Grace Based Facebooking

“I’m really sorry it’s come to this – but if you still support Trump we can no longer be friends.”

I’ve read many versions of this sentiment over the last several months, and it always grieves me. It grieves me because it is sorely lacking in simple courtesy. And also grace. And the bitterness fueling an ultimatum like this one, if left unchecked, will devour the self-righteous and unsuspecting soul from the inside out.

Long ago I read Grace Based Parenting by Tim Kimmel. Honestly, I remember little about this book except that Kimmel suggested all exasperated parents ask themselves this question when dealing with a strong-willed child: Is this action or behavior a willful sin? Or am I primarily frustrated, angry, or embarrassed that he is not conforming herself more fully to my expectations? This question changed my life.

David and I have four children. But even if you have only one, or spend time with kids in any capacity, the odds are high that your child will exercise his own will contrary to yours, and usually at the most inconvenient moment! At some point your son will resist or ignore your way and go his own. Your daughter will have her own mind about the values and ideas you hold dear, for better or worse. But is this always a willful sin? Or do we sometimes respond to the strong-willed child out of our own fatigue, fear, and immense frustration?

Grace Based Facebooking might ask exasperated social media users a similar question: Do we attribute willful sin to those who resist or don’t conform to our expectations?

Do we judge the sinner, find her guilty, and discipline her publicly and harshly for her own good? And if that doesnt work, do we then defriend and disown her until she can get her act together? And are we also impatient, condescending, and rude to the sinner until she repents and comes home?

Yes. I do all these things in my heart. I sit in the judgment seat that belongs to the only eternal, wise, and merciful Judge of all the world. I think too highly of myself. I issue rude ultimatums. I forge ahead in the way and words that seem right to me. I take matters into my own hands.

Father, have mercy on me, and on us all, your strong-willed children. And by your Spirit, help us hold fast to the loving-kindness, forbearance, and patience that is your language – a language which the deaf and can hear and the blind can see.

Peace to you and yours today, because “The LORD is just in all his ways and kind in all his doings.” (Psalm 145:17)


6 responses to Grace Based Facebooking

  1. Anonymous says:

    I think it’s okay that I don’t want to be Facebook friends with people who says things that I find offensive, racist, and mean-spirited.
    Kim, you gained fame for saying you force your sons to defriend girls you think are dressed inappropriately, and that there are no second chances. You aren’t willing to be understanding and compassionate towards teenagers finding their way in the world when it comes to being Facebook friends, but you think adults should stay Facebook friends with other adults who say disturbing and offensive things? I don’t understand your reasoning there.

  2. Given Breath says:

    Anonymous! It’s fine to block things that are disturbing and offensive from your personal feed. I mute updates from real-life friends from time to time (I don’t unfriend them) so that I won’t begin to think less of their character while they are working things out. PS. This is what I also was suggesting to my boys in the ‘famous’ post you reference.

    And thank you for reminding me of a time when I was lacking in courtesy and compassion. I am grateful the LORD, in his kindness, refused to leave me in that self-righteous and fearful place.

    Peace to you, because our hope is in Christ.


  3. Emily Wynsma says:

    Hi Kim,

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I struggle with the “agree to disagree” and “don’t judge” message when it feels it is used to cover true evil. I am using the word “struggling” genuinely- I have been wrestling with this since the election. People who I love and have respected are supporting views which I believe are racist, hateful, and evil- where do I draw the line at being okay with those differences? Would it have been appropriate for me to stay friends, Facebook or otherwise, with Nazi supporters? Advocates for slavery?

    I am not trying to be overly dramatic here. These are the genuine questions I, and I believe many others, are asking ourselves. Suggesting that that lacks courtesy and grace and is a sign of bitterness and self-righteousness feels over-simplifying to me.

    I would genuinely appreciate hearing your thoughts on this.

    Thank you,

  4. Given Breath says:

    Thanks for your thoughtful comment Emily. I appreciate your tone very much.

    Like you, I struggle with this also – truly. I struggle in the same way with friends that support abortion. I want to get in their faces (FB or otherwise) and shake them awake. Can’t they see the evil in sacrificing the innocent? Destroying the divine? Desecrating the image of God in both mother and child? How can we still remain friends?! How can we, both Christians, be so many miles away from each other – on different planets, really – on this important issue? I want to NOT BE THEIR FRIEND until we can agree on at least this foundational truth: Violently removing a baby from the sacred womb of his mother is a great evil before God.

    And then the Holy Spirit reminds me that just as soon as I begin lumping “them” into “those people who support evil,” or “those people who oppress the innocent,” I start believing the enemy’s lie that “those people are evil” and “those people have no good in them at all.”

    And where do hateful, evil people who have no good in them belong? Hell. What do awful people deserve? No mercy. Condemnation. Disgrace. “Those people” deserve to be cast out as far away from me and society (and God) as possible. I also am not trying to be overly dramatic. But you see where this goes?

    You and I are not wishing our friends to hell, of course. We most earnestly desire that they would open their eyes and begin to see things the way we see them – as God sees them. But could there be a better way to deal with various people God himself has brought into your life? Could it be the way of forgiveness? Of grace? Of goodness and mercy? Is it possible to combat racism, injustice, hatred, and violent oppression with good?

    The last thing Christ said in his life was, “Forgive them Heavenly Father, for they don’t know what they do.” Christ forgave and blessed (BLESSED!) those whose were intensely carrying out the worst kind of horrible; hate-filled; violent evil upon the most innocent human person in the world. And the Bible says that had we been in the crowd, we would have called out “Crucify him!” just like the rest of the mob. We would have been one of the mockers. We would have run away and hid, too, as all his disciples did.

    The Son of God endured the abuse; abandoned and alone, and still was able to see his abusers and betrayers with compassion and without hate in his heart. He was sinless to the end. And so as a follower of this Jesus, whether I like it or not, I must also forgive those who don’t know fully what they do whether they want my forgiveness or not.

    Unlike Jesus, however, we are hardly sinless. We also don’t enjoy God’s divine omniscience, and are unable to see all things from every angle. And so we must first rigorously, and with God’s help, examine what resides in our own hearts before assuming to know the motives of any another – – especially on social media!

    My point in “Grace Based Facebooking” is that we need God’s divine help to see what lies in our own heart first. Who do I see as “they”? To whom do I feel superior? Where am I “spitting on others” in my own heart? Of whom do I think the world would be a better place if they weren’t in it? All of this is self-righteousness that, left unchecked, will harden and darken a soul.

    And then we need more grace to discern how best to engage with these brothers, sisters, friends, and other human beings using language like “us” and “we” and “help me understand” and “I forgive you, even though you didn’t repent or ask for my forgiveness.”

    This doesn’t mean that we don’t use good judgement! As Christ followers we are called to discern good and evil, and overcome every evil with good. We are called to be just, as our God hates injustice. We are called to be holy, as our God is holy.

    And we are called to be merciful; to both saints and unrepentant sinners; on FB or otherwise, as we are sons and daughters of a God whose property is always to show mercy.

    Peace to you and yours, Emily, especially if you read this tome all the way to the end!


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