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What if we only used tech to “bless people who harass you”?

January 13, 2023

Daily Scripture

Romans 12:1-2, 9-10, 14-18

1 So, brothers and sisters, because of God’s mercies, I encourage you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice that is holy and pleasing to God. This is your appropriate priestly service. 2 Don’t be conformed to the patterns of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds so that you can figure out what God’s will is—what is good and pleasing and mature.

9 Love should be shown without pretending. Hate evil, and hold on to what is good. 10 Love each other like the members of your family. Be the best at showing honor to each other.

14 Bless people who harass you—bless and don’t curse them. 15 Be happy with those who are happy, and cry with those who are crying. 16 Consider everyone as equal, and don’t think that you’re better than anyone else. Instead, associate with people who have no status. Don’t think that you’re so smart. 17 Don’t pay back anyone for their evil actions with evil actions, but show respect for what everyone else believes is good.

18 If possible, to the best of your ability, live at peace with all people.

Daily Reflection & Prayer

In Romans 12, “‘This world’ [verse 2] is literally ‘this age.’ The ‘renewing of your mind,’ then, includes thinking as citizens of the coming new world.” * One key Greco-Roman idea sounded like a lot of what we hear online today. “The Greeks knew what greatness is, and for them, greatness did not involve humility. Philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre noted that humility was not considered a virtue.” * Paul’s ideas were clearly counter-cultural in Roman times, and still are in many parts of today’s tech world.

  • Gentile and Hebrew Christians in Rome clearly found themselves polarized at times, frustrated by or angry at each other. What would it have taken for them to be able to regularly “bless people who harass you—bless and don’t curse them”? Is that a serious possibility for us, in our polarized, technological times? In what ways did that specific counsel reflect the spiritual reality behind “love should be shown without pretending” (verse 9)?
  • Paul, transformed by following Jesus, also told Roman Christians: “Don’t pay back anyone for their evil actions with evil actions.” We trust God to finally end evil, so he wrote, “Don’t be defeated by evil, but defeat evil with good” (Romans 12:17, 21). CAN good defeat evil, or is that just naïve, idealistic talk? When you have paid back hurt for hurt or wrong for wrong, on social media or elsewhere, how did that change you? Did it make the situation better or worse?

Lord Jesus, even on the cross, you prayed for the very soldiers carrying out your unfair execution. Grow in me an ever-increasing amount of your spirit as I relate to not only friends, but acquaintances and even enemies. Amen.

GPS Insights

Picture of Leah Swank-Miller

Leah Swank-Miller

Leah Swank-Miller is Director of Student Ministries at Resurrection Overland Park. A Kansas native, she has been a professional actress for the past 15 years, and she loves to see the vastness of God’s creation through theatre and the arts. Leah is pursuing an M.Div. from Saint Paul School of Theology. Leah, Brian, and their two children love to play tennis, golf, soccer, and board games.

I paced back and forth in my living room, reviewing a million things I could write. I picked up my phone, looked at the social media post, and then slammed my phone back down again onto the counter. More pacing, more frantic hand gestures, and mumbling under my breath. My cats watched my every move like I was a bird in flight, not sure if mommy was playing or about to lose her mind. My old pug, Gracie, accustomed to my reactions by this point, headed to her bed to wait it out. My kids and husband relegated themselves to the upstairs to “give mommy space” (thank you, husband). I was worked up, and the whole house could feel it.

This negative energy came from a social media post I made supporting God loving all people, including our LGBTQ+ neighbors. Then the subsequent backlash of messages I received from some who disagreed. It wasn’t just that these responses were not in the style of a discussion but as an argument or that they were telling me how wrong I was. It was the lack of compassion and love for all humankind used in their words. I wanted to reach through my tech device and shake them to reason. But I suppose that would be a lack of compassion on my part as well.

That’s the thing about tech and social media. It takes away that very human interaction of being face-to-face. When we are safely behind our screens and usernames, we can say what we want, hurt who we wish to, and act as we want, and we might never have to look upon the face of those whose words hurt so profoundly. But, instead, the harassment can run rampant behind phone screens and laptops, and before we know it, something so small has escalated to broken friendships or worse.

I paced a good while, wondering what to write back to someone who said such hateful things about me and those I love. I’m sure I wrote about ten different drafts of my response, but none quite captured my feelings. Finally, I texted a dear friend and told her about the situation to help give me some feedback. Pro tip (I’m not a pro): when you’re heated about something, it’s usually good to talk to a trusted friend before jotting it all on social media for the whole world to see. My friend responded so kindly with words that helped me defuse my situation. She reminded me that comments on a social media platform don’t get to overthrow our emotions and occupy our minds. How we love others in words and deeds is what matters. And it’s also ok to walk away.

So, I did. I shut my phone off, walked away. I never responded to the hurtful words. My best way of blessing someone who harassed me at that moment was to not engage at all. I felt a cloud lift over my house. The tension was gone–even my sweet pug came out of hiding. I was so close to jumping head first into a dark hole of finger pointing, name calling, and hate spewing that steals joy not only from you but from everyone around you. It reminded me of how easily my mind can be conformed to whatever I’m engaging with on social media. My goal is to practice renewing my mind by asking if what I write or promote conveys love or if it will perpetuate hate. My hope is what I write brings joy, not steal it.

© 2024 Resurrection: A United Methodist Church. All Rights Reserved.
Scripture quotations are taken from The Common English Bible ©2011. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

* NIV, Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible, eBook (Kindle Locations 256236-256237). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

* Ortberg, John, Who Is This Man?: The Unpredictable Impact of the Inescapable Jesus. Zondervan. Kindle Edition, chapter 6.