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Finding Justice, Grace, and a Civil Blog Community

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I’ve been following the revival meetings that started in Huntington Beach last month. We who have tried to make Jesus Lord want to see others embrace him. Presumably most of us also want people to stay healthy. Our country and much of the world is struggling with the virus. So, it seems to many …
By Seth Barnes

I’ve been following the revival meetings that started in Huntington Beach last month. We who have tried to make Jesus Lord want to see others embrace him. Presumably most of us also want people to stay healthy.

Our country and much of the world is struggling with the virus. So, it seems to many that these two desires are in opposition.

There were a number of comments on this post and I deleted two (plus a third comment on this post) that I found to be rude. Given the timing and nature, I incorrectly assumed they were all the same person. In 15 years of writing this blog, I have let the comments fly. At times people have been rude and I have just let it go. 

I owe you this

So I figured that, if most of my readers are trying to get closer to Jesus, I owe it to you to take this issue head-on. How do we have a digital conversation with grace?

I appreciate everyone who takes the time to read a post and the guts to comment. I’ve developed a number of deep relationships through this community that have gone from this virtual space to face-to-face interactions.
 
These relationships help me see where I am not just opinionated, but wrong. They help me to love when it’s hard. At times I’ve got serious detractors. Some may struggle to be civil. I want them to have a place to honestly express what may be an emotional issue for them. I’ve seen blog readers with a difference of opinion help one another.
 
Jesus fought too
 
It probably doesn’t help us find common ground that Jesus was himself a polarizing figure. Luke shows him as an adult fighting the devil in three successive scenes (chapter 4). First we see him go mano-a-mano in the wilderness. The devil tempts him to compromise his calling and Jesus resists. 

We next see him offending his listeners, who respond rather extremely by trying to kill him. And finally, we see him casting out demons – fighting the evil that had taken up residence in people.

With a debut like that, you’d think that Jesus is just a contentious person. But then as he articulates his program to his followers (we call it the sermon on the mount), you see that the code of behavior he prescribes is very different.

“You are blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution….Count yourselves blessed every time people put you down,” he says.

How should we respond? “When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer….Live generously and graciously toward others.” Jesus is calling us to civility.

How do we walk it out?

So my question is, how are we Christ-followers doing at that? And how should we walk it out on this blog? 

I want to be a part of a community that both sharpens and encourages. I’m hoping some of you do too. When I started writing it in 2005, my hope was that this blog could help.

I personally need other perspectives. Often it’s those who disagree with me who help me to see the things I’m missing. And honestly, sometimes comments will ruffle my feathers. I will want to debate a point, even if I know that debating will be counterproductive. I need others help me find the balance.

My objective with this blog is to spur people on toward love and good deeds. So when I write, whether it’s a blog post or a comment on Facebook, I try to examine my words to see if they’ll accomplish that. If they don’t, I scrap it and start over.  

A civil conversation may help blog readers get to a better place. And if they can’t find that here, then there are other ways to get to greater civility (for example, this resource).
 
Our situation doesn’t help
 
Our current situation doesn’t help. Every time we tune into the news, we hear fighting. And depending on what social media channels you click on, you’ll see brickbats flying. People saying things they would likely not say to your face.
 
We want to better understand how to live in the world and multiple perspectives can be helpful, but can we find a balance between justice and grace? Can we create an environment where people feel safe in expressing views without resorting to anonymity? 
 
The problem is that what constitutes civil conversation is no longer taught in our schools or families. Our politicians are more contentious than ever. Wherever you look, we as a society seem polarized.
 
People are looking for places where they can talk. We used to have our “third place” – a coffee shop or club where we could hang out and exchange views. Currently many of those places are shuttered.
 
Have you noticed how rude behavior in a public place makes people want to leave? People are looking to exchange of views while being respected. A public place is a shared resource. We clean up litter in parks. We can probably do better in social media.
 
Guidelines for a respectful community
 
So, here’s where I land. I want a conversation, which means comments. But I want it to be respectful, balancing civility with courage. 
 
On this blog, I’m going to follow the guidelines established here by the Washington Post. I am going to begin deleting rude comments that make readers doubt whether it is safe to post a comment, especially if a person won’t sign their name. 
 
I will try to do this sparingly and always with accountability. If I see what I or other consider to be a rude comment, I’ll get the opinions of others before I delete it. For practice, I got others to review the three comments I mentioned before, and they agreed. For example, one said, “these comments are uncivil, unhelpful, unbiblical and should be deleted.”
 
On the other hand, there were several comments on that same blog that I chose to leave even though they might be viewed by some as contentious and even criticizing me personally. It is possible to criticize while not being rude.
 
Along the way, I’m hoping that we can be a gracious blog community – a place to hear from others who are trying to work out how to live better as Jesus’ disciples. 

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