The Epistles of Paul and the Internet


I’ve decided that I’m going to write a book. It’s going to be about internet etiquette, and I’m going to call it HOW TO BEHAVE LIKE A (DECENT) HUMAN.

My friend Leslie and I were talking about the abhorrent behavior that we witness on social media on a daily basis, and she mentioned that she’s been reading through Paul’s epistles.  She said, “I feel like I could write an entire treatise about how to engage on social media based entirely on what Paul had to said 2,000 years ago.” AMEN.

Listen, I get it. I scroll through Facebook and Twitter and see all the horrible things that can be found on the internet. The internet has made tragedy, ignorance, and hatred constant companions in our daily lives, and it makes me mad, too. Even worse, I see people I know—in real life (!!!)—post angry, shameful comments that speak only hate and degrade entire groups of people with just a few words. I see them use scripture to defend racism and sexism and bigotry.  It happens, and sometimes I just want to scream at them, “WHAT IN THE WORLD HAPPENED TO YOU TO MAKE YOU SO AWFUL??”

But I don’t. Because it’s not my place. And social media is definitely not the place.

I can’t really explain why I felt the need to write this post except to say that I think my friend is on to something important. Maybe instead of using scripture to defend our own opinions and views, we can use it a guide for how to engage with other people.  Maybe it should be our compass for how to respond when something upsets us, a reminder that there are other, better ways to live together. Maybe it can help us speak truth in love before we speak more hate.

Here are a few things Paul had to say….

Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Ephesians 4:2

Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. Colossians 3:13-14

If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Roman 12:18

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves. Philippians 2:4

By contrast, the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Galatians 5:22-23

Friends, the internet is a wonderful thing. But I think that maybe we need to be reminded of what our friend Paul had to say and take a lesson from Jesus on how we’re supposed to treat one another…on the internet and in real life. Oh, and also just be decent human beings.


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