There is a proverb which says ‘Do not speak unless you can improve the silence”. On the internet that proverb should probably read, ‘do not comment unless you can add to the conversation’, or more pertinently, ‘do not write unless you have something edifying to say’.
I am not somebody who is overly impressed with intellect especially when it is used for bludgeoning others with words which nobody uses in general conversation for the sole purpose of magnifying oneself. I once had a conversation with a college grammar teacher. He espoused the belief that he should be allowed to communicate in his own way using his own vocabulary regardless of who he was talking to. To do anything else meant he was somehow being less than himself. I argued that there was no point in using words which the other party did not understand. What would ensue would either be a fake conversation where the other party pretended to know what you meant out of fear of being seen as ignorant, or you would spend all your time answering the question.. what? It all seems ridiculously unnecessary. A really clever person will speak in a way which is easily and clearly understood. A really clever person who also has a well developed character will be able to put aside their superior intellect and confer with their fellow human beings on the level of the lowest common denominator and not mind at all. It does not make you a lesser being to recognise another’s level of communication and respond to it. In fact it makes you a lesser being to persist in using big words simply because you put more stake in impressing others. Of what use is it to be an impressive jack-ass? People will see you for who you are in the end, and it will be your lack of character which marks you out not your vocabulary.
Yet more often than not on the internet I see those who are using their intellect as a weapon. What is worse, they often claim to be Christian. I can see how the religious would use their intellects to bludgeon others into submission since religion is all about appearances and what seems to be superior. Genuine relationship with Jesus Christ however causes us to become humble, teachable, loving and meek. We do not use our intellects or any other human strengths we possess to cause other brothers and sisters to feel lesser than ourselves. To do so would be to quench the Holy Spirit whose job it is to guide and teach us the ways of Christ himself. Jesus did not engage with the Pharisees, those pillars of intellectualism, in order to prove a point. Often his words to them were simple and direct and addressed the real issues rather than the ones that they wanted to discuss. He was honest and incisive in His responses to their continual badgering and they often went away amazed at His wisdom or simply shut their mouths as there was nothing more to say. I would also venture to suggest that shutting the mouths of the Pharisees had more to do with opposing the forces of darkness which operated through them than any superior argument on Jesus’ behalf. He did not have to bandy words with them, He was not called to discuss politics with the devil. He came to set the captives free, and if anyone was captive to their laws and their culture and also their own flesh, it was the Pharisees.
Paul the apostle likewise did not use his superior intellect to engage in pointless discussion. When he spoke, he did not refer back to his pedigree as a Pharisee of the Pharisees. He could easily have outwitted them all, but he didn’t. His words were inspired by the Holy Spirit and in many cases he spoke prophetically. Like Jesus before him, he was not interested in engaging with others simply for the point of wasting words. His communication was clear and direct and he pointed to Christ and the gospel he was charged to bring to all men.
Yet what do we see on the internet more often than not. We see men and women engaging in pointless and long drawn-out arguments discussing issues which inevitably devolve into ad-hominem slanging matches. I have seen sensible and polite discussions as well, but often the point of these discussions is to display one’s ability to debate theological issues or even political issues in the church. I have yet to see a great deal of inspiration in these discussions, it is as the saying goes a case of more heat than light.
A man of character and integrity will communicate in a way which enlightens and inspires others. Yet in a Christian, it is not even our character which is supposed to be enriching our lives. It is the Holy Spirit who works in and through us to open the eyes of the blind and be the light which shines out in the darkness. It is His thoughts and His ways that we follow and obey. It is His words which we are meant to speak and His directions that we both give and live by.
“Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; Keep watch over the door of my lips.”
(Psalm 141:3 NKJV)
Scripture is full of instruction about our words and our tongue, and it appears that for all of us, keeping our mouths is one of the most difficult things a man can do. Another passage in James tells us:
“See how great a forest a little fire kindles! 6 And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity. The tongue is so set among our members that it defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire by hell. 7 For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and creature of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by mankind. 8 But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.”
(James 3:2-11 NKJV)
And whenever we write comments or blog posts on the internet we are speaking albeit through our fingers. There is nevertheless the same intent – to communicate. Whether we speak with our mouths or our keyboards, we are using words and this is the point Scripture makes. God wants our communication to be holy as He is holy. How many blog posts, including our own, have you read lately which illustrates this. I can certainly not claim to be speaking God’s words every time I write, yet I strive to do so, otherwise, as a Christian, there is really no point in my writing at all.
This blog is a ministry to the body of Christ and a testimony to all of the working of the Holy Spirit in our lives. We want to preach the gospel and point the way to God our maker and Saviour and to bring hope and joy as we communicate. We want to be able to use the gifts the Holy Spirit has given us to edify, lift up and to help others. Surely this is the desire of every member of the Body. The only conclusion when I see posts and comments which are testament only to the flesh not the Spirit is that the words are spoken carelessly and without forethought, or that these ones though they may see the Kingdom of God have not yet entered into it. Another reason for these communications is that these are ones in whom the renewing of the mind which Paul spoke of on Romans 12:2 has not yet taken hold. There is a great deal of immaturity in the body of Christ which needs to be remedied by a determined effort to work out our salvation with fear and trembling. We are not working towards salvation, but we are working it out. Meaning that that which we have we are using and increasing. We who are saved are becoming more mature and more of our hearts and minds are being sanctified. Therefore on a blog if not anywhere else on the internet there should be a progressive work being seen by all. Our characters and our lives are visible here in our words as they are in our face to face encounters. We can’t pretend or hide behind a façade because the Holy Spirit will give other believers discernment and our sins will be seen for what they are. We are to fellowship with one another in the light as He is in the light and speak and write as He would.