As a person who enjoys writing, admittedly, I’ve been somewhat distracted lately. I scroll through the feeds of my social media and it is filled with a plethora of “hot topics.” Every day, there is a new onslaught of blog posts, rants, and editorialized articles. It’s enough to make me want to write an open letter to all of the people that write open letters.
Much has been written about the distraction that social media can cause in our lives, and I can feel the distraction in my heart and the pervasive lure to choose sides and start arguing on whichever controversial social topic is trending at the moment.
Social media has instilled in so many Christians a false belief that we must form, share, declare and argue an opinion about everything– from leggings to secular fiction and just about everything in between.
We buy into it hook, line and sinker. We share and inevitably, overshare to the point that our arguing, our stances, our opinions begin to overshadow our calling in Christ… and we don’t even realize it.
We are called to speak the truth in love, yes. But we are not called to take part in every controversy or argument. In fact, Paul explained it to Timothy this way: “Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness.” (2 Timothy 3:23-25)
I’ve always been reluctant to take part in the slippery slopes of controversy for that reason alone – it invariably breeds quarrels. Regardless of the intent, the one sharing the truth in love is somehow perceived as a Pharisee or a Persecutor with a fistful of stones. Criticism is misconstrued as judgment. Arguments erupt. Feelings are hurt. Tempers flare.
I’m not saying that we should shy away from sharing the truth in love. I’m not saying that we should in any way shrink from our faith on the important, relevant social issues of our day, but I am saying that we need to ask the Lord to grant us much wisdom and discernment before we speak – and before we type, comment, or click to share.
Because people need to see our Jesus more than the need to hear our opinions; and ultimately, they need His word more than they need ours.
To a lost and dying world, we are called to be the light of the world and while culture and our social media feeds try to pull us in a thousand directions, we cling to the words of Paul who said, “I focus on this one thing,” which was forgetting what was behind and straining ahead for the goal, which is Christ (Philippians 3:13).
The one good thing that controversy stirs us is self-reflection. We have to ask ourselves the tough questions. Questions like, “Is what I am saying/doing/watching/thinking about and yes – even reading – is it working with Christ to bring about His glory or is it working against Him; because there is no in-between in His economy.
As much as we’d like to rest in our own shades of gray (pun intended), our comfort zones, our lukewarm tubs of complacency, sisters, He is calling us out of the shadows of controversy and into His glorious light. We are called to live in the light of His presence where He “turns our eyes from worthless things and gives us light through His word” (Psalm 119:37).
His word, oh, I believe His word is more relevant and more thrilling, today, in this moment than any other words we can take our time to read or write. His mercy is miraculous and His grace is scandalous and His word says it better than any of us ever could. Paul said it best when he said, “Everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus. For His sake, I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage” (Philippians 3:8).
I read those words and I know, for the sake of my own distracted and divided heart, there are some things I need to discard and count as rubbish.
The church at Philippi was dealing with their own controversies and quarrelling women. We know this because Paul calls them out, by name. If Paul were writing an open letter to us, sisters in the faith today, I believe it would read much the same. We don’t know what Euodia and Synteche are arguing about, we just know that they’re getting called out and Paul is pleading with them to “agree in Christ” because Paul knows that their disagreement can affect more than just the two of them; it can affect their witness and the church as a whole. He urges to the church to help remind them of who they are and of the work they have done together. He wants to remind them that, despite the quarrels and controversies, they are of one mind in Christ, co-laborers together for His kingdom.
I want to remind us that despite the quarrels and controversies, we are one mind in Christ and we are co-laborers together for His kingdom. We need this reminder because social media can distract and divide our hearts to the point we forget that our goal is not to win arguments but to win the lost.
Paul goes on to write that we are to rejoice in all things, to let our gentleness be evident to all and to pray about everything. He brings it home for the church at Philippi, for me and for you when he says:
“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you” (Philippians 4:8).
In the same letter, Paul writes about the peace that transcends all understanding. As believers, we have access to the gift of that peace, and we also have the privilege of sharing it with the world. In a fragmented and broken world, let’s fill those broken places – and our social media feeds – with the fruit of the Spirit in which He has given us: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, and self-control.
Teach us your ways, Lord, that we may rely on your faithfulness; give us undivided hearts (Psalm 86:11).
The strength of our relationships is measured by how much people can count on us.
When we think of someone with integrity, we think of someone we can count on to come through on what they promise. Unfortunately, that’s not always a safe bet today.
Over the last several years I’ve noticed a change in the way we use the word integrity. The word used to mean staying true to your word—even if it’s difficult, inconvenient, or expensive. But today I hear more and more people using the word as if it means being true to themselves—even if that means leaving someone else to clean up the mess.
This might look like a win if we’re trying to save ourselves from difficulty and discomfort, but it will come back to bite us in the end. Nothing destroys our credibility faster than bailing on a commitment.
The phrase “To thine own self be true” comes from Shakespeare’s Hamlet, but it became popular through self-help books and programs. There’s nothing wrong with these words by themselves, but they’re usually taken out of context.
If you’ve ever read or seen the play you know the full story. The phrase comes after advice about being prudent and preserving friendships. The idea is that we are true to ourselves so that others can count on what we say. That was having integrity.
But if you listen to the way people use it today, they usually mean something else. “To thine own self be true” is often used as an excuse to do whatever a person wants instead of what’s expected—or even what they’ve already committed to. This is suicide in business—and the rest of life.
Not only is integrity essential for strong friendships, it’s crucial for all of our relationships. “Honesty,” says Stephen Covey, “is making your words conform to reality. Integrity is making reality conform to your words.” We won’t get far in life without it.
Just think about your work. Without the kind of integrity Covey describes, you cannot be an effective leader. Why?
- Trust depends on integrity. If people can’t rely on your word, they won’t trust you. They may extend some grace, but eventually people will doubt and disbelieve.
- Influence depends on trust. People will refuse the influence of leaders they distrust. Just look at how this plays out in politics or the media. We follow people we trust.
- Impact depends on influence. You can’t make the impact you want unless you can influence others and shift their behavior.
Now think of other relationships: marriage, parenting, church, whatever. The strength of our relationships is measured by how much people can count on us. If we’re not true to our words, that means our relationships will be as unreliable as we are.
Don’t worry if you have haters; Jesus Christ was perfect, and they still hated him! What should we expect being imperfect?
I think it’s important to first say a little about why loving your enemies is necessary. Jesus gives us the answer in verse 48. Based on everything that has gone before in this chapter (as well as the concept of loving your enemies), Jesus says you cannot be perfect without it. The word perfect in verse 48 comes from the Greek word “teleios.” And while “perfect” is a good translation, I think it distracts from the meaning here. Another way to translate teleios is “complete” or “mature.” So what I think Jesus is trying to say here is if you wanted to be a complete person, or a fully mature human being, loving your enemies is something that you have to do.
“They hating on me!” or “Haters are going to hate!” are common phrases that some use to justify reasons why someone or a group of people have an unfavorable opinion of them or their activities. The term “haters” has become popular in the last few years to describe others, but can you actually “hate” on yourself? Read some ways the person hating on you could be in the mirror.
1. Comparing Yourself to Others – If you are constantly comparing what you have or don’t have to what others do or don’t have, then you may be borderline hating on yourself. Comparisons may ignite low self-esteem and depression and have been one of the top five causes of why relationships end.
2. Not Listening to Your Inner Voice – Your inner voice, your conscience, or whatever you prefer to call it can be your saving grace for so many reasons. Usually, your conscience is based upon your mind and body’s history and best practices in each situation. Sometimes your natural reaction may not be your best reaction and it’s that inner voice that tells you to do differently. Listen.
3. Doing Just Enough to Get By – With the exception of trust fund babies, “self-made” successful people usually have a story of sacrifice, hard work, perseverance and dedication. The only person “doing just enough” hurts is yourself. When you can, do more, give more, show how much “more” you are than people realize.
4. Not Being a Man or Woman of Your Word – One of the quickest ways to get “realistic” haters is to lie about who you truly are. Saying one thing and not following through gives a false representation of who you truly are. Don’t allow others the satisfaction of misinterpreting you. Give them the real “say-what-i-do-and-do-what-i-say” self.
5. Not Believing In Your Ability – We can sometimes be our own worst enemy. Saying that you “can’t” or that something “never” happens to you is speaking to your own downfall. Use words like “I can” and “I will” to verbally affirm your current and future positions. Research has shown that those who visualize their goal on a consistent basis are 33% more likely to achieve those goals.
6. Saying That You Have Haters (When You Really Don’t) – Be honest with yourself: are people really “hating” on you or are they telling you the truth? Sometimes the truth hurts, but can lead to healing. It may do you good to take a look at what the person says (not how they say it) and see if it’s true. If it’s true, do what you need to do to be better. If it’s false, do what you need to do to stay strong.
Remember, announcing that you have haters rarely does anything to help your case, as nearly everyone has haters nowadays. The differentiating factor is how you rise above despite your obstacles.