Ethics: Pastor Ignores Matthew 18 Over Facebook Offense

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What would you do Wednesday!

Given the widespread use of social media the following scenario is bound to happen if it hasn’t happened all ready.

It’s a normal day on Facebook. Some people are sharing pictures of their kids and their food. Others complain about or praise something going on in their life. And many people share political and religious pictures and postcards – both funny and serious.

On your wall, you decide to post something expressing disagreement with a relatively well-known Christian speaker. While you did not necessary disagree doctrinally, the real issue was his crass approach to the topic. Your perspective was that this speaker should apologize for the crude way he addressed a particular religious ethnic group.

There was some banter back and forth amongst friends. Many agreed with you. A few disagreed, but no one seemed offended.

The next morning an email from your pastor is waiting on you. One of your Facebook friends who is a pastor took offense at your comment about the well-known speaker. However, this pastor never said anything publicly or privately. He avoided contacting you directly by following Matthew 18. Instead, he found your pastor via Facebook and sent a tattle-tale like email to your pastor expressing that he was offended by your comments.

The complaint was basically that one of your pastor’s church members – you – is sewing dissension on the internet and he was personally offended. And since the church’s name is linked to this person the offended pastor thought your pastor ought to know about our Facebook comments. Pastor to pastor, the offended pastor thought he needed to bring this to light explaining that he hopes attitude and approach portrayed in the Facebook comments in question are not what is being taught in your church.

How should the you respond? If you were the pastor, how would you respond? Should the tattle-tale pastor’s church be told?

What should be done?

  • Ignore the complaint.
  • Address the complaint telling the pastor he should have followed Matthew 18.
  • Get both parties to reconcile with each other.
  • Issue a public apology.
  • Continue ignoring Matthew 18 and directly call for discipline before the church.
  • Or….

Here I Blog…

Mark

 

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{ 29 comments… read them below or add one }

1 PastorPitman May 15, 2013 at 11:22 am

Ignore the complaint.

2 Zack Stepp May 15, 2013 at 11:29 am

Maybe I’m just not seeing it in the post, but I think my response to the situation would greatly depend upon what, exactly, was in the email from my pastor to me.

3 MosesModel May 15, 2013 at 11:51 am

Zack Stepp I’m with Zack, I would be more interested in my pastor’s response to me.

4 Mark Lamprecht May 15, 2013 at 11:54 am

MosesModel Zack Stepp Maybe I should update the post with an example.

5 Zack Stepp May 15, 2013 at 12:01 pm

Mark Lamprecht To be clear, I’m not sure Matthew 18 applies in this situation, which is why I’m more concerned with the substance of the email from my pastor.

6 Mark Lamprecht May 15, 2013 at 12:33 pm

Zack Stepp I think Matt. 18 applies because this pastor was personally offended.

7 Bennett Willis May 15, 2013 at 2:09 pm

PastorPitman What?  Adults read this blog too.  🙂

8 Zack Stepp May 15, 2013 at 2:21 pm

Mark Lamprecht I appreciate your added clarification on what, exactly, was in the email exchanges.

Regarding the overall question of whether Matthew 18 applies, I want to make sure we’re on the same page here. (If not, I certainly apologize. I’m definitely not trying to misconstrue your post. Rather, it just helps me to distill ethical questions down to their basic elements.) The way I read it, this is the situation: 
Person A posts something publicly on the internet about Public Speaker. Person B, who is not in local fellowship at a local church with Person A but who is, nonetheless, a fellow Christian, is offended by Person A’s public statements.
At this point, before any emails get sent, are you saying that Matthew 18 requires Person B to privately confront Person A over the offensive statement?

9 Mark Lamprecht May 15, 2013 at 3:12 pm

Timothy_Rogers I called you out? This situation is made up, Tim. Thanks – I think – for sharing your situation. I don’t want to get into what you did or didn’t do. I am going to remove your comment so as to not bring undue replies to your personal situation which this post is not about.

10 Timothy_Rogers May 15, 2013 at 3:16 pm

Mark Lamprecht Timothy_Rogers Well Mark, you need to remove Daniel’s because that tells the tale. This is what you call fairness?  You have Zack Stepp asking about the situation and you have others saying it depends.  Then young Daniel chimes in and verifies this post is about him.  You got your “case study” from the interchange I had with his pastor.  But, not to worry, as long as you keep the facts from the surface you can make it say anything you want.

11 Mark Lamprecht May 15, 2013 at 3:18 pm

Zack Stepp First, the email exchange was made-up to provide the clarity you lawerly types desire. 🙂 
I am not saying one person must respond privately. He could have responded publicly. However, since the person was offended, responded privately via bypassing the person and going directly to his pastor – I am applying the principle of Matthew 18. 
 If the offended person feels they may approach the pastor then I’m assuming that is on the grounds of going to the pastor via Matthew 18 then he has skipped the first steps in Matthew 18. 
Is it your position that the parties should not have tried to reconcile before going to the pastor?

12 Mark Lamprecht May 15, 2013 at 3:21 pm

Timothy_Rogers If you follow my ethics posts at all you’ll know that many of them (not this one though) come from requests from people seeking advice. They ask me to post similar situations so they can read what others say. I do the same thing with popular news stories surrounding Christians, churches, etc. I will remove Daniel’s comment even though he barely said anything.

13 Timothy_Rogers May 15, 2013 at 3:28 pm

Mark Lamprecht Timothy_Rogers It is your blog, Mark.  Have it your way.  You know the truth of this post and I will leave it at that if you want to continue to post false innuendo.

14 Mark Lamprecht May 15, 2013 at 3:31 pm

Timothy_Rogers The truth is that this is not about Timothy Rogers. Thank you for stopping by.

15 PastorPitman May 15, 2013 at 3:49 pm

Uh oh 😉

16 Zack Stepp May 15, 2013 at 4:07 pm

Mark Lamprecht
” the clarity you lawerly types desire. 🙂 ” 
Guilty as charged. 
“If the offended person feels they may approach the pastor then I’m
assuming that is on the grounds of going to the pastor via Matthew 18
then he has skipped the first steps in Matthew 18.”

I can definitely see where you’re coming from on that, and I wasn’t thinking along that same path. I think that, if you plan to go to Person A’s pastor in the spirit of Matthew 18, then you should first go to Person A. 
My initial thought, though, was that, in the broadest sense, this whole scenario doesn’t fall under the auspices of Matthew 18 in the first place. (Ultimately, I generally agree with D. A. Carson’s
formulation for the intersection between Matthew 18 and public internet
comments.) I definitely think that private reconciliation would be preferential to going to somebody’s pastor, but I see that more as a general desire for brotherly love unity within the body than something ordered in Matthew 18. Thus, I don’t see first going to Person A’s pastor as the best step, but that’s not because it violates Matthew 18.

17 Andrew Wray May 15, 2013 at 4:20 pm

Address the complaint telling the pastor he should have followed Matthew 18 and until he does you cant get involved

18 MosesModel May 15, 2013 at 8:39 pm

Mark LamprechtZack SteppI would like to say that I would

19 DanielSpratlin_com May 16, 2013 at 12:25 am

I’m thinking that, as a Christian, one should, at the very least, ATTEMPT to contact the person who you believe offended you. By not even attempting to do so, one shows one’s true colors, that is, their own desire to sew dissension instead of seeking reconciliation. If you TRULY desire to reconcile with a person it might help actually trying to contact that person. That’s usually the first step.

20 DanielSpratlin_com May 16, 2013 at 12:32 am

I “verified this post” was about me? That’s odd. I don’t remember doing that. Then again, I am “young” and us whippersnappers are full of it. I can, without a doubt, though, say that this post is NOT about me or anyone I know. “Inspired by true events” does not equal “based on true events”.
It seems that it is you, Mr. Rogers, who “tells the tale” by bringing up your own life situations and posting about them. And, much like your use of “exonerated”, your use of “interchange” is a bit off. As far as I am aware, the communication has not been reciprocated. Let’s be more precise in our word usage. For the sake of truth.

21 KB May 16, 2013 at 9:11 am

The problem I have with this is that the pastor’s email doesn’t address the reason why the person had a disagreement in the first place, just the end result (the post).  It’s not a perfect setup (of course, it’s not supposed to be), but if I were the offended pastor, I would try to talk to the individual who made the comments, ask why, and then encourage the person to talk with his pastor privately.  I would think that, with Matthew 18, this would also promote more clarity in the situation.  
If that were me – should I have gone to my pastor privately and addressed the situation?  Yes.  But I also understand the point, because for some of us, it’s not an easy thing to do.

22 Bennett Willis May 16, 2013 at 12:10 pm

What I see again and again are responses similar to the ones we have seen to this hypothetical situation.  People take offense when they have no basis for taking offense.  If you cannot recognize and deal with the fact that people put things that seem to be extreme (and offensive to you) up, you should just use your computer for word processing and stay off blog sites and facebook pages.  “Offensive” comments are not going away–especially if you are ready to be offended.
Conversely, you should take the most benign interpretation to what you read and if you feel a response is necessary, make the most positive response you can manage.  Tim’s responses are fine examples of how not to do things.  Tim was convinced that Mark had somehow heard of his writing (something, I’m not sure what) and now had made it “public.”  The fact that Mark synthesized the scenario and told him so made no difference.

23 KB May 16, 2013 at 2:38 pm

Bennett Willis I find it interesting that the offended pastor, who had not heard the comments in question and therefore did not have an understanding as to why those comments were made in the first place, would go directly to the pastor that was being talked about instead of engaging the commenter directly, albeit in a positive way.  Going behind his back (so to speak) to point out to the pastor that he was being talked about, instead of talking to the person that he felt offended by, just feels like skipping over the first part of Matthew 18.  I will also readily admit (from my own personal experience) that this is not easy.
Also, emotions cannot be properly conveyed in social media, but people have a tendency to quickly get emotional about them.  JMO

24 KB May 16, 2013 at 2:39 pm

Bennett WillisBennett Willis I find it interesting that the offended pastor, who had not heard the comments in question and therefore did not have an understanding as to why those comments were made in the first place, would go directly to the pastor that was being talked about instead of engaging the commenter directly.  Going behind his back (so to speak) to point out to the pastor that he was being talked about, instead of talking to the person that he felt offended by, just feels like skipping over the first part of Matthew 18.  I will also readily admit (from my own personal experience) that this is not easy.
Also, emotions cannot be properly conveyed in social media, but people have a tendency to quickly get emotional about them.  JMO

25 KB May 16, 2013 at 2:39 pm

Bennett Willis Apologies for the double-reply.  Getting used to this commenting system!  🙂

26 Bennett Willis May 16, 2013 at 5:13 pm

I reread the scenario–and in the process became absolutely “offended” that the “friend” who happened to be a pastor contacted another pastor concerning opinions expressed by a member of the second pastor’s church. 
First, the issue was with the way that a “public figure” expressed something in (presumably) a public speach.  These days, the speach/sermon was likely posted for all to see and hear.  I think that we all feel free to have an opinion about anything that someone says in a public address and the fact that it is “out there” entitles us to speak to the issue.  The Internet comment is potentially “honest” feedback about how someone “took” what was said.  The hypothetical author put it up in Facebook for people to comment on and took his lumps.  If you regard this is “spreading dissention,” it is my opinion that you are being too sensitive.  The fact that someone thought you could have said it better is information that the speaker needed and information that might have been given directly to the speaker if the appropriate address was given at the end of the video.  If your speaking style includes getting laughs at someone else’s expense–well, personally, I suffer when this happens.
Second, this person is a “friend.”  Friends in Facebook have the opportunity to comment on what you say or to send a message to you.  The complaining pastor chose not to use either of these two opportunities.  It seems to me that failure to use either of these means that Matthew 18 was not considered by the complaining pastor.
Third, notice that Mark suggested that part of the complaining pastor’s “issue” was to assure that the statements “you” made were not being “taught in your church.”
“The complaint was basically that one of your pastor’s church members – you – is sowing dissension on the internet and he was personally offended. And since the church’s name is linked to this person, the offended pastor thought your pastor ought to know about your Facebook comments. Pastor to pastor, the offended pastor thought he needed to bring this to light explaining that he hopes attitude and approach portrayed in the Facebook comments in question are not what is being taught in your church.”
This seems completely childish, especially in light of the second point above.  It is not uncommon for one pastor’s interpretation of a theological point to be questioned by another pastor–especially if the first pastor is a “public figure” that several in the church might listen to.  What business is it of the offended pastor if a second pastor comments on a “public figure’s” speaking style.  And a theological point would (it seems to me) be more likely to be discussed than a “crass” speaking style.  Pastors seem to let style slide but not theology.  Lay people are perhaps a bit the other way, maybe because we don’t feel “responsible” for theology.
I think that the statement from earlier comments that “your” response would probably depend on what your pastor said in the e-mail is quite realistic.  Personally, I would be surprised if my pastor even sent me an e-mail on this.  I would expect him to reply to the complaining pastor something like this, “…..’s opinions are clearly his own.  This has never (or perhaps it has) been a subject of any comments from my pulpit or my personal conversations.”  He might choose to copy me and I might choose to “unfriend” the pastor who complained.  But I feel that what he should really do with the complaint is to just hit “delete.” 
What good will come from any action on this.  And the thought of “church discipline” on this is completely beyond by understanding.

27 Bennett Willis May 16, 2013 at 5:41 pm

@KB Bennett Willis The scenario said the complaining pastor was a “friend.”  This is a case where contact (comment or message) seems quite easy and credible.  To me, this is the only reason that Matt 18 would come into play.  To demand that Matt 18 be applied when you are dealing with a “public figure” seems unreasonable to me.  But in the case of two people who are “friends,” contact is easy and should have been done.  If the complaining pastor/friend could make a case that “you” were spreading dissent, then the egg is on “your” face.
To me, the best solution is for the complaining pastor to grow up and express his issues with his “friend” on Facebook.  Of course if he did it there, some other person might feel free to point out that he is being childish.

28 Bennett Willis May 16, 2013 at 5:45 pm

@KB Bennett Willis I like the opportunity to delete something you wrote that you decide is stupid.  But I wanted to edit my long comment and when I was done it said that my editing time had expired–but some of the editing seemed to stick.  It does take some getting used to and I am not there yet–either.

29 Bennett Willis May 16, 2013 at 10:45 pm

PastorPitman My comment was that PastorPitman’s comment was an adult comment which has seemed fairly rare at the time it was put up.  I have always read it that way until just a minute ago when I recognized that there were at least a couple of ways the comment could be interpreted.  This is the problem with writing quickly  and not being able to put body language and tone into the comment.
And this is a reason that you should always take a benign interpretation of the text you read.

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