If someone came to you and said, “President Obama just made a statement that you disagree with. Take 15 seconds to develop a constructive rebuttal that will be heard by thousands of people. … Go!”
Most likely you would spend the first five seconds in shock, the next five seconds in anger, and the last five seconds looking for the hidden cameras.
In reality, we do this to ourselves daily through social media. We look at our own reflection in the computer screen and give ourselves less than 15 seconds to pound out a comment that has the potential to be read by thousands of people.
Most of the time, if we are being honest, we don’t wait 15 seconds. We just think as we type. Rarely do we finish reading an article, or even read it at all, before stating our expert opinion on the topic.
If I’m being completely transparent, I often spend more time reading comments under an article than I spend reading the article itself. If I happen to make a comment, it is usually in response to another commenter than to the author of the article.
We can become so enamored with making our voices heard, convincing other people we are right (or at least belong to the right political party), or persuading someone they are wrong (or at least belong to the wrong political party), we have completely neglected God’s command to speak in truth and grace. The two must be inseparable in our speech.
Because my speech, especially online, often fails to balance truth with grace, I have developed a few tests every comment must pass before I hit “post.”
1. The Time Test: Anytime I want to make a comment, I type the comment but wait a few minutes before I post it. I look away from the computer screen and busy myself with something unrelated, such as getting a drink of water or talking to a friend. Then I come back to the comment and put my words to the “yes” test.
2. The Yes Test: Does my comment add to the discussion of the article, or does it follow an unrelated, unconstructive thread in the comments? Does my comment obey Ephesians 4:29? Is my comment full of both truth and grace? And lastly, does my comment bring glory, rather than shame, to God?
If the answer to each of these questions is yes, then I feel confident in posting my comment.
Although I am not perfect at this, I am trying to be intentional, especially in light of Matthew 12:36 (ESV) where Jesus says, “I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak. …” I believe this applies not just to our spoken words, but also to our written words that are typed in comment sections across the Internet.