Fasting Negativity

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It’s time to stop gobbling up the crap on social media!

What good is fasting when you keep on fighting and quarreling?  This kind of fasting will never get you anywhere with Me, (Isaiah 58:4, emphasis mine).

Maybe it’s because it’s summer.  Maybe it’s because it’s an election year.  Maybe this is all of our foul choices and behaviors coming home to roost (pun intended).  But social media seems to be especially full of negativity.  No, not just negativity, but outrage and anger.  And the vast majority of my Facebook friends are Christians.

Anger in itself isn’t a sin.  Even Jesus got angry[1].  The Bible says:

“Don’t sin by letting anger control you.” Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry, for anger gives a foothold to the devil, (Ephesians 4:26-27, emphasis mine).

Anger becomes sin when you let anger control you.  You’ve done this, we’ve all done this: gotten so mad that you stomp around, yell at the person, or say something you shouldn’t have said—sometimes all three.  Jesus said:

You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, “You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.”  But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment.  Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court.  And anyone who says, “You fool!” will be in danger of the fire of hell, (Matthew 5:21-22, NIV, emphasis mine).

So anger puts you in danger of judgement, and talking badly to or about someone could get you sent to hell.  Anger equals murder in God’s eyes.  Again, Jesus got angry, but was without sin.  The difference here is unresolved anger or anger that is acted upon in the wrong way.  And let’s face it, few of us have had anger modeled for us in godly ways.

I’m not addressing this to unbelievers.  We were all like this before we knew the Lord.  But as His children, we should not be acting like guests on Jerry Springer.  I think the pressures of these End Times has brought people’s true character to the surface.  It’s easy enough to be kind to one another when everything is going along its jolly way.  But now the economy is shaky as a house of cards, the media is stirring up racial hatred like a witch’s pot, and your presidential choices are between bad and worse—and they sound worse and worse every day.  Any character issues that have not been submitted to the lordship of Jesus Christ are going to come bubbling to the surface.

. . . Stop pointing your finger and spreading vicious rumors! (Isaiah 58:9b).

Once upon a time, people took their disappointments and unhappiness to their best friend or their pastor in confidence.  Now people take their unhappiness to social media, longing for a sympathetic audience.  And Jesus warned of this:

Many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another.  Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many.  And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold.  But he who endures to the end shall be saved, (Matthew 24:10-13, NKJV, emphasis mine).

Lest you think that Jesus was talking about the general world population, the word He used for love was agape, which is unconditional, godly love.  Agape love can’t grow cold for people who never had it in the first place.  So Jesus is talking about believers:

Many believers will be offended.

Many believers will betray one another.

Many believers will hate one another.

Many false prophets will rise up and deceive many believers.

Lawlessness will abound among believers, and the love of many believers will grow cold.

Notice that the whole toxic journey starts with offense.  Jesus warned:

It is impossible that no offenses should come, (Luke 17:1a, NKJV).

It starts with getting offended.  Offense leads to betrayal.  Betrayal leads to lies that deceive many.  In the midst of all this, people are comforting themselves by self-medicating with drugs, alcohol, or behavioral addictions like pornography, gambling, or overeating.  And because they immerse themselves in addiction (self-love), their love grows cold: love for God and love for others.

It all starts with offense, and Jesus said that offenses will come.  So what do we do?  We’ve got to understand that love is not an emotion, it’s a decision.

If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.  If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing.  If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing.

Love is patient and kind.  Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude.  It does not demand its own way.  It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged.  It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out.  Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.

Prophecy and speaking in unknown languages and special knowledge will become useless.  But love will last forever!  Now our knowledge is partial and incomplete, and even the gift of prophecy reveals only part of the whole picture!  But when the time of perfection comes, these partial things will become useless.

When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things.  Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity.  All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.

Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love, (1 Corinthians 13).

Let me get personal a moment:

Do you love like this?  Do you love everyone like this?

Consider this that Paul wrote just a few chapters before the Love Chapter, above:

Why not just accept the injustice and leave it at that?  Why not let yourselves be cheated? (1 Corinthians 6:7b, emphasis mine).

And what about this:

Love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, (Matthew 5:44, NKJV).

And this:

Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others.  Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves, (Philippians 2:3, emphasis mine).

God is saying to us:

~ You don’t have the right to be offended when someone wrongs you! ~

Chew on that one while I write Part Two: Overcoming Offense.

Now, behave yourself (at home, at work, and on social media!) and remember: God is good!

[1] Matthew 21:12-13; Mark 11:15-17; & Luke 19:45-46.

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