Thursday, January 14, 2010

The Temptation of Anonymity

I am heartbroken tonight for a dear friend. The cause? Social networking. My uncle recently called Facebook "another place to sin" and I am fully seeing where he is coming from right now. I am amazed by the things I see people post. I have people of all types on my Facebook, and we somehow have managed to live and interact peacefully these five years. I see now that it's not always the case for others.

There seems to be something about the increased sense of anonymity the internet and social networking gives us that emboldens us with a sense of invincibility. We are suddenly more quick to say whatever is on our mind, with little thought to who may see it or who it may hurt. I am fully guilty of this. At one time I was very inappropriate with posts about my frustrations, and I hurt my husband- a sin I regret so much now and I wish I could take back every one of those hateful posts. I see it every day now- last week it was Christian women revealing information about their undergarments. This week it is a group of women I don't even know attacking one of my dearest friends and sister in Christ. I hope that those women don't know the damage they are doing to a woman they supposedly love as Christ loves. I pray they are not intentionally slandering another Christian, that they have fallen prey to the temptation to sin in a way they'd most likely never consider doing in real life.

Gossip is deadly, and it is often magnified by the "groupthink" that occurs in those comment sections on status updates. Women seem to be more prone to gossip. We are by nature more talkative and emotional than men, and spewing our emotions freely can often lead to sin. One of my constant prayers is that God would stop me from talking before I think, because I am quick to speak in anger and frustration. I say things I later regret, and I hurt people I love. I'd wager most women out there know what I'm talking about.

The Bible says the following about gossip:

"A dishonest man spreads strife, and a whisperer separates close friends." Proverbs 16:28 (ESV)

"The words of a whisperer are like delicious morsels; they go down into the inner parts of the body." Proverbs 18:8, 26:22 (ESV)

If Paul was concerned about the church in Corinth, should we not then be concerned about ourselves if these things are occurring?

"For I fear that perhaps when I come I may find you not as I wish, and that you may find me not as you wish--that perhaps there may be quarreling, jealousy, anger, hostility, slander, gossip, conceit, and disorder." 2 Corinthians 12:20 (ESV)

We should NOT glorify sin among ourselves, though it may temporarily make us feel better. It fuels pride... sin begets sin. It is a dangerous downward spiral, and we should be examining ourselves daily so we may cry out to God for forgiveness for our offenses. We must think of others as well, for when we fall into the sin of gossip and pride, we cause others to fall with us. What I saw today was that type of downward spiral, where people kept joining in until it was a gossip convention. It grieved my heart so, and I do not even know the women! Sin grieves me, whether it be my own or that of another. I shudder to think that I may have been responsible for such a thing at some point. I began to pray for the women, and I began to ask the Lord to forgive me for the times I had acted in such a way, and if I had ever caused others to do so as well.

In our day it is so easy to fall into the world, to become a part of it instead of just a temporary inhabitant. We feel hurt, angry or wronged, and instead of going to the Lord in prayer, we turn our computers on and go to the world, to our safe, fake, anonymous world of social networking, and let our wrath pour out.

Spurgeon said this about sin:

"And beware, I pray you, of any secret sin, of any evil habits such as you would only
tolerate when screened from observation; for, as sure as you live, if you are a child of
God, it will come out one of these days, to your shame."

We freely judge the hearts of others, and not their actions, and we justify our sins by claiming we are in the right. I find that God uses things like I saw today to take me back down a notch. I worry constantly whether I sin in my actions- whether I gossip, I am prideful, I am a liar, idolater, etc. I pray continual prayers of repentance, ashamed to betray my God, He who is Holy, who created me and saved me though I was not worthy.

We are to help our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ in their walks, to keep one another accountable in our actions, but the Bible says this about judging a person's heart:

"Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God." 1 Corinthians 4:5 (ESV)

I pray that myself and others would not judge the hearts of our brothers and sisters, but when we have been wronged instead go to the offender in love and with scripture plead our case. Biblical reproof will always be proven true with the Word, and God will use it to either soften a heart or condemn it. We must remember- it is up to the Lord, not us, whether somebody recognizes the truth.

It is sad to me that what I have seen today may mean that friendships might never be reconciled because of thoughtless actions and brash words. I hope that the words spoken bring shame upon those who wrote them, and that they may realize that gossip is never loving, but sinful. How does it look when we praise a fellow Christ-follower in one breath, and in the next condemn them to hell? This should send us all into some serious self-examination, to find if we are truly following Christ, or if we are following our own wants and desires. Jesus would not condone gossip, so I am left with the conclusion that when we gossip we are following our sinful nature, and not our new nature which Christ paid such a price to give us.

Let us glorify Him in all our thoughts, words, and actions. May we be humble enough to repent when we have sinned, and ask forgiveness of those we have sinned against- even if we are ashamed and even if we are not sure they know about our offense against them. Many a time I have had to go to my husband and repent of my thought-life, and it is never easy. I pray God may convict us until we are driven to repentance and fall to our knees, tearful and contrite in spirit.

May our pride never get the best of us, and may we always seek to glorify God in all we do, whether we are in public or in the privacy of our own home and the anonymity of the internet. I pray we would all resist the temptation that anonymity produces, and choose what is right.

"Again, methinks you have great cause for questioning, unless your holiness is uniform; I mean, if your life is angelic abroad and devilish at home. You must suspect that it is at home that you are really what you are." Charles H. Spurgeon