In Sunday School recently, we began working through the Sermon on the Mount, so this verse was pretty fresh in my mind: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.” Something I shared in the Sunday School discussion last Sunday was that peacemakers don’t pick fights with others, provoke fights between others, or extend fights that should be ended.
This also applies to social media.
I watched a heated exchange on social media recently between two people I believe are Christians. Brother “A” was calling out Brother “B” (a public figure) for what Brother “A” argued was sinful compromise. (The exact details here are not important, so I’m holding that info back.) The result of this challenge was pretty serious back-and-forth argument, with other people jumping in on both sides.
I agreed with Brother “A” and joined him by asking some (what I saw as even-handed and respectful) questions of Brother “B” about his position and argument. After a few interactions, I realized I wasn’t being a peacemaker; I was kicking up more dust. I tried to withdraw from the discussion as graciously as I could, because my participation wasn’t productive (something I should have realized much earlier).
Meanwhile, Brother A was still throwing strong words at both Brother B and those who defended him. Having just realized I was not following Jesus’ command to be a peacemaker, I figured I would send a message to Brother A, to encourage him to be careful of his tone as well…
You know how some actions, if you saw other people do them, you’d try to talk them out of it? You’d say, “Dude, this isn’t going to end well for you. Please stop.” But when you’re the one doing it, you think, “This is totally going to work out” ; and then you’re shocked (shocked!) when it doesn’t?
Messaging a stranger who’s in the middle of a Twitter debate, to encourage them to be more gracious, is a really good example of this.
Aside from a few online interactions, I don’t really know Brother “A” personally, and he doesn’t know me. So let’s just say my private exhortation to him wasn’t received well. At all. His frustration turned on me, and it took me a while to backpedal and apologize. I realized that, in my presumption, I had overstepped a boundary and tried to correct him when I had no right to do so.
Proverbs 26:17 says, “Whoever meddles in a quarrel not his own is like one who takes a passing dog by the ears.” The idea here is that you shouldn’t be surprised that when you grab a strange dog by the ears and get your hand bitten. Dogs may put up with their master grabbing their ears–there’s relationship there. But if it’s not your dog, expect to get snapped at.
Disciples of Jesus are called to be peacemakers–this is absolutely true. We should strive to broker peace between people and people, and to help sinners find reconciliation to God through Christ.
But when it comes to conflict between two human parties, the difference between peace-making and meddling is relationship. If you don’t have a relationship with anyone involved, your uninvited “contribution” will not be well-received.
There may be exceptions to this argument, but I can’t think of any at the moment.
Lesson learned: if you want to help make peace between two people in conflict, wait to be invited, or build on a relationship that’s already in place.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to get this bite-mark tended to.