Articles 25128697035_05191bfe34_z

Published on March 4th, 2016 | by Christopher Witmer

5 Guidelines For a Godly Online Conversation

Here at The Rebelution we love conversations — if you haven’t noticed.

Our goal is to create a healthy and life-giving environment for young Christians to communicate with each other and participate in meaningful conversations.

A conversation is an exchange of ideas. As Christians, this is exactly what we want in order to sharpen our minds, increase our knowledge and our grasp on theology, build relationships, and become competent culture makers.

But, as we are well aware, the internet is a crazy, fun, dangerous place.

It magnifies human nature rather than diminishes it.

Thus, we are compelled all the more to work at promoting a healthy and life-giving environment within the Rebelutionary community.

In light of that, here are a few guidelines to keep in mind when participating in an “exchange of ideas.”

1. Converse with Humility

This is the first attribute we should adopt when conversing online, whether on Facebook, Disqus, or Twitter — or even in real life.

Few things are as distasteful as conversing with an arrogant person. A good question to ask before posting a comment is “How would I feel if the other person said this to me?”

Remember, if you truly want to have a meaningful exchange of ideas, you must adorn your words with humility. If you speak with condescending language, belittling terms, or verbose jargon, it is unlikely the person will receive what you say, regardless of how true it may be.

Rather, they will be turned off by your arrogance and defensive against your attack. Instead of exchanging ideas, you will very likely butt heads, potentially devolving into argument.

Scriptures to consider: Proverbs 16:24; Prov. 18:21; Prov. 26:12; Prov. 29:20; Colossians 4:6; Galatians 6:3; 1 Peter 5:5

2. Write Clearly

Again, your goal in conversing is to have a meaningful and Christ-honoring exchange of ideas. Therefore, if you want people to understand your ideas and give them legitimate consideration, you must present them clearly.

This means deconstructing convoluted sentences as much as your ascendancy allows you to. In other words: write in a straightforward manner with proper, uncomplicated English.

Remember to write your ideas in an orderly manner. If you are like me, your first draft is usually a mess of thoughts. Even though the content itself may be simple, the messiness makes it hard to follow.

Simple language is really part of conversing with humility.

It is tempting to use big words, complicated ideas, or deep quotes. Don’t do it unless it is essential to unpacking your idea. Nobody cares about how much you know: they just want to have a normal conversation.

Organize your thoughts: make one point at a time, use straightforward sentences and words, and divide them into paragraphs! (In general, multiple paragraphs are easier to follow than massive chunks of writing.)

3. Consider New Ideas

No one will ever intellectually, emotionally, or theologically arrive at perfection, therefore, we must always be willing to consider new ideas that we may disagree with.

Truth will not fall apart, no matter how hard people shake it. So don’t be afraid to shake it a little bit. Remain humble and submitted before God. Remember, He created the intellect, so honest evaluation of ideas will lead toward a greater understanding of truth.

Don’t be threatened when people disagree with you. If you are right, you have nothing to fear and an honest evaluation will only solidify your conviction. Whereas, if you are wrong, you should want to discover the truth.

Filter new ideas through Scripture, discuss them with your parents, pastors, and mentors, and surrender your intellect to the authority of Christ.

If you want others to consider your ideas, be willing to honestly consider theirs as well.

Scriptures to consider: Psalms 119:66; Prov. 1:5,7; Prov. 12:1; Prov. 18:15; Hosea 6:6; 2 Timothy 2:15

4. Honor Others

You can never go wrong with honor. The person you are conversing with is a human individual made in the image of God. Honor them and they will be much more receptive to what you have to say.

Very few people are mature enough to receive truth that is presented with arrogance and disrespect. Care about the other person and how your words make them feel. Otherwise you’ll have little to no influence on your readers.

This is not an issue of substance, but of presentation.

For example, compare Statement A with Statement B:

Statement A: “You clearly don’t grasp the theology behind that verse.”

This statement comes through as condescending and arrogant. Its only value is to puff you up and make the other person feel dumb (whether you mean to or not — I’ve done this plenty of times without meaning to!).

Furthermore, it may not even be true. Many God-fearing, Bible-believing, humble theologians disagree with each other on matters of interpreting and applying the Bible.

Statement B: “I see what you are saying, but I respectfully disagree because I interpret this verse to mean [such-and-such] because of [such-and-such].”

This is a much more respectful statement that likely won’t make the other person defensive. In addition, it is sometimes helpful to repeat their opinion back to them to let them know that you understand their position.

Scriptures to consider: Philippians 2:3; 1 Peter 2:17

5. Act Like Jesus

This should sum up the entire narrative of our lives and the tenor of our conversations.

Converse with humility, clarity, openness, honor, and most of all, with love.

Love motivated everything Jesus did — love for His Father and for the world. Because of love, He humbled Himself even to the point of death on a Cross. Because of love, He supped with sinners. Love was what fueled His intensity toward the money-changers in the temple because they were misrepresenting God.

Without love in our articles and conversations, we are just making a terrible racket and adding to the confusion in the world.

Perhaps there is still value in the old cliche, “What would Jesus do?” Only for our purposes, let’s rephrase it and ask, “What would Jesus say and how would He say it?”

Scriptures to consider: John 13:15; Gal. 2:20; 1 John. 2:6

Share Your Thoughts in the Comment Section!

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Photo courtesy of Verkeorg and Flickr Creative Commons.


About the Author

is the 21-year-old lead writer for Originally from Northern Minnesota, he lives with his family in Los Angeles where they moved to plant inner-city churches. He loves sports, travel, and music, but his passion is writing for God and lifting high the name of Jesus through his writing.

  • Josiah J.

    Great article Cristopher! I really think you covered a much needed topic.

    • Christopher Witmer

      good! Thanks Josiah!

  • Mally

    Great article! Very well done. You got the idea across in a loving but very straight forward way. Tone of voice is huge in real-life conversation, but since that is eliminated in online conversations, you have to be even more careful about what you say on sites like this.

    • Christopher Witmer

      Thanks, Mally!

      Yup, tone is haaard to communicate.

  • Anna G.

    Thank you so much for this Christopher! ~Anna

    • Christopher Witmer

      You are very welcome, Anna!

      • Anna G.

        It definitely made me think about what I say online and how I say it.

  • Cricket

    I love that one sentence “Truth will not fall apart, no matter how hard people will shake it.” Thank you for sharing this great article!

    • Christopher Witmer

      Awesome, thanks! Glad you enjoyed it!

  • May I ask how you would address the humor aspect of online conversations Christopher?

    • Christopher Witmer

      Good question, Matthew! It’s hard to communicate humor…but some authors can do it very effectively. I would say when conversing in the comment section, stay away from sarcasm and irony as much as possible, unless you can do it in a very clear way.

      Sarcasm is really hard to communicate effectively without offending people. Furthermore, some people don’t even get sarcasm, so they’ll just be offended.

      I don’t know if you do this or not–I suspect you’re fairly conscious at articulating in a friendly, receptive manner–but it’s helpful to keep in mind.

      • Thank you for answering my question, Christopher. I truly appreciate it! I understand what you mean.
        Yes, I attempt to write in a way which edifies others.

  • Very timely and accurate suggestions — guidelines people should abide by! Maybe you can send it to the Trump campaign!

    • Stephan Carter

      You really have to be careful cause phrases like to “send it to the Trump campaign” can (and most likely will) be taken offensively. And simply remember to respect authorities and the only person who will believe the same things as you is… well you. Every person has flaws and just love them the ways God loves them and pray for them as much as possible.

      • Eh, well here it was a joke. While I don’t want to divert the focus of this thread, it’s important for Christians to speak out against blatantly wrong things. There’s nothing honorable, virtuous, or even practically useful pushed by his campaign. While he has not put forward any specifics (on any issue), I’d be happy to talk separately about my rationale. Suffice it to say, Max Lucado’s post on precisely this issue would be useful for all of us as Christians to read:

        • Stephan Carter

          I do not mean to say that I support him, in fact, I don’t personally see him fit to be the President I just wanted to make clear that we are to love everyone and pray for everyone. While Max Lucado does make a point in this phrase: “such insensitivities wouldn’t even be acceptable even for a middle school student body election.” I have only seen a 5 minute clip of a Republican debate but in that Trump acted like I would have 5-10 years ago (during which time I was a rebellious unbeliever). But everyone has flaws and no one is perfect.

          • Definitely, I agree about the importance of prayer. However, there are some people who have given themselves over to satan — we can think of plenty of examples from history. Anyways, we can leave it at that! 😉

    • Christopher Witmer

      Thanks, Christos! Haha, perhaps I’ll let Trump alone. =D

  • Rachel Kimzey

    So true. And all stuff that comes up SO often in online conversations! I really appreciated reading this. :)

    • Christopher Witmer

      Glad you were blessed! Yes, it does come up very often online!

  • Hailey

    Great tips. I definitely need them, haha. Whenever I leave a comment anywhere, I reread it several times because I’m freaked out that whatever I said could be misconstrued in an offensive way that I didn’t mean!! My classes are online and we have discussion boards each week where we comment on the work of the other students. I’ve learned a lot about communicating online, and how to respectfully say that I disagree with someone’s opinion. In informal settings, I use lots of smiley faces and exclamation points, since that’s what I would be doing in person lol! (;

    • Christopher Witmer

      That’s a good practice, Hailey.

      Learning how to articulate your thoughts in an attractive and “receivable” way is an invaluable tool!

      Are you doing college online?

      • Hailey

        Yes, I’m a junior in high school but I’m dual-enrolled at a local college! I’ll be on campus starting fall 2017.

        • Christopher Witmer

          Hey, good deal! God bless you in that pursuit!

  • Haylie

    This article is fantastic, Christopher. I definitely need to keep these things in mind. Thank you so much!

    • Christopher Witmer

      Great! I’m so glad. From what I’ve seen, you’re doing well, Haylie! Blessings!

  • Thanks for writing this! Hopefully I can try and put it into practice.

    • Christopher Witmer

      I think you’re on a good track, Daniel!

  • Thanks for this Christopher! I’m always inspired by your posts!

    • Christopher Witmer

      Praise God! I’m glad! =)

  • Christopher, thank you for these guidelines! I wish some people who comment at this channel I’ve made would read these guidelines. This really helpful. :)
    I sometimes worry that what I say to someone else would be offensive to the other person–that has happened to me once unfortunately. :/
    I appreciate your concise article. :)

    • Christopher Witmer

      I agree that more people should pay more attention to what they say! But really, we can only start with ourselves!

      God bless you in your conversations!

  • This is awesome, Christopher! Definitely some great ideas that I should make into habits :) Thank you!

    • Christopher Witmer

      Go for it! And you’re welcome!

  • Amanda

    Thank you, Christopher!

  • Page Wheeler

    Thank you! My parents really feel that I should be careful on the internet and I’ve been trying to make sure I do just that!

    • Christopher Witmer

      That’s great, Page!

  • Aaron C.

    These are great guidelines! As a new guy to theReb back in April, I had been looking for something like this, so that I could have some guidelines (other than Disqus rules) to go by while commenting. (I like to read and follow rules the best I can… that’s just me.) 😉 Anyway, I am so happy that there is an article like this on here. It helps so much!

    • Christopher Witmer

      Wow, glad it helps you, Aaron!

      I forgot about that verse, thanks for sharing! It sums it up pretty well.

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