The question of how Christians should engage in public discourse, particularly in what manner they communicate with those who differ from them, whether other Christians, people of other faiths, agnostics, or atheists, is a very important one, because we are "ambassadors for Christ"(2 Cor 5:20). As His ambassadors, we are called to the highest standard of integrity and holiness as we verbally express ourselves.
While the manner in which Christians engage others in the marketplace is certainly not a new concern, the explosion of blogging on the Internet in these modern times has made the issue even more urgent and relevant. Virtually anyone with access to a computer and Internet may create a blog and begin sending forth their words and opinions, unregulated and unmonitored, into the permanent and public discussion. Unfortunately, this means that much may be said that is unbecoming of those who call themselves Christian. Name-calling, gossip, slander, poor argumentation, have all, unfortunately, been witnessed. Words spoken in anger and without much forethought are with one click of a button etched into the public record. Being fallible humans, our words may often be sinful, even though we do profess to follow Jesus Christ.
In light of the responsibility we have then, as "ambassadors for Christ", recent essays* by leading Christians call upon Christians to regulate themselves as they debate in the marketplace of ideas. We are reminded that we ought to be civil and gracious (both to the world and with each other) as we present the truths of Christianity, keeping in mind that the way we communicate before the world is being watched by those who are wait to see whether Christians indeed are those who have been touched by the love of God, as we claim.
In my previous post I argued that a culture in which truth is under attack demands a bold Christian response, yet one that can be humble, respectful and loving at the same time. Yet there is probably a place too, for those who have a more prophetic gift/voice, and thus may speak in stronger language when they address the sins of this generation.
But let us remember the words of our Lord Jesus who said, "I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned (Matthew 12:36-37)." Therefore, whether our words as believers are those spoken as prophet or ambassador, let us remain vigilant over them, knowing we will be judged.
For further reading:
I highly recommend this essay, which offers much practical wisdom on this subject: "How to Deal with Those Who Differ from Us", by Dr. Roger R. Nicole, Ph.D., a Visiting Professor at Reformed Theological Seminary.
*This is one of the recent essays appealing to Christians to improve their civility, (which I refer to in this post):
A Plea For A More Civil Discourse by Thom S. Rainer
*My previous post The Age of Tolerance Calls for Bold Proclamation of Truth, was prompted by David Aikman's editorial "Attack Dogs of Christendom" which appears in the August 2007 issue of Christianity Today.
Does the Bible call Christians to defend the faith/argue for the faith?
Monergism.com also offers a whole page of resources dealing with this issue, under the category "CONFLICT"