SGBC Modesto

You Can’t do Matthew 18 on Facebook

May 28, 2024 by

Johnnie Sloan

The internet is not a good place to fix personal conflict… but it sure seems a good place to cause it!

In recent weeks I have heard multiple cases of Christians ‘fighting’ through social media (internet & telecommunications).  The ugly truth is that I am included in it and can’t claim amnesty from this article’s admonitions.  Maybe that is why it’s going to be short!  I don’t want to give myself more than I bargain for.

I am just going to give opinion here, so this is not meant to bring the authority of Scripture down full tilt on all internet social activity (except where it specifically applies below), but I can say it frankly from my perspective – Facebook, Twitter, IM, e-mail, Blogs, text messaging, etc. are not conducive to peacemaking.  I hear often that people are on these sites to ‘get in touch with old friends’, yet it is after this I hear of ‘wars and rumors of wars’ between said friends.  I have heard the phrase, “Have you seen _______’s Facebook lately?” in an indicting tone followed by some libel enough to finally draw this conclusion.  It is too easy to hide on the internet, say and do spiritually unacceptable things and get away with them.  By the way… whatever happened to Myspace anyhow or AOL?  I digress. 

 We are too easily getting away with gossip and slander in the Church, especially across local church, denominational and geographical lines and we need to stop.  This goes from the top of the Christian community down… from Pastors condemning the teachings of others digitally without having tried to speak to them directly (ouch… that’s me); to Christians who sting each other with disparaging public comments on their own personal Facebook pages.

I just read these comments from John Frame’s book on Ethics regarding the ninth commandment and it stung me deeply:

“Many theological controversialists today set themselves up as Internet gurus, declaring brothers and sisters to be excommunicate on their say-so alone, showing contempt for the authority of the church, which alone has been authorized by God to make such judgments, and violating God’s standards requiring protection of the accused. Many of these have no scruples about spreading lies to anybody who will listen. It never occurs to them that they have a responsibility to protect the reputations of fellow Christians, even those with whom they disagree.” (From pg. 843 – Doctrine of Christian Life, John Frame)

I feel it no small coincidence that Paul speaks to the Galatians in almost the opposite way that we so often do… wishing to be with them face-to-face to solve the problems he saw in those churches (my underlines for emphasis).

Galatians 4:18-20  But it is good to be zealous in a good thing always, and not only when I am present with you.  (19)  My little children, for whom I labor in birth again until Christ is formed in you,  (20)  I would like to be present with you now and to change my tone; for I have doubts about you.

 Likewise, John has strong words to say in his little epistles that he hopes to remedy a conflict and even take it to the level of excommunication… not through a text message (would his text message be inspired?), but when he arrives in person:

3 John 1:10  Therefore, if I come, I will call to mind his deeds which he does, prating against us with malicious words. And not content with that, he himself does not receive the brethren, and forbids those who wish to, putting them out of the church.

Above all though is the direct command of Jesus in Scripture that when there is a problem we are to GO to them… not write, not text, not IM, not Facebook, but GO to them in person and solve the problem… immediately.  And lest we think it is they who should come to us… Jesus spoke on that too… so if there is a problem, no matter who is at fault, the Christian is to run to solve it.  Any gossip, electronic or otherwise is in direct violation of the command of Christ and the ninth commandment and is destructive to the Church.

Matthew 18:15-20  “Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother.  (16)  But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that ‘BY THE MOUTH OF TWO OR THREE WITNESSES EVERY WORD MAY BE ESTABLISHED.’  (17)  And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector.  (18)  “Assuredly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.  (19)  “Again I say to you that if two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven.  (20)  For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.”

Matthew 5:23-24  Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you,  (24)  leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.

Nothing less than face-to-face, person-to-person contact for the sake of peace and the good of our brothers and sisters is acceptable if we are to follow Scripture.  We cannot say we are in fellowship with our God if we do not have peace with the brethren.

1 John 4:20  If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen?

Let’s put an end to negative electronic communication.  And further, let us stop thinking we are doing all we can in solving conflict by sending an electronic note.  If it can be typed, it should be said in person or if distance is a problem at least on the phone – where the tone of voice can help the peace process.  Wait a second, if distance is a problem, how about a Skype video conference so at least – like Paul – you can see each other’s face!?  Better yet, do what the Bible says and GO… get face to face to bring peace for the sake of the name of Christ and love of the brethren.  And if you feel so inclined… unplug from the digital world to make it happen.  Christ is our greatest example of leaving a place of comfort in glory and coming the great distance to earth, become and man and reconcile us to Himself.  The least we can do is drive across town or grab someone before church to put away our differences.  You will feel better, but way more important is you will be in fellowship and able to worship God with a clear conscience in spirit and truth… and you do not need to be His Facebook friend to do it!