Grace on the Net

“Walk in wisdom toward those who are outside, redeeming the time. Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one.” (Colossians 4:5-6)

As noted previously, the direct application is to our gospel witness with our lives that we engage in on a daily basis, yet I contend that what is good for evangelistic witness is good for normal living within our families, friends, church, and everyone we encounter. So if it is good for us to have gracious salty speech toward those who are outside the faith, it logically follows that it is necessary to have the same toward those within the faith, and even those closest to us.  In this article, I want to point out an area where we might be not as careful regarding having gracious or salty speech as well as suggestions concerning how to put into practice this Biblical command. I am writing about our electronic communication.

In the 1950’s the internet was used for communication by the Department of Defense. In 1980, the internet was made public domain. Although internet communication was practiced since the 1950’s, it wasn’t until personal computers became affordable in the early 1990’s that email became a popular mode of communication. In the 1990’s discussion forums became a popular way of communicating with others via the internet, but these forums were direct descendants of electronic bulletin boards of the 1980’s. Dating sights and forums were the first form of electronic social media, but in 1997, Six Degrees was the first social media site where people could share information with “friends.” Many other social media sites began popping up, but none of them has enjoyed the international success of “Facebook.” Facebook began in 2004, but grew to be the largest social media internet site by 2008. In 2012, there were over 835 million Facebook users in the world.

Text messaging, e-mail, social networks, instant messaging, twitter, and many other electronic forms of communication have almost made what was once standard communication (telephone, mail correspondence, face to face visits) unnecessary in many if not most contexts. The purpose of this article is not to judge the merits of such communication, many do falling on both sides of the aisle either as a techno-phobe or techno-geek. So wherever one lands on this issue, it would be unwise to forget that electronic communication does indeed have a huge impact in how we communicate today and especially how the largest generation in American history communicates. If we don’t recognize the mega impact electronic communication has, we are bound to be ineffective in doing the work of the ministry.

What I am more concerned about than whether or now one uses this electronic communication, is how one uses it. This verses in Colossians does indeed apply to the use of email, social media sites, instant messaging, twitter, text messaging and any other form of technological communication. So before you post that status on Facebook, is it filled with grace? Before you tweet that response, is it beneficial (salty)? Before you hit send tearing your friend, church-member, boss, or pastor that email, have you done so with grace and salt? Or have you forgotten in your technology that the person reading that message, that post, that opinion is a living, breathing being created in the image of God at least and a blood bought child of God at best?

We often feel more bold in electronic communication that we would in face to face conversations, because as we are typing up those angry words filled with “no-grace” and “no-salt” we imagine our audience is a lifeless computer screen. But it is not, real people are reading those words, and more importantly, the honor and glory of God is either on display or being disgraced. Words have consequences, even words that are typed or texted. It is possible that the effects of the written word is even more profound than the spoken word, since it can be studied, reviewed and not easily forgotten, let us not forget grace, especially in our electronic communication.

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