Sunday, November 9, 2008

Matthew 18 and the Internet?

image I have had a fascinating experience over the past day. I mentioned earlier that I was part of a Facebook group that posed weekly questions.  I quoted from one of the posters (a guy named Matt) last week.  But there was another of the posters who did not like my responses to the topic. So much so that he (keyboard) yelled & fumed and stormed off saying that he was quitting the forum.  Leaving his strange behavior aside, what was I to do?   If this were a person in our church, I would feel a need to kick into Matt 18 and try to meet with this person one on one in order to restore the relationship.

In this case, there WAS no prior relationship.  He was just a poster who took great umbrage at my comments and any attempt I made to clarify them only maddened him more (I realize you are only getting my perspective on the interaction).

But my question is this:  what does one do when he/she realizes that a brother or sister somewhere out in cyberspace has a problem with you?  I believe that the anonymity of the internet brings out the worse in many of us.  We say things to people we would never say to them if they were standing in front of us. And we are dealing with a LOT of people whom we will never meet.

But does that get us off the hook?  (“I didn’t have a relationship with them, so I can ignore them when they get mad at me?)   I know that there are people who would say yes in answer to that question. 

But I’m not so sure.  I don’t see an internet exception in these verses:

Matt. 18:15-17-“If a brother or sister sins, go and point out the fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.

Matt. 5:23-24-Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to that person; then come and offer your gift.

I posted the following on the forum and sent almost the same thing to his e-mail address:

--------: Believing that Matt. 18 has to do with internet forums as well as face to face relationships, if you would be willing to discuss this privately, my e-mail is I am posting this here and will e-mail you as well.

We’ll see what happens, but this is the first time an internet interaction has gotten so acrimonious so fast.  I’ll let you know if anything develops.

What do you think?  Does Matt. 18 have to do with the fairly anonymous internet interactions we have?  If so, how would you handle it?

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