Biblical Exhortation and Imaginary Internet Points

If you read blogs then there’s a chance you’re familiar with the website Reddit.  If so, then you probably know exactly where this post is going.  For those of you who aren’t familiar with Reddit I’ll give you a brief introduction.  Reddit is an unimaginably successful internet forum where users can submit links and/or text posts for discussion among other Redditors.  The website is broken down into thousands of micro sites called “subreddits”.  Anyone can create a subreddit about anything and anyone can post and comment and receive imaginary internet points called “karma” or “upvotes” and “downvotes”.  The voting system is what determines ranking on each subreddit and the stuff that gets downvoted a lot sinks to the bottom while content deemed worthy of upvotes rises to the top.

I frequently visit the Astronomy and Astrophotography subreddits, along with the pages of the various sports teams I follow.  The directory is simple, to visit your desired subreddit you simply type in you want).  The abbreviated URL can be written shorthand as /r/astronomy or /r/astrophotography or /r/orioles.

Reddit is so popular because it functions as both a news aggregator and public forum where people of similar interests can talk about common interests.  It can be incredible useful for people of various hobbies like astrophotography, fantasy football, or people addicted to Breaking Bad.  Then there’s the downside.  As Obi-Wan Kenobi  warned Luke that in Mos Eisely you’ll never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy, so to it is with Reddit.  A large portion of Redditors are Generation Y and X’ers who grew up on the internet and find it incredibly easy to rip someone to shreds with their keyboard; something they would never do in a face-to-face discussion or argument.  It is so much easier to insult someone or bully someone when you put a computer screen in between them and remove all the interpersonal interaction.

For all it’s ups and downs I’ve come to appreciate Reddit for what it is, a human hub of information and learning.  For good or bad it exists as it does.  I try not to contribute to the negativity and slander that inevitably happens.  One subreddit in particular that displays the best of both worlds is /r/Christianity.  There are a vast array of different people on /r/Christianity ranging from atheists to conservative Calvinists and everywhere in between.  People of different faiths such as Judaism, Islam, Mormonism, and Buddhism regularly participate in discussions as well.  While you’d like to think that /r/Christianity would be a shining light in the sometimes darkness of Reddit, you’d really be surprised.  Some of the most vicious debates and arguments take place on /r/Christianity.  Whether it’s atheists vs. Christians, or conservatives vs. liberals, or Calvinists vs. Arminians, it can sometimes be all out war to be the winner of a debate.

While there are many worldviews represented on /r/Christianity, by far the loudest voice is that of the more liberal Christians.  I don’t mean politically or socially liberal, but theologically liberal (although one does typically lend itself to the others).  I’m talking theologically liberal as in:  “I don’t have to go to church, I love Jesus and that’s all that matters”, or, “You can’t judge me, only God knows what’s in my heart”, or, “Jesus’ resurrection was a metaphor for my personal victory over Satan.”  That kind of nonsense.  I’m not even sure if I’d call that theologically liberal, maybe uneducated or self-righteous, or prideful would be a more accurate description.  Either way, the point is that when Scripture is used to support a certain topic that one of these people finds controversial or incorrect they become defensive and you get downvoted.

It is a trend that I’ve noticed for a while and often is brought up on the subreddit, that people who quote Scripture to make a point and take a stand on an issue often get downvoted.  They cry apostasy for the use of Scripture being downvoted and all hell breaks loose.  One such post I made today based on Titus 2:11-14 is a perfect example of what I’m talking about.

In my monthly “Man Night” meeting at my house we talked about the spiritual gifts and we talked about what Paul meant in Romans 12 about the gift of exhortation.  We decided that exhortation is using Scripture to strongly encourage or urge one do to something.  I could use Scripture to exhort you to find a job based on 1 Timothy 5:8, or I could exhort you to remain faithful in persecution from 1 Peter 4.  I was reading Titus 2 in my devotions this morning and I thought to share it on /r/Christianity.  I shared the verse and some of my own personal exhortation about renouncing ungodliness in our lives and what do you know?  The post currently has more downvotes than upvotes!

Now don’t confuse what I’m trying to say.  I’m not whining because my post is receiving imaginary negative internet points.  I’m observing a trend among Christians today to not react well to being told you need to do something…or else.  It’s a trend that deeply worries me because it reflects on the overall health of religion in the current times.  It shows that some Christians (or people who call themselves Christians) are living contrary to how the Bible says they ought to live.  I understand that it is not always easy being told you’re doing something wrong; it can be a slap in the face.

The author of Hebrews writes some of the most challenging and frightening words in the New Testament.  In chapter six he writes “For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit,and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt.” (6:4-6) and again in chapter 10, “For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries.” (10:26-27).  Finally, in chapter twelve he rounds off his argument about holiness when he says, “Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.” (12:14).  The message is clear:  if you continue in sin after receiving the knowledge of the gospel you’re in danger of not seeing God.  Your works betray your lip service and you’re heart will be revealed when Jesus says to you “Depart from me you worker of lawlessness, I never knew you.”

The warning is in Titus 2:11 also.  Paul writes “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age.”  God is training us to renounce ungodliness, or sin, in our lives and to live in righteousness.  From understanding the verses in Hebrews, you can safely assume that if you’re not putting to death sin in your life you need to seriously examine your faith because you might be deceiving yourself.  Be on your guard against complacency because it is the devil’s oldest trick.  That liar named Satan wants nothing more than to have you in a state of complacency about your sin because if he can convince you that sinning if fine he has control over your heart and you are his slave.  But Christ has shed His blood and died to set us free from slavery to sin.  The grace of God is training us to renounce our sin and to live self-controlled and upright lives as we’re shaped into the image of Jesus.  Jesus has bought us with His own blood so that we would be His people.  God’s will for us in this life is our santification (1 Thes. 4:3).  If we are not actively pursing sanctification and renouncing ungodliness in our lives then we have no assurance that we belong to Jesus.  Make your calling and election sure by putting to death what is immoral in you (2 Peter 1:10).  Abstain from sexual immorality (1 Thes. 4:3).  Do all these things and more because the blood of Jesus has He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son (Col. 1:13) so that we may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. (1 Peter 2:9).

The Bible has some hard things to say to us because the stakes are so high.  Peter and Paul write some pretty harsh things in their letters, not because they get a power trip or they have a thing for hurting people’s feelings.  No, they’re not afraid to be blunt and straightforward with people who are living contrary to their faith because they love people and they want to see them in fellowship with God.  Don’t be afraid to ask the hard questions and say the hard things to people who are living in sin but profess to know God, their eternal destiny is at stake.  Likewise, don’t shy away from being blunt with non-believers if the situation warrants it.  Remember, if they reject you they’re really not rejecting you, they’re rejecting God and they’ll be held responsible for that one day.  Sometimes we need to use Scripture to exhort people to re-examine their lives, don’t shy away because you might get burnt or rejected.  Stay strong and let your speech be seasoned with salt.