Recently here at BJS we have been highlighted for some of the comments made on the site. I have also received some excellent private communications with brothers in the faith. Here at BJS we thoroughly enjoy a good, honest, discussion and understand that sometimes it may get heated. Sometimes in the heat of the moment sins are committed. We think that what we believe is serious and that the Evangelical Lutheran Church needs a place to engage in discussion over doctrine and practice within our churches. In the following I hope to explain some good things about comments and then also encourage us to watch our Old Adam when it comes to hitting that “submit comment” button.
There is a lot of value to comments. I am going to list just some of the good things I have seen over the past couple years in the comments of this site.
#1 – I have seen confession and absolution here. Yes, even in comments things can happen which cause angels in heaven to rejoice. Face it, in the heat of the moment and with the safe distance of the internet, words from the keyboard can fly all too quickly sometimes. When I see Christians behaving in a Christian way – confessing this and then being forgiven by their brother/sister in Christ I am very encouraged.
#2 – Additions to the articles. We have some great writers here at BJS. Sometimes however we can get it wrong or not have the complete information. More than a few commenters and comments have contributed corrections and additional information which have greatly enhanced our articles. Thank you commenters for that.
#3 – Rejoicing over being shown the truth. This is one of my favorites to see. These comments come usually on posts where there aren’t a lot of comments (which a lot of times are the best posts because they so thoroughly address the topic there is little to discuss). These are the joyous comments which talk about conversion to Lutheranism and the great joy of becoming a confessional Lutheran.
#4 – Encouragement for Lutherans in hard places. This is another good one. Sometimes it is very difficult to be a confessional Lutheran. This is especially true for laity whose vocations take them to distant places where good congregations may be hard to find. This can be very taxing on the conscience and it is hard to stand firm in such situations. It is good to encourage one another.
#5 – Friendships formed. Among long standing commenters there becomes a bond of having discussions over the years. This can be seen sometimes in their interactions on the site.
#6 – Questions and Answers. Many times commenters will ask questions and receive answers on theology or practice from our authors or from other commenters. This is a great benefit to having these interactions.
All of these things are great reasons to have commenting on a site like BJS. As with any created thing, the potential for abuse will remain when such things are in the hands of sinners. Here is where we can learn and check on how we interact on the site. There is a time for harsh language, as evidenced at times by Luther, Paul, or even our Lord – but there is a fine line between a fitting word and a word spoken improperly. Sinners will constantly find a playground with that fine line. Perhaps a good re-read of a comment and pause for a few minutes before you submit it would be in order to calm the mind and allow solid thinking. Listen to your conscience about what you are typing. Comments which judge motivations shouldn’t really be submitted, as they do not aid in conversation and are not necessarily true. Who can read the inner workings of a man? I know both you and I can’t, so it is best to leave that one to Him who can know the secret things.
St. Paul captures the struggle for our speech as Christians here with both graciousness and saltiness (which sometimes hurts):
Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person. (Colossians 4:6)
In addition to asking for the Lord’s guidance in how we speak and letting the Scriptures teach us, common sense also does a lot of good in commenting. Should you err and sin in your comments, be a Christian and confess them. Since the sin was committed here in public, confess here in public. The folks who write here and many who comment here confess our belief in the forgiveness of sins every Sunday. There is no way to be a perfect commenter, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t comment. Because of Christ we can be free to apply His work to each other as we participate on this site.
God be praised for the gift of repentance, that is the gift of contrition through the knowledge of sin and the gift of faith wrought by the Gospel which believes that for Christ’s sake sins are forgiven. (see the Augsburg Confession article XII).