It happened to me recently.
I posted something with the intent to show that Jesus has empathy for men and women of color.
I felt really good about posting it. I’m doing my part, I told myself.
But then it happened.
The first message came in. One of my friends on Facebook had some questions.
Then an hour later, another friend messaged me on Instagram.
They questioned why I posted what I did. They didn’t agree with my post and asked why I felt it was necessary to share it.
I, of course, responded defensively and stood my ground. I gave them biblical reasons why I posted it. I shared my perspective and the heart behind it.
But we ultimately landed on disagreeing.
And, if I’m being honest, I’ve done the same thing. I’ve engaged people online and put their intentions into question. I think it’s something that all of us can easily slip into.
This had me thinking, what does it look like to disagree with someone on social media in a Christ-like way?
Through some conversation, prayer, and lots of reflecting, here are 3 things I think we should practice when considering engaging someone we disagree with on social media.
No one today will tell you that “self-awareness” is a waste of time. It has LOADS of value for us if we’re willing to press into creating more of it in our lives.
The first thing we must do when considering engaging someone we disagree with online is to ask the question: Why do I need to engage this?
Is it because it triggers something in me? Do I feel like it’s my job to be the biblical/moral police for this person? Do I just feel like arguing and think I can win this one?
We need to evaluate why we feel the need to engage.
If, after some quick prayers to the Lord and maybe a short conversation with a close friend, we believe we should engage, we then do so with an awareness of why we’re entering into the conversation in the first place.
Choose Proper Medium
Next, we have to choose the right medium for this conversation.
Have you ever commented on a post and thought, “I don’t know if they’re going to fully understand” and then you delete the comment?
No? Just me?
Well, maybe you’ve commented or messaged someone knowing that you just don’t quite feel like you’re able to fully describe your perspective. They can’t see your face (emotions/expressions) and they can’t hear your tone (angry/calm/gentle).
Here’s the question to ask yourself: Is this platform the best place to have this conversation?
Maybe, instead of arguing about gun control or voting rights, we decide to message the person and ask to go out for a coffee or for lunch. Or maybe we ask them to set up a phone call later that week to discuss their post.
You’ll find that you’re not only more clear in your communication and tone, but you’ll also tend to understand the other perspective clearer as well.
Engage With The End In Mind
And lastly, we should always engage with the end in mind.
What is the end? The end of each conversation should be the progression of relationship and encouragement between both of you.
If we are to use words that are “helpful for building others up, so it may benefit those who listen” (Eph. 4:29), then that’s what every conversation should end with. Both people walking away/hanging up the phone and feel listened to, valued, and encouraged.
Does this mean we have to agree? Absolutely not!
But it does mean that we approach these conversations with the hope and perspective that our relationship will leave in a better place than when the conversation began.
As Christians, I think many of us fall into thinking that we all have to agree. I don’t think we all have to agree (just look up how many denominations there are in the Christian church). What we do need though is to value, love, encourage, and build up each other in our conversations.
The only way to do that well is to make sure we evaluate why we’re engaging, identify the right medium for the conversation, and keep the end of benefiting each other in mind.
Let’s agree to disagree well.