How Should Christians Comment Online?
Reading people’s comments online is an interesting and sometimes troubling study in human nature. And reading comments by professing Christians on Christian sites (as well as other sites) can be a discouraging study in applied theology.
The immediate, shoot-from-the-hip nature of comments on websites and social media is what can often make them minimally helpful or even destructive. Comments can easily be careless. That’s why we must heed Jesus’s warning: “on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak” (Matthew 12:36). This caution makes commenting serious business to God.
How Should We Comment?
Seldom: “When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent” (Proverbs 10:19).
We are wise to heed this counsel. It’s also helpful to remember that our sin nature gives us all an exaggerated sense of self-importance. But gospel humility leads us to esteem others higher than ourselves (Philippians 2:3). Perhaps our opinions aren’t needed after all.
Slowly: “Let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger” (James 1:19).
If an article or post makes us angry, we should almost never write in the heat of irritation. In that frame of mind it is very difficult to “be gentle [and] show perfect courtesy toward all people” (Titus 3:2). It is best to wait and pray. An hour or a day will likely yield a more gracious comment, if one is needed at all.
Clarify: If a post is confusing or sounds errant to us, giving grace is to first ask clarifying questions, rather than immediately jumping to conclusions. A kind, insightful question might reveal a writer’s mistake or a reader’s misunderstanding.
Do Not Start Fires
In closing, let us remember this sober word from the apostle James:
The tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. (James 3:6)
James wrote this warning to Christians. Christians set fires in comment threads. Let us not set fires through careless words for which we will be held accountable. Rather, let us restrain our lips/fingers, and when we do speak, may it only be to give grace to those who hear.