The forgiven Church: Public debate and Social Media

Forgiveness doesn’t just transform our relationship with God. It transforms our relationship to others, to other believers, to the church and to the world around us. This is the principle behind Paul’s teaching in 1 Corinthians 6: 1-11 about public lawsuits.

As we looked at this passage together as a congregation we recognised that most of us are unlikely to be involved in official lawsuits. However, so often today, people are tried by the court of public opinion, by the media and by social media in particular (twitter, face book, blogs etc). 

Sadly, this courtroom is quite an unpleasant place to settle disputes. The types of conversations and debates our society have are marked by suspicion, character assassination and scaremongering.  In the UK we’ve been shocked into giving pause for thought this last week. The EU referendum debate had become increasingly personalised and vitriolic. Both sides seemed to want to outdo each other with scare stories about out of control immigration, the collapse of the NHS and  economic meltdown.

Social media has become vitriolic, politicians, especially female MPS have reported increasing numbers of trolls attacking their character and motives and threatening them with (often sexual violence).

Then last Thursday a Jo Cox, the MP for Batley and Spen was brutally murdered, shot and stabbed in her constituency.  The feeling this weekend has been a bit like in the school playground when the children have been egging each other on in their bad behaviour until suddenly something gets damaged or someone gets hurt and there is a stunned silence as reality hits, shock, shame, guilt, fear.  The problem is that so often the pause doesn’t last long before the kids go back to their old ways. I fear that our wider public discourse tends to be no different. Every so often something shocks and moves us as a nation. Politicians and the media call for a new way of doing things. However, before long things return to normal.

Now, here’s the point. It’s not just a few politicians that we can blame for this.  We all play our part in how we talk to each other, how we comment, how we question etc.  This is especially true of those of us who write blog posts, comment below the line, tweet and regularly update our facebook accounts.

Is what we say characterised by what is good, wholesome and kind. Do we seek to live at peace with others on the internet? Do we engage genuinely with the debate? Do we resist the temptation towards character assassination?

Or are we quick to suspect, accuse and judge. Is the language we use mean spirited. Are we too ready to win a victory over the person we disagree with at whatever cost. Wouldn’t Paul say to us “You have already lost”?

Would the posts, comments and tweets of believers stand out?  When Jesus returns and we stand before him on judgement day and our lives’ works are exposed, how will internet record stand up.