Whenever I am on social media, it is only a matter of time before a post or thread comes across my feed wherein Christians are debating the trending topic of the day.
Most recently, I have seen a number of comments on Twitter about whether or not the Bible states slavery is wrong. Yes, you read that line correctly. There are currently professing Christians on Twitter that are actually debating the morality of slavery.
I honestly don’t have the emotional energy to follow many of these threads, but when the discussions are trending they inevitably end up in my feed. It is always topics and discussions which elicit an emotional response from others that start trending. In recent years, here are a few additional topics I have seen debated in Christian circles on social media (some numerous times):
I assume you may wonder, just as I did, why topics such as those above are repeatedly debated on social media. I will use the most recent topic as an example. As far as I can tell, a few individuals posted quotes on their social media from theologian Johnathan Edwards. Then a few others pointed out that Johnathan Edwards was a slave owner. Pretty soon everyone starts to throw out their opinions of Johnathan Edwards as a theologian and the morality of slavery, and I am sure you can see how the discussion would just take off from there.
As I see topics such as those above debated on social media in Christian circles, a question I have often asked myself is, “Why did Jesus not speak more specifically about these topics during His ministry on earth?” After all, in the midst of these debates I will often see responses like, “Jesus never condemned slavery,” or “Jesus never commanded His followers to tithe,” or “The Bible does not say getting a tattoo is a sin.”
Such comments are not necessarily incorrect. There are many topics which the Bible or the teachings of Jesus do not specifically address. In recognizing this, the next logical question to ask ourselves is why this is the case.
In reflecting on this, I have come to realize that just as it is important we know well what Jesus said during his earthly ministry, it is also important that we know what He did not say.
Why did Jesus not lay out a more specific moral code for His followers?
If He had done so, He would have simply been repeating the error of the Pharisees and religious leaders of His day. Jesus did not come to define, change, or expand the law but to fulfill it (Matthew 5:17). Throughout His ministry, Jesus constantly was demonstrating that the law was less about following a set of rules, and more about the state of one’s heart. He demonstrated this in His response when asked what is the greatest commandment (Matthew 22:37).
As followers of Jesus trying to navigate social media, we must be careful our debates regarding whatever the trending topic of the day may be do not cause us, or those we interact with, to lose focus on what is most important. It is not following God’s law that saves us. Jesus saved us, even when we were still sinners (Romans 5:8), and it is this unmerited grace which compels us to pursue holiness (1 Peter 1:13-16).
Yet what about broader social issues like slavery and women’s rights? Why did Jesus not speak more directly to such issues during His ministry?
The answer to this question is actually not much different than the question about the law. Jesus’ ministry was about changing the hearts of men (and women), it was not about a social revolution. Jesus began His ministry with a call to repentance (Matthew 4:17). He called his followers to a life of sacrifice(Matthew 16:24-26). He spoke often in parables, but when He gave specific examples they were uncompromising and convicting (Matthew 5:21-48).
If Jesus had spent His ministry specifically addressing the social issues of the day, He would have not been addressing the real problem, our sinful hearts. Interestingly enough, it is when the individual members of a society repent of their sin and are reconciled to God through Jesus Christ that the solution to the societal issues of the day can be addressed. So, I guess one could say that Jesus did come to address broader societal issues, just maybe not in the way that people would have expected him to.
I am increasingly convinced the words of Jesus are enough, even if they don’t specifically speak to the question we are asking.
I am increasingly convinced the Bible is sufficient for living a life of righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16), even if it does not specially address every topic we encounter.
I think that too often we use a perceived lack of specific commentary in the scriptures regarding the trending topic of the day as an excuse to voice our opinions while completely missing what is most important.
When Christians today decide to debate the morality of a topic such as slavery publicly on social media, we are demonstrating that many of us still have not addressed the real problem. Many of us still have not learned to love our neighbor as ourself (Mark 12:31). Many of us still have not learned what it means to follow the example of Jesus as a servant (John 13:13-16). Many of us still live a self-centered life, instead of a life of self-denial (Matthew 16:24).
Can you think of another example of a moral question or topic that Christians seem to debate because they don’t feel the Bible specifically addresses it? If so, what guidance does scripture give us regarding approaching that topic?