I regularly mentor fourteen young men in ministry, with whom I meet individually. I think this may be the most important work I am doing right now. Each time I walk to meet with one of my guys for lunch, I am filled with a sense of honor and responsibility. But I have been increasingly filled with grief and sadness in recent years.
In my conversations with these men, who have sacrificed themselves to serving the church, I have heard story after story of the ugly and disrespectful responses they have received from people they have endeavored to love. Many of these come digitally, in the form of texts, emails, or social media messages.
One pastor said to me, “Monday is the hardest day for me, not just because Sunday is emotionally and physically exhausting, but because of the messages waiting for me.” Some messages have even been sent in the middle of the sermon from the pew!
Of course, every pastor is a person in the middle of his own sanctification and is less than perfect. Every pastor, at some point, will say and do the wrong things. Every young pastor has areas in his heart, communication, character, and conduct where he needs to mature. Every pastor is a member of the body of Christ and, like everyone else, requires the grace of correction to grow.
After 50 years in ministry, I also need these things just as much as my first day. But sadly, much of the communication inside the church, aimed at one another, is done cruelly and in disgust. Can we really say that we are following the commands of Jesus? “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35).
Here are a few types of reactions I’ve seen growing within the body of Christ in recent years, fueled by the rise of digital communication and social media.
Disrespectful: The level of downright disdain within the Christian community is breathtaking and disheartening. Being theologically correct does not give you the license to be mean. Defending a biblical truth doesn’t make it okay to mock the person you disagree with.
Angry: What more needs to be said than James 1:19-20: “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.”
Self-Righteous: Humility radically changes how you respond to the sin, weakness, failure, immaturity, error, or opposition of others. Humility makes it hard to be quick to criticize, dismiss, or judge others because you know you’re numbered among them.
Vengeful: “Repay no one evil for evil […] Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God […] Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:17-21). What powerful and practical words from a passage that seems like it was written for today’s reactive culture.
I wish I could say that all of Paul Tripp’s reactions to others are patient, loving, respectful, and thoughtful. I wish I could say that I always speak the truth in love. But if you were to scan my texts and emails or transcribe my daily dialogue, you’d soon find out that I’m a man who needs rescuing, redeeming grace.
What about you?
May we together confess that we are tempted to participate in this culture of reactivity and, as we confess, let us run to the only one who can help us because he alone has the power to transform the thoughts, desires, motives, and choices of our hearts.
P.S. – for a deeper look at this subject, consider my new book, Reactivity: How the Gospel Transforms Our Actions and Reactions
ORDER "REACTIVITY" TODAY
Paul David Tripp
1. We all (pastors included) need the body of Christ to help us see areas of weakness, sin, and failure - but all of these interactions should be saturated with love and grace. The next time you feel convicted to confront something in a fellow believer, how can you ensure that you speak the truth in love?
2. How can you encourage your pastor this week? Send him a text message or a DM and let him know that you’re praying for him.
3. When you see something online that you disagree with, is your priority to engage in a loving discussion or is your priority to simply be right? Be honest with yourself.
4. Consider some of your recent social media interactions and take stock of your heart’s motivations. Have you been disrespectful, angry, self-righteous, or vengeful?
5. What’s one way you can bring the love of Christ to your social media this week?