“Will I be with this person in heaven?” I’ve found this to be a helpful question in dealing with conflict and interpersonal communication, whether in-person or online.
If the answer to that question is YES, then feel free to think, speak, act, and respond towards that sister or brother as if heaven has indeed already come!
Notice how much more patient you instantly are. Notice the way you are able to look for the good and the true, rather than pouncing; gnawing; on the bad and false. Notice how many more questions you ask, and how few ultimatums, tips, or guilt-trips you offer. Notice that you are not defensive, aggressive, pushy, or rude…
And because you no longer as quick to assume, interrupt, or jump to conclusions about your sister, you have more time to notice her unique person. Can you see her passion or courage? Her desire for justice? Can see the way her Heavenly Father has made her exactly just so?!
“I SEE YOU SHINING THERE!” is something every thirsty soul longs to hear.
If the answer to, “Will I see this person in heaven?” is NO then it would be good to remind yourself that you can’t possibly know the eternal plans God has for his creation. There is much hidden and unseen and in the divine works. God is always doing something remarkable and surprising before we know it.
Perhaps today’s encounter will embody the kindness of God that leads the anyone to repentance. Perhaps the word living in you will water a divine seed in another? Perhaps even today the angels will rejoice!
(PS. Boundaries are a very good thing. I am not suggesting a lack of appropriate and enforced boundaries in certain situations. Wise and deliberate boundaries are necessary for the emotional, physical, and spiritual flourishing of God’s people in a fallen world (see Nehemiah).)
But if you ask: “Will I see this person in heaven?” and the answer is MAYBE? NOT SURE? I DON’T KNOW!? Please still speak, act, and respond like a citizen of heaven – in person and online – because in fact you are!
You might ask yourself these questions honestly: “Am I generally considerate or harsh with those who don’t agree with me? Am I more likely to be gentle, combative, or cold with people who most frustrate me? Do I give the benefit of the doubt to those most unlike me? Will I hold this personal grudge until *they* properly correct their thinking to be more correctly in line with mine? Am I willing to abandon this relationship because they just refuse to see what I see?”
And finally, in the midst of all that is being said and done, maybe ask yourself this question: “Would this person, given how I’ve acted in this particular instance, want to spend a day, a week, or an eternity with ME?”
“Respect, I think, always implies imagination — the ability to see one another, across our inevitable differences, as living souls” (Wendell Berry)
Jesus wants to spend eternity with us. Would that we, his people, extend the grace, peace, and true respect of Christ to all those he has put in our lives today – online and off.