are inappropriate for those who have been redeemed but are unfortunately all too common at times. Paul says that these works are “evident” – clearly manifested. There are several that are not so common among us (hopefully at least) – such as immorality and idolatry. But then, verses 20 and 21 contain a list of qualities that are far too evident among us.
“…enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy…”
Anyone want to argue that these are not “evident” among bloggers? Note that these are the works of the flesh and they cannot be passed off as justified by the words of Jesus in Matthew 23, David’s imprecatory prayers or Paul’s words for those who proclaimed a false gospel in Galatians.
The Spirit produces something completely different. He produces:
“…love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control…”
Here’s the point. As I blog, I need to continually look at those two lists and ask myself, “which list am I working from?” Am I exhibiting the works of the flesh or the Fruit of the Spirit in the way that I blog. It’s not about my rhetoric, logic, or even exegesis – those things are important. But each of us needs to guard our words and check our spirits against these two lists.
2) Be careful about making it “us vs. them”
I got into blogging to join in the fight against “them” – the Baptist Identity satanists who were committed to destroying the SBC and creating division within it. I wanted to be part of us and I wanted to oppose them.
Then, a funny thing happened. I got to know some of the BI folks. While I still disagree with them on some issues, I realize that our agreements are much more significant than our disagreements. We agree on the blood atonement even if we disagree about whether a baptism performed at an Assembly of God church is valid.
One of the markers of the wrong kind of blogging is one that constantly presents an evil “them” and states or insinuates that the other side is evil and destructive.
3) Remember that there is a Holy Spirit and you are not him.
I am convinced that one of the biggest problems in churches and in blogging is that we do not fully trust the Spirit to do his job. My job is to proclaim the Word. The Spirit’s job is to convince. When I try to do the convincing and convicting, I am usurping the role of the Holy Spirit.
Pastors cause trouble in churches when they try to badger and bully people into seeing everything their way instead of allowing the Holy Spirit to convict hearts of the truth. Bloggers cause trouble when we try to convince and convict others.
In blogging, it is my job to state the truth as I see it. It is not my job to convince of my rightness. When I have gotten really upset in blogging, it is generally because I am trying to be someone else’s Holy Spirit or someone else is trying to be mine.
4) Get off your hobby horse.
This is related to the “us vs them” thing. But look back at your last 20 or so posts. Are 18 of them about one subject? Perhaps you are on a hobby horse and you probably need to get off of it.
5) Listen and learn
Okay, this is a big one to me. When you are in a discussion with someone, make a genuine good-faith effort to understand what the other person is saying before you respond.
A couple of years ago, I made a point in a post and someone wrote a comment in response to what I said and completely misrepresented what I wrote. I said, “that is not what I said” and he said, “yes it is.” I showed him the quote in my original post where I specifically said, “I am not saying…” But he wanted to oppose my post and so he forced my words into something I didn’t say and then held me responsible for what he was saying I said.
And it was probably annoying when I did it to others, though for some reason I don’t remember that as well.
This should probably be rule #1. If you are going to discuss something, make a genuine effort to understand what the person on the other side is saying and advocating.
6) Hold yourself and your side accountable to the same standard you hold “them” to.
Obviously, if we avoid the “us vs them” mentality, this becomes less significant, but, well, reality is real.
Back in the wild west days of Baptist Blogging, there was a spoof site put up to make fun of another prominent blogging site. It was a truly hilarious site, even if, perhaps, the satire went a little past good taste at times. I read it and commented a few times.
And I got called on the carpet for joining in the fun as we ridiculed bloggers we disagreed with. The guy who confronted me (on of those being made fun of at the satire site) probably had a point. I am not sure that Christ was honored by either the satire or my comments at that site.
But the guy that confronted me had just been commenting a few days earlier at a site that ridiculed the other side. The blogger thought satire was hilarious when it was directed at them but offensive when it was directed at him.
In blogging, we often highlight offenses of the other side in the discussion, but ignore or excuse those same offenses when they take place on our side.
We can’t have it both ways. What is wrong for them is also wrong for us.
7) Know when to fold ’em.
Sorry to bring in a poker illustration here, but there is a time to fold your hand and walk away. There are a few bloggers who just never do that.
When you have exchanged nasty comments and nothing new has been said for 150 comments, maybe it is time to walk away.
You do not always have to have the last word.
8.) Be redemptive
Remember that you are talking to a person whose eternal soul was purchased by the blood of Christ at the cross. Or (since there are a few unsaved folks that wander around) you are talking to someone who needs Jesus badly.
Even when we blog, our goal is to glorify God and to appy the gospel to our lives. God is honored by reconciliation not by division. The redemption of Christ demands that we seek unity with others – even those with whom we disagree.
9) Take a deep breath and count to ten.
Well, actually, take a moment to pray, get some perspective and make sure you really want to say what you are about to say. Normally, when I am angry, if I take the time to cool down before I hit send, I will generally reword, rewrite, tone down or even delete what I was going to say.
Emotions often lead us to ungodly words and actions. Cool down, chill out, and think twice, three times, or even more about whether you really want to say what you are saying.
10) Whatever you do, do it all to the glory of God.
I should not blog to make a name for myself or to sully the name of another. I should not blog for any reason other than the one that matters most – to glorify God.
Before you hit the publish button, ask yourself if this post or comment is glorifying to God. Sometimes, in blogging, you need to confront someone. I believe that confrontation can happen to the glory of God. But we have to be careful about our motives and our actions.
Our motive should always be God’s glory. Our method should always be the Fruit of the Spirit.
When that takes place, all will be well.
Got to go take my wife to lunch. You belligerent bunch of battling Baptists behave!